The National Landlords Association (NLA) has historically taken a fairly traditional approach to party conference season, writes Chris Norris, head of policy, public affairs and research.
In the past we have hosted fringe events, inviting interested politicians to debate issues facing the private rented sector and stood all day at stands, talking to the engaged few and waiting for the inevitable five minute chat with a minister before he or she hurried along to the next eagerly awaiting exhibitor.
Of course the problem with this approach is return on investment. While it may be perfectly reasonably for a large corporate entity to spend many thousands of pounds on the limited potential presented by conference, the NLA is a non-profit making membership body.
We have experimented in recent years with engaging our members with party conference season, hosting events outside of the security cordon and partnering with national publishers to maximise our exposure, but it remains very difficult to justify the expense of what amounts to a few hours of meetings most of which – let’s face it – could probably have happened in Westminster.
This year the NLA will attend the major party conferences to represent our members views, but we shall be approaching them in a much lower key fashion. Rather than focusing on maximising exposure, this year we will concentrate solely on maximising the impact we can have where it matters.
There are a number of pressing issues which we hope to raise with politicians and stakeholders this year, but our principle focus will be the dire need to boost investment in new housing. It is after all a lack of choice which fuels many of the negative experiences encountered by those in the sector.
The recent report by Sir Adrian Montague makes some interesting observations about the private rented sector and some logical proposals aimed at encouraging large scale ‘institutional’ investment in domestic renting. However, the vast majority of privately rented housing is owned and operated by smaller landlords, those with a portfolio of a few properties, like our members.
There is a genuine need for policy makers to revise their perception of private landlords. There is a need to look beyond the confines of their undeniable and necessary role as enforcer against those criminal who blight parts of the sector, and to recognise that the overwhelming majority of landlords contribute positively towards meeting housing need in the UK.
We will use party conference season as an opportunity to meet with national, regional and local politicians to discuss the opportunities for partnership between private landlords and public agencies to ensure that demand for flexible, secure and high quality private housing is met and the rented sector is seen as a positive place to live and work.