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
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.