Monthly Archives: April 2010

Poland, volcanos and Dunkirk spirit…

A guest post from Patrick Jacobs, NLA Director of Finance.

My family and I had spent Easter in Poznan – a former capital city of Poland.

We were due to fly back on Saturday 17 April but on the Friday evening, I received a text message informing me that our flight was cancelled and to visit the airline’s website for a refund.

I spent the rest of the night attempting to check websites for alternative routes back – all crashed before any bookings could be completed. With two kids in tow, this was starting to look very ominous.

I also spent an age ringing train operators – all recorded messages said ‘please try later’.

On Saturday my wife bit the bullet and took a cab to the mainline station and eventually managed to get the last four seats on a sleeper train to Cologne departing on the Sunday evening – but they couldn’t sell her tickets from Cologne to London or Brussels…where would our journey end?

Despite starting early on Saturday, I again failed to make any bookings then quite randomly – after perhaps 40 attempts of keying names, and ages etc. – I got a booking on Eurostar for the Tuesday. I then lost the booking because my debit card failed!

Visa returned my call [at 11pm!] saying that I had two £8 transactions in March of which they were suspicious. I confirmed them –but the ‘booking’ had self-cancelled. Joy!

Eventually, I got a booking on Eurostar from Brussels on the Thursday, then managed to rebook Poznan to Cologne. German rail won’t allow e-tickets – they will only snail mail them – so we took a chance that we would get on a train.

A 50 metre long queue at Cologne ticket office, with many sad faces trying to get to London, being told Eurostar was completely booked so they would be stranded for a few days – but we were in luck and could get tickets for the next-but–one train to Brussels. Our luck was in.

In any event, all the connections worked and we got home only five days late. I’m told that some Brits are still stranded abroad which must be awful.

However, if there are any landlords who need their rent collected because they’re stuck overseas, do let me know.

Landlord Registration – a Scottish perspective

David Kendall NLA Scotland

Four years ago all Scottish Landlords were required to register their properties with the local authority.  We were told this would root out bad landlords, improve the image of the private-rented sector, give good landlords a marketing advantage…the list goes on.

Being an organised sort of guy I was quick off the mark, did it all online and paid my bill direct to the  Scottish Government.  Unfortunately, my fees were not passed on to the three local authorities in which I operate. The poor councils got very angry and came after me instead of the Government.  ‘Give us yer money’ they yelled, ‘or no more being a landlord!’  Well that upset me, and after a lot of phone calls, e-mails and letters the mess was eventually sorted – just in time for re-registration!

Oh, and by the way, none of my tenants have ever asked me if I am registered. I think they prefer a decent kitchen, a comfy sofa, a good location…surprise, surprise.

And here’s the real killer: there have been no prosecutions for landlords who fail to register.

It has been an administrative nightmare for local authorities who have needed to recruit extra staff to cope with the workload.

The system feels more like another tax for landlords.

But the really stange thing about this is that Gordon Brown and his friends think this system is so good it should be introduced in England as well.  Now Gordon, you know there are some great traditions North of the Border which the Scots have exported to the rest of the world.  But to suggest that landlord registration can join the list alongside whisky, shortbread, haggis, kilts…

No housing in this election…

It’s not easy being a housing organisation these days. We’ve consistently called for housing to be made an election issue; we want more talk about how we make the housing in the private-rented sector better and encourage professional landlords to invest in more much needed housing. But that hasn’t happened so far.

Last week we saw the unveiling of the manifesto’s of the main political parties: disappointingly light on housing and not very convincing where they did manage to say something on housing.

And, while ever hopeful, us here at NLA Heights weren’t holding our breath to see housing mentioned as part of the leaders’ debate last week. Who knows about this Thursday’s episode of Clegg versus Cameron versus Brown.

So, where has housing being mentioned so far in this election? One place is on the Labour Matters website, although it’s less than positive. It seems that the Secretary of State and now candidate for the Southampton Itchen seat, John Denham, is unhappy that someone has questioned his policy on HMOs. Though given his particularly harsh words for the NLA, we think it is something to do with the pressure we’ve been putting on MPs to have a proper debate on shared housing.

Here at NLA Heights we found the following Denham comment particularly amusing:

“This is an incredible and devious misuse of the Parliamentary process, apparently at the behest of the National Landlord’s Association. David Cameron has personally signalled that he is against a measure that will be of immense benefit to the city. He is showing his true colours at last – doing favours for the National Landlords Association rather than listening to residents’ concerns.”

We’d love to think that Mr Cameron says “how high?” when we shout “jump!” but maybe the reality is that MPs are realising that the policy is a bad one. Maybe the MPs are recognising that planning permission for new shared housing won’t challenge the issues that occur around pockets of existing HMO housing.

What really matters is that John Denham thought the best way to effect change was to change the law without debate.

So the question really is – why no debate?

BREAKING NEWS: Shapps slams rushed Labour HMO plans

Landlords are mainly Tory voters…but some might vote BNP(!)

A revelation from the Young Group this week, most landlords think the Conservatives will offer the greatest benefit to the UK rental market.

Now I’m all for ‘headline-grabbing’ research, but is anyone surprised by this latest news?

We’re about to publish a question that we commissioned from BDRC. And this really was a revelation!

‘Which political party do you think understands and has the right vision for the private-rented sector?’

The result:

  • Con – 39%
  • Lab – 19%
  • Lib Dem – 10%
  • UKIP – 3%
  • Green Party – 2%
  • BNP – 2%
  • SNP – 1%
  • Plaid – 1%
  • DUP – <1%
  • Other – 23%

Can someone tell me what vision the BNP is offering to the UK rental market?

Answers on a postcard…and quickly too, there’s an Election on…