The initial call to action from a Facebook group of Landlords read: “Please circulate this. We have a lot of power to discourage B&Q from helping to fund Shelter. They have a lot to lose and it is so easy for many of us to purchase our materials elsewhere. It takes everyone to commit to this however. Each individual will make a difference. If B&Q see their takings go down, I am sure they will no longer think it worth supporting Shelter and it will be the beginning of the fightback against an organisation which puts hatred of private landlords and letting agents at its heart. I especially urge letting agents to inform their landlords, perhaps by circulating the link to the article below. We need to be aiming to let every landlord and agent in the UK know about this. https://www.propertyindustryeye.com/landlords-who-have-had-enough-of-being-bashed-to-organise-boycott-of-businesses-that-support-shelter/”
It is up to individual members to decide whether and how to participate and as the PDPLA has declined to extend the Tradepoint deal we have effectively encouraged our members to stop using B&Q already so could argue that we cannot help here.
However, whether you agree with the approach or not, we wholly condone any action which shines a light on Shelter’s attacks on landlords and encourages well intentioned businesses from funding some of their activities. Our concern is that most assume Shelter is a charity and does things to help the homeless, so any attack on them by landlords could easily backfire and be misinterpreted.
Some facts that may help:
• Shelter is a charity, but that does not mean they do anything specific, just that they qualify for some useful tax breaks at our expense like every other charity.
• It provides no housing and no financial assistance to the homeless, at best they provide advice and at worst they are seen as a politically motivated campaign group
• As a business, their income last year was £67.4M of which they spent £66.4M plus they have £15.7M reserves
• They spent just over £12M of their income ‘fund raising’
• They also spent £5.5M campaigning which is what upsets so many in the industry
• In their defence, they also claim to have answered 118,000 enquiries through their various services (that’s £571 per enquiry by our reckoning)
• After Grenfell, Shelter Chair Sir Derek Myers and trustee Tony Rice had to resign amid internal disquiet over the charity’s response to the disaster (Myers was a former executive of Kensington & Chelsea council and Tony Rice is chairman of Xerxes Equity which owns Omnis Exteriors who sold the cladding used in the tower
• Notable campaign successes include the end of letting agent fees and an end to revenge evictions, though we could argue that their role in both of these was minor and better outcomes could have been achieved with more rational data and less political dogma
An example of this with commentary from ‘propertychecklists’: "Currently Shelter's latest campaign is highlighting issues of letting agents not accepting tenants on benefits, however, the reality is that agents let properties on behalf of landlords and have to adhere to rules set by mortgage lenders and insurance companies, some of which don't actually allow landlords or agents to let to those on benefits - rightly or wrongly.
I do though think it’s a shame they are only focusing on and only naming and shaming agents that they think are discriminating, but are not extending this to lenders and insurance companies. Rightly or wrongly, agents can't do much about it if a landlord or their financiers don't want them to let to people on benefits - targeting mortgage lenders and insurance companies and getting them to all agree to it, could actually make a real difference to tenants on benefits in the long term.
The reason for this is if you are an agent and do what Shelter want - advise landlords of their obligations - you also have to advise them that when you rent to tenants on benefits:
1. Their lender and insurance company may not let them
2. Arrears may be worse - non-payment of rent being one of landlords’ biggest fears
3. Rent is paid in arrears, not upfront
4. The landlord runs the risk of having their rental income ‘taken away’ retrospectively if the tenant’s claim is found to be inaccurate
The only way to really help tenants on benefits in the PRS is to find a system that works well for agents and landlords. Focusing on letting agents may generate press, but they don't own the let properties and so for me it is unlikely, sadly, to make a real difference to tenants.
The reality is, if we want private landlords to rent to those on benefits, we need to make sure the system works for both vulnerable tenants and landlords - and currently the reality is it doesn’t. And it’s not just failing the PRS, social housing has lost a fortune of tax payers’ money due to the switch to Universal Credit."
Our recommendation: It is up to individual landlords to decide whether to support this initiative or not, but if all you do is stop shopping at B&Q you will not achieve anything as we are such a disparate group, B&Q will have no idea why income has dropped and from our own experience, their IT systems lack the sophistication to work it out. Indeed, it may be counter-productive and make landlords appear even less likeable than they are already. So if you want B&Q to understand that funding Shelter is not as altruistic as they probably think it is, you need to tell them why and also, you need to ensure you have a voice. Buy a B&Q share (holding company is Kingfisher (ticker KGF), price at time of writing approx. 16p), better still buy 100 and then gift 99 to 99 friends – then each of you submit or support a shareholder resolution to the AGM.
Companies, charities, councils and governments have weak governance in this country – but that is not because we live in a totalitarian state, it is because you and I allow it. The mechanisms are there for us to use, but we rarely do so. Too many non-government organisations and charities have weak governance – whether this instance is the one that triggers you to action or not, we do have the ability to change things and to make people take notice of our views. We just have to act.