Sim Sekhon: Uncertain, unsettled but never unprofessional
The continuing Brexit debate has seen practically every industry calling for certainty and, so far, it’s not been forthcoming. Our industry is no different. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has asked the Government for clarification on the rights of EU nationals in the light of Brexit because no specific guidance has so far been issued.
Running a business is challenging enough, but when you don’t know the rules it’s doubly difficult. Not only do we not know how Right to Rent checks are affected by our plans to leave the EU, but we’re also still awaiting the results of last month’s High Court ruling that the checks lead to discrimination and, therefore, breach the European Convention on Human Rights. Perhaps the uncertainty is not surprising given the overall lack of clarity concerning one of the biggest shake-ups the country has faced for decades.
The RLA’s request is, however, far more than a minor administrative niggle that needs sorting. It’s estimated that around two-thirds of EU nationals currently living in the UK are in rented property. Landlords and agents are already showing increased reluctance to let to those without a UK passport, and the confusion about rights is worsening. We’re in the ludicrous situation where landlords could face prosecution if they get things wrong, but they’ve never been told the rules.
An unsettled sector
This week, Cadman Homes Director Adam McHenry has written to his MP in desperation, stating that the industry has had too many things to deal with. Citing Right to Rent, the fees ban, tax changes and the impact of Brexit, he’s called for recognition of the damage inflicted on the sector. It’s easy to argue that this sector is currently the scapegoat for successive governments’ failed housing policies. Whether there’s truth in that or not – I’ll leave you to form your own opinion – I can’t think that battering any legitimate industry makes sense. Thriving industries are essential to a healthy economy and – now, perhaps more than ever – we should be promoting conditions where our industries can thrive.
I’m an advocate of getting proactive in the face of challenges. I believe we must be adaptable, resilient and positive. Together – landlords, agents and professional bodies – we make up a substantial voice. And although there’s a lot of anger and frustration in the industry, ranting and raving won’t get us anywhere. I believe we must remain highly professional when we make the case to our political leaders for more sympathetic treatment. In this most recent case – the complete lack of direction on Right-to-Rent, asking for clarity is entirely reasonable. We are showing that we are thinking of the rights, the housing and the opportunities available to EU nationals, even if the Government has other things on its mind.