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Interview with Carolyn Uphill, chairman of the NLA

Interview with Carolyn Uphill, chairman of the NLA

Two-minute interview with Carolyn Uphill, who became chairman of the National Landlords Association in July
How big is the NLA?

We work with 40,000 landlords of which 22,000 are paying members. This is because, as from June this year, we’ve made some of our approved online documents, including tenancy agreements, referencing letters and Section notices, freely available to all landlords in the UK through NLA Associate membership.
Did this upset any of your paying members?
Not at all, and we have not had any negative feedback. Associate members do not have access to the full range of NLA services, such as our telephone helpline which is extremely well used. Full members probably feel, as I do, that if we, as a trade association, can raise standards generally within the private rented sector, then everyone benefits across the board.
You have just described the NLA as a trade association, rather than a membership body. Is this how you view it?
Yes, I am strongly of the belief that landlords are in business and that as an industry we are of value to the country. I and my husband have a background in business, and for 30 years traded in manufacture and construction. I believe there is absolutely nothing wrong in being businesslike – indeed, it is essential if you want to be a successful landlord because legally, there is a lot to know about and you have to get it right.
Are you yourself a landlord?

Yes. Just over ten years ago, we became landlords, largely because we were looking for something to give us an income for pension reasons.
How big is your portfolio?
We own six properties in Manchester, of which four are student HMOs.
Do you have to contend with much red tape?
Manchester City Council has backed away from selective licensing in the area recently, in favour of bringing some high-profile court prosecutions. I fully support this approach. We do, however, have an Article 4 Direction in Manchester, whereby you must apply for planning permission if you want to change from letting a property to a single household to a small group of sharers. The result of Article 4, among other things, has been to hit the value and desirability of properties. Those looking to sell in areas with a high proportion of shared housing – such as student accommodation – can struggle to do so as their properties are a less attractive prospect for families and first-time buyers.
Earlier this year, the NLA announced an ambitious accreditation scheme. Can you explain a bit more?
Our aim is to drive up standards in the PRS, and we believe that landlord accreditation is a key tool to achieve this. Our ambition is that all our members will become NLA accredited by 2020 by taking courses and keeping up their knowledge via Continuous Professional Development (CPD). I myself achieved NLA Accreditation through the online route and it did not cost me a penny, although you can choose to attend classroom-style courses instead. CPD points can be achieved by attending local meetings which are free to members and also provide valuable networking opportunities. The NLA hosts a branch or local meeting almost every day of the year and we currently have 51 local representatives. A number of local authorities recognise the NLA and one hope is that instead of choosing more regulation such as licensing, more councils will prefer to insist that local landlords belong to a recognised body such as ourselves and undertake some form of accreditation.
Does the NLA run national events?
Yes, we hold an annual conference which takes place this year in Swansea. We chose a Welsh venue because there is a great deal of legislative change happening for landlords in Wales. We also host the Property Women Awards every two years; the next awards will be held in 2014.
How big is the NLA?
We employ 45 full-time members of staff and 51 regional representatives. Our helpline operates from Monday through to Friday and is increasingly busy – in fact, I use it myself.
What of the future?
We would like to be at the forefront of driving up standards, and to show landlords generally the advantages of belonging to a trade association. When you think that there are 1.5m landlords out there, only a very small proportion currently belong to any sort of landlord organisation at all. At the NLA, we provide a voice and a face for landlords, and we want to continue to ensure that that voice is heard by the commentariat and within Whitehall.