Leading pro-tenant campaigning group Shelter has claimed its latest research shows that during the Covid crisis tenants have had a better experience if they’ve been managed directly by landlords, rather by lettings agents.
The remarks were made during a parliamentary Covid evidence sessions yesterday by the charity’s spokesperson Ruth Ehrlich (pictured, above)
She said Shelter’s research shows that 36% of landlords have been supportive of their tenants during the crisis, but that only 22% of agent-managed tenants said the same thing. “It’s quite a significant difference,” Ehrlich added.
The comments were made when she, Caitlin Wilkinson of Generation Rent and Chris Norris of the National Residential Landlords Association were quizzed yesterday by MPs on the MHCLG Select Committee about pre-action protocols, lead by its chair Clive Betts.
These are to be introduced by the judiciary to force landlords and their agents to do more due diligence on tenants including assessing their mental health before possession hearings can proceed.
Asked by Liverpool MP Ian Byrne about whether it would be a good idea to have letting agents dealing with these protocols, both Shelter and Generation Rent gave agents the thumbs down.
“The reason for this is that the evidence we have so far from renters who are negotiating with letting agents rather than with landlords suggest that agents are being significantly less flexible, scrupulous and sympathetic than individual landlords,” said Wilkinson.
“We’ve had people show us blanket emails which have been sent to groups of tenants demanding rent in full even though it’s not clear whether this was done with the landlords’ permission or not.
“We are not convinced that agents would comply with all the steps in the protocol, but at the moment the evidence we have is anecdotal and needs further investigation.”
Chris Norris of the NRLA said he agreed that landlords have greater motivation to be sympathetic and get things done properly because it will be they who suffer if a case is adjourned because the pre-action protocol hasn’t been followed properly.
“That being said, I wouldn’t want to tar every letting agent with the same brush,” he said.