The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) says the idea that the national housing crisis is being exacerbated by landlords leaving properties empty is “clearly nonsense”.
With an estimated 700,000 empty homes in England – 270,000 of which have been empty for over six months – and demand for new housing increasing all the time, some accusing fingers have been pointed towards the private rented sector with the claim that landlords are deliberately leaving properties empty rather than renting them out.
However, research by the RLA has shown that the claim evidently has no basis of truth.
The RLA recently undertook a survey of its members, and almost 62% stated that less than 10% of their portfolios had been empty for longer than one month at any one time.
With portfolios of varying sizes respondents provided multiple choice answers when asked why some of their properties had been empty longer than a month; but, by some distance, the two main reasons given were:
• Renovation work had been undertaken before re-letting the property (5%); and,
• The property was being advertised for let (41%).
In terms of negative reasons why some properties were empty for longer than one month, just 6% stated that they couldn’t afford to maintain a particular property and let it out to a satisfactory standard, whilst 4% stated that they were going through the legal process of taking back possession of a property following its vacation by tenants prior to the end of the tenancy agreement. 8% stated they were in the process of selling the property.
RLA chairman Alan Ward says it’s clear from the RLA’s research that where private rented property is empty in the main it is being regenerated and made available for occupancy. Ward relayed these findings to the former housing minister Mark Prisk when the pair met earlier this year to discuss issues affecting the private rented sector.
“It is unfair to point the finger at landlords. Quite simply landlords are not in business to leave properties empty – they invest in real estate to generate rent and yields,” said Ward, “It is not in the interest for any landlord to keep their properties empty – for each day a property is empty it is costing them in lost rent, council tax payments, utility charges, and in many cases, mortgage and loan repayments.
“Properties are empty for many reasons including planning delays, probate and business disputes, sentimental family reasons, and lethargy or indifference on the part of the owner – none of which have any relevance to the actions of landlords in the private rented sector.”