Once you go beyond the industry's anger about the Chancellor's three per cent stamp duty surcharg...
Once you go beyond the industry’s anger about the Chancellor’s three per cent stamp duty surcharge – and that’s an anger I fully share – there is a question every landlord must now ask when they look in the mirror: “Why I am not loved?”
Let’s take it as a given that landlords provide a service. After all, if a government isn’t providing homes to let, someone else has to and it’s usually the private landlord.
Let’s also take it as read that most landlords have gone in to buy to let to supplement their pension – a general piece of advice that governments have suggested several times.
And let’s accept – contrary to Osborne’s suggestion during his Autumn Statement – that over 90 per cent of British properties to let are owned by small-scale landlords, and not by overseas investors content to leave their assets unoccupied and appreciating.
But once we’ve got all that feeling of injustice and anger off our chests, the question still remains: “Why aren’t landlords loved?”
It’s important because if landlords were more popular with the general public – real people who read the Daily Mail and watch The One Show, not just anoraks like us reading Letting Agent Today – it would be harder for governments to pick on them.
For example, contrast the way the government back-tracked this month on Tax Credits, with the series of measures the same government has taken against private landlords.
Even in the absence of a unified Labour opposition, the government backed away from cutting Tax Credits because it was seen as attacking a popular group – low paid workers doing jobs most would rather not do, the 'hard working families' so beloved of politicians.
Landlords haven’t got the same appeal to most of the public, although I would argue it’s not impossible to paint a picture of most landlords being relatively ordinary people.
They may have bought a flat to make more of their pension, or might have inherited a property from elderly parents passing away, or they may have kept an apartment to let out when they moved in with their partner.
In other words, they are not professional landlords but – who knows? - they might even be considered 'hard working families' who just happen to own a second property.
If this emotional war was won, and landlords were seen as being a cross section of ordinary people and not some sort of rich bourgeoisie, they would be a much harder target for politicians to hit out at through taxes, restrictions and general knockabout abuse.
One way of winning the war is for landlords – ordinary landlords who are teachers, shop owners and plumbers – to ‘come out’ and admit they own a property which they let out.
My guess is that many don’t admit they are landlords at dinner parties or down the pub.
But landlords need to be seen as being like everyone else, simply doing something a little more to provide for their families and their old age. Some people take out private pensions, others save money in ISAs, and landlords just have a home rented by others.
So what? It’s an ordinary thing – nothing to boast about, but nothing embarrassing either.
So here’s a suggestion for a resolution for 2016. Why doesn’t every landlord, every month, tell someone they know that they have a property they let out?
That way plenty of people who are not landlords will realise they know someone who is – and that they are decent, hard-working and good company, just like everyone else.
That way landlords will make themselves less ‘easy’ for politicians to pick on. And who knows – they could become loveable too?