Saturday, 16 June 2007

Buy-to-let landlords destroy local neighbourhoods

The buy-to-let locusts have descended on Nottingham, destroying local neighbourhoods as they move. Landlords are wrecking the city's social fabric, as they buy up property and rent it out to students. As a consequence, schools are closing; rubbish is piling up; and housing prices pushed out of reach of ordinary families by greedy socially irresponsible buy-to-let landlords.

Be careful; these locusts might end up in your neighbourhood.

The Guardian

The citizens of Nottingham are calling on the sheriff to take a leaf out of Robin Hood's book and tackle the buy-to-let landlords who take homes out of the reach of ordinary families.
The city's buy-to-let boom has created whole areas where local parents and young couples are outgunned financially by landlords, many of whom do not live there.

And in some parts of the city, such as Lenton and Dunkirk, the council is considering shutting schools. Primary school children who should arguably be living in the three and four-bedroomed homes are simply not there.

But the city council intends to fight back. It is now demanding changes in the rules that would give it more power to control buy-to-let. A tour of the city indicated that small-time landlordism and the transient student population it encourages have turned some areas into "tips" - overflowing wheelie bins and rubbish-strewn front gardens.

"Buy-to-let has caused the physical degradation of the area. Landlords don't clean up the mess of old furniture and disused pizza cartons, and the students, many from wealthy backgrounds, contribute no council tax," says Lenton resident Maya Fletcher.

She's a prime mover in the Nottingham Action Group, one of a number of similar initiatives across the country set up to combat buy-to-let blight. Lenton lies next to the University of Nottingham and in some streets, "studentification" has driven out all bar a tiny percentage of families.

"There's no more feeding next door's cat or taking in parcels. The government talks of cohesion and community. We've lost it," she says.

Nottingham was once a low-cost city, but a huge expansion in the student population over the past 15 years, including the creation of Nottingham Trent University, has led to the city being touted to investors as a buy-to-let hotspot. At a property investment show in 2005, Nottingham was being sold alongside Brazil and Bulgaria as a hugely profitable destination.


Anonymous said...

These are problems of any college town or area with a lot of rentals. The Nottingham government basically failed to anticipate the byproducts of changing ownership, which should have been obvious if they looked at their property rolls on a regular basis.

Economic Despair said...

buy-to-let Landlords=locusts


DrBob said...

I'm not against buy-to-let as such, but its uncontrolled expansion is ridiculous. We urgently need reform of the rental laws! A wholesale reform of the 'assured shorthold tenancy' is in order, including:

- formal mechanisms for agreeing and capping rent rises (e.g. capped to an index)
- formal mechanisms for resolving disputes (e.g. a maximum time between tenant reporting a fault and repair; a system of refunds for the tenant if repairs not done)
- a longer notice period for landlords which lengthens with length of the tenancy (e.g. 3 months up to first year, 6 months up to second year, then 12 months)
- obligatory registration and standards for all buy-to-let properties (not just the largest multioccupancy ones)
- a simple system of fixed charges (to prevent arbitrary and excessive charges by landlords)

If these simple steps were taken, renting would be far safer and simpler for tenants. Rogue buy-to-let landlords would be put off. There are great potential macroeconomic benefits to renting (more mobile workforce, less boom-and-bust, fewer of the population relying on a single asset class for their entire savings), but to realise these benefits renting needs to be properly regulated and longer-term rentals encouraged (so renters have a stake in the community/area).

I'd happily rent for much of my career (and be flexible/able to change jobs etc) but can't imagine doing so with children in the current short-term system. How can you send your children to school when you might be thrown out of your property with just one or two months' notice?