The Residential Landlords Association is a campaigning body and national service for landlords. This week I am delighted to have its Chairman, Alan Ward, as my Notable Property Person.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
I became chairman in January 2009 of the Residential Landlords Association which I helped form in 1998 as a national body to campaign for landlords.
The RLA belongs to its members. We provide advice, information, documentation including the RLA’s unique plain English AST, training and seminars, services including tenant referencing and credit checks, insurance, mortgages, inventories.
We represent members and lobby to central government and through our team of local government experts we are increasing our liaison with councils to develop accreditation policies and self-regulation.
We have a great team of professional help-line, trainers, lobby, editorial, admin and IT staff with an elected board of directors.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
Bought my first office in 1972 but started investing in shared houses in south Manchester with my wife back in 1993 – a good time to buy! There was a recession, but borrowing came from the bank in those pre-B2L days. Since then we have also built flats and houses and refurbished a number of properties.
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
It has to be the RLA – which continues to grow at around 20% annually.
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
The excitement is nurturing the growth of the RLA, which comes from the increasing membership and renewals. I have a particular “thing” about customer satisfaction!
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private rented sector today?
The emergency budget has done very little for landlords and may have adversely affected those taking LHA. Grant Shapp’s announcement regarding change to the planning use classes for small HMOs may be good news, but we need to ensure that landlords of existing shared houses are able to retain the preserved rights. We shall also continue to lobby for direct payment of LHA to landlords
“Localism” is an issue that we have yet to get the measure of.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
It is estimated that we will need 270,000 new home a year by 2016. The Private Rented Sector (PRS) will be the only source of new homes for those 100,000 additional new households being created each year– up from the current 169,000. First time buyers can’t afford them, social housing funding is inadequate – so this is where the PRS meets the nation’s housing need. Fail, and we shall see over-crowding and a lowering of housing standards.
7. We have a new government. What would you like them to do for the private rented sector?
See 6 also above.
Capital Gains Tax is too good a source of revenue for the Chancellor to ignore, bearing in mind the amount of national debt they have inherited, but the top rate is less than we feared.
1 Restore taper-relief to encourage long term investment.
2 Introduce roll-over tax relief to encourage reinvestment. With 40% of PRS housing built before 1919 these are the houses needing refurbishment and energy improvement.
3 Tax allowances for major improvements, refurbishment and improvements to energy efficiency.
4 Allow residential investment in SIPPS.
5 Treat active landlords as a business.
6 Pay LHA direct to landlords
7 And this last one is probably a step too far – reduce the VAT rate on repair and renewal to 5% in line with Europe – but there is a strong economic case to be made for supporting the building trade and kick-starting the economy.
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
The RLA has always grown through the internet – we were the first landlord association with a website and all our services including training are available on-line.
With first time buyers’ average age at 34, new media are critical for landlords in the younger market. Frankly we have hardly seen anything yet! Keep your eye on the apps (applications)
8. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time in property?
Look after your tenants, but be fair and firm, as you would with any customer. In order to be fair you have to know when you are right and they are wrong – but what would you rather do: win an argument or have a void?
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
- Know your market.
- Do your homework.
- Don’t get over-geared.
Thank you Alan, and may you and the RLA continue to flourish and campaign for landlords.