On the curious case of the National Landlords Alliance

It appears that Fergus Wilson isn’t the only landlord with a rather overinflated sense of his own importance. Friends, we now have a new favourite example of Landlord Derangement Syndrome: allow me to introduce you to the National Landlords Alliance and its CEO, Larry Sweeney.

Sweeney announced plans for his Alliance in a post on the landlords’ website Property118 in which he asked his fellow landlords to pledge £100 for membership. He had, he told readers, been thinking of setting up the Alliance for 18 months, but had finally decided to take the plunge. You might be forgiven for thinking that £100 – a tidy sum by most people’s standards – you would be acquiring all the normal rights of membership. The right to vote for the leadership of the organisation, for example, and through them the ability to set the organisation’s policy and control its assets. Membership organisations of this type might typically be expected to be companies limited by guarantee or unincorporated associations. If you thought that about the Alliance, you would be mistaken. The National Landlords Alliance Ltd is, according to Companies House, a company limited by shares, incorporated in 2015 – considerably longer than 18 months ago – of which the sole shareholder and Director is Larry Sweeney. He owns it outright. He controls it completely. It is really not possible for anyone else to become a member in any meaningful sense. It is not clear what “members” are getting for their money. What will happen to all those membership fees? If the company makes a profit, Sweeney would appear to be able to pay it to himself as a dividend. So what do we know of the Alliance, and what it wants? Fortunately on their website they post a six point plan for the private rented sector. Here it is, in its entirety:
Yes folks, their six point plan only has five points. Perhaps the sixth point was repossessed. Section 24 is, for the uninitiated, a gradual withdrawal of a tax relief that landlords have enjoyed on some of their finance costs: a relief that homeowners don’t enjoy. It’s not a tax as such. Landlords have been fighting a rearguard action against it since George Osborne announced it in the 2015 Budget – including a court action involving Cherie Blair – but seem to have given up as the government has shown no signs of backing down. Frankly, the Chancellor isn’t going to leave a hole in the public finances no matter how much special pleading there is from landlords. And since research has shown that private tenants were among the key groups moving towards Labour at the 2017 election, he won’t be doing anything that favours landlords over any other group. The more landlords bleat about paying their taxes, the more convinced he will be that his policy is working. Both the Alliance’s website and twitter feed display an interest with Shelter which borders on the obsessional. Point 3 of their six five point plan is to
withdraw funding from Shelter the Housing charity, which does not provide housing. Redirect the £60 Million Shelter budget to provide accommodation for the needy.
Elsewhere they say:
We will campaign for the abolition of Shelter and the redirection of their £60 million budget.
According to the Alliance, their objection to Shelter is that they don’t use their income to directly house anyone. They claim, Shelter’s £60m budget ought to be used to do this and it is wrong that they don’t. This is, and let’s not beat about the bush here, completely batshit. Shelter don’t provide housing because that’s not what they’re for. They provide other services, like advice, advocacy and research. £60m is a fair sum, but even if it were all used to buy houses for people, it would help a few dozen families at best. Shelter assist thousands of people with their work. And it’s not wrong for them to spend their money the way they do; donors to Shelter do so in the full knowledge of what their money will be used for: some of it is grant funding that is given to them to deliver specific services. They couldn’t use it in any other way even if they wanted to. Yet more is income from their own shops, which is theirs to do with as they wish as long as they do so within their objects. Like every charity, Shelter are legally obliged to spend their money only within their objects, and what is really disgusting is that someone who plainly has no idea how charities work should be making a public comment so ill-informed aimed at undermining the reputation of Shelter. No, it is pretty obvious what the Alliance’s real objection to Shelter is. They don’t think that tenants ought to have access to decent advice that might enable them to stand up to their landlords. Hence their complaint that Shelter’s advisors “continually attempt to frustrate the eviction of delinquent tenants.” Sweeney is not the only person involved in running the Alliance. He has the benefit of a “policy consultant” – John Allan, a former national chairman of the Federation of Small Business. He is a former chairman, however, because in 2016 he was suspended by the FSB and subsequently replaced after allegations that he had helped a young mother to find work as a prostitute. Oh.

12 thoughts on “On the curious case of the National Landlords Alliance”

  1. It is a shame that you do not do your research before writing your articles.

    Homeowners do not get tax relief on their finance costs because they are not running a business.
    The claims of ‘levelling the playing field” are erroneous because the playing field was levelled when tax relief was abolished on mortgages for home-owners; that was a hangover from the imputed rent that homeowners were taxed on, and was not abolished when imputed rent was.

    The beef with shelter is that instead of working with the PRS (where the vast majority of tenants are satisfied) to help the housing crisis, they constantly denigrate ALL private landlords and whip up public opinion against both good and criminal landlords indiscriminately. Shelter’ actions are clearly anti-PRS, which is not part of their stated charitable aims.


    1. Thank you for your comment, which rather proves my point.

      Buy-to-let landlords are in the same market for house purchases as homeowners. Up to now, they have enjoyed a tax relief that homeowners have not enjoyed. That is now being withdrawn. The paying field is being levelled so far as that market is concerned.

      We have gone through a long period of austerity and depending on the events of the next few weeks we may be entering another period of pressure on people’s personal finances as well as public finance. The idea that an explanation of the historical basis of the different tax treatment of landlords and homeowners is going to make those homeowners, or tenants, say “oh that’s OK then, now I understand about Notional Rents, landlords shouldn’t have to pay the same taxes as me” betrays both a catastrophic lack of awareness which seems to be common among a certain group of landlords, and massive sense of entitlement which is hardly going to endear you to anyone.

      You’re entitled to your opinion about Shelter, but I don’t share them, and you shouldn’t pretend they are undisputed fact.


      1. Perhaps you would point out, with justification and not just refutation, where my statements about shelter are incorrect.


      2. You have posted some comments about Shelter which represent your view of that organisation. I do not agree with them. If you want people to accept what you say, it is up to you to prove your point; it’s not up to me to disprove it. What is asserted without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.


  2. 60 million would only house a few dozen, taking the average house price in the uk as £226k it would by 265 properties, that would seem to be more than a few dozen, in fact its 22 dozen. 226 is not enough to house all the homeless, but its a lot more than zero, which they currently own.


    1. As a proportion of the number of people currently homeless in one way or another, it is an insignificant number. Again, Shelter spend their money in accordance with their Objects and in a way that their donors and funders are aware. In respect of some of their funders, that funding will have been made for a specific service.


    2. Whilst this is true, their current budget helps 120,000+ individuals per year (shelter annual report) which is far better use than housing a few 100 at best


  3. Haha buying a house that already exists, passing it over to an estate agent to lease out and collecting the money at the end of the month hardly constitutes a ‘business’ and i believe HMRC agrees its not a business too


  4. Owning a house isn’t a business and shouldn’t attract interest rate relief. It is asset speculation.
    Fair enough, property management is a business. However, this is separate from the asset speculation aspect of being a landlord.
    Any ability to offset mortgage interest cost puts owner occupiers at a disadvantage to landlords when bidding for houses.
    Landlords categorically do not “provide housing” unless they construct a new dwelling.
    Also, landlords pulling out of the market does not affect housing supply as the house is not demolished. It is either sold to another landlord at a price that works (initial landlord makes a loss) or is sold to an owner occupier (who will no longer be a renter, thus reducing demand).

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    1. You have overlooked a number of ways in which private landlords do in fact provide housing. They renovate derelict properties, convert large houses into houses of multiple occupation, convert commercial premises into residential accommodation, purchase new houses off plan providing the necessary security for developers to obtain finance to allow them to construct new build housing. In other cases the word provide may not be the most appropriate but it is undeniable that they make housing available to those who have no alternative to private renting, whether it is to retain flexibility for work purposes or for some other reason such as being unable for whatever reason to obtain a mortgage.
      Every rental property that is purchased for owner occupation reduces the number of properties available to rent and it is fallacious to say that this has no effect on the housing supply because there is a constant stream of people needing to rent for the first time due to the breakup of relationships, adult children wanting or needing to leave their parents home, immigration or simply moving from one part of the country to another. As more and more property is transferred from the rental market to owner occupiers demand will continue to outstrip supply with the inevitable consequence of increased homelessness and higher rents.


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