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Landlord Surveys Aplenty


If you are of a mind to respond, amongst the plethora of requests for your input, there are a number of surveys this month which you probably need to be aware of…..

One which we believe is a wasted opportunity and which will not produce any usable results comes from Portsmouth City Council and one which we recommend you do complete from the Department of Levelling UP, Housing and Communities which is probably worth the effort but it is a little lengthy. Then there is the PCC 'Health & Wellbeing Strategy' and of course, the quarterly NRLA one which is always worth completing as it helps build a comparative dataset over a period of years.

 What Is Wrong With The Portsmouth One?

PCC seem to have got the survey bug, sending out surveys on just about everything. In terms of getting a feel for the vox populi or providing education, they can be a useful tool.

For example, the recent survey on e-scooters was probably completed mainly by users of e-scooters and those who really did not like them – so knowing which end of that spectrum is biggest and most vocal will be of use to PCC in planning how to move forward. Also, including questions which explained the legality of the council sponsored hire scheme and the illegality of privately owned e-scooters on public streets was an effective way to target that specific message to the community of existing users, many of whom would be likely to participate in the survey.

However, PCC have limited if any skills in collating data scientifically. Without careful targeting, surveys can only give feedback on perceptions and then only from those who respond – so you have to fully understand who does and who does not respond and to adjust for that before drawing conclusions. We would have hoped to be involved, along with the University and others, in defining what we were trying to identify and how that was to be done – sadly, in spite of the 'PRS Strategy' statements about working more closely with landlords and bodies such as the HMO Governance Board, PCC appear to have created this survey wholly in-house without reference to or input from any of the groups who could and would have helped ensure this was a well structured and balanced tool for collecting useful data.

Our response to PCC when they ignored our request to hold back the survey until it could be reviewed and reworked:

"Market Research is different to Marketing. A communications plan is an essential part of a marketing plan but is a periphery component of a research project if it exists at all. Market research is immensely challenging to get right and people spend their whole careers learning to do it properly, but if I were to boil it down to 3 very basic components, they would be:

  1. Define the market you are trying to research and the data that you hope to collect, then build plans to ensure that you sample in a way that ensures you either get a valid cross section of the market or if you don't, you can identify why not and take steps to correct the data to better reflect the whole market. (For example, if you just publicise a survey for tenants there is a strong likelihood that those who respond are those currently experiencing problems and if you extrapolate that to the whole market, you get a misleading picture. Thus, the more normal approach is to identify and canvas a specific cross section of the market rather than letting respondents self-select).
  2. Compose a survey that is open and does not lead respondents. Test it in the market and then correct and update it as required. (see comments below for examples of why I state that this has not happened)
  3. This is actually the hardest part – analyse the data. This is a job for a statistician or similar – to collate and interpret the data and then make adjustments such that it can be presented as a valid picture for the overall market. Frequently achieved with control group input and 3rd party corroboration.

On point 2, I asked several people to attempt the survey and if they saw anything that they thought could be asked in a better way, to please let me know. From the feedback I received, I include these extracts:

I am happy with the amount of HMOs in Portsmouth

If I say no will there be a false assumption that I think there are too many? Have to ask if not happy, why?

I have lived in my current HMO for more than two years

They don't ask it the tenant is a student so result will be meaningless.

I consider my HMO property/is safe and well managed.

Why would anyone admit otherwise? Perhaps if they use an agent but they don't ask that v basic question. This means the results of many questions to landlords are meaningless.

All you ask is are you a Landlord / Managing Agent / Other Property Manager / Other NOT Landlord using an agent to manage. We know there are landlords stuck with agents they are not happy with.

I am happy to rent a room in my HMO to someone in receipt of housing benefit or Universal Credit as a means to pay their rent.

So, 90 % of respondents say not happy to take claimants but what if the same 90% are student landlords? (CT, marketing strategy and lifestyles make it difficult to mix.)

Have you ever been instructed by the council to make improvements to your HMO property? Have you ever received or been made aware of complaints made regarding your HMO property?

I should imagine everyone has been instructed to make petty ridiculous improvements, I had a slight rip in the vinyl flooring and the garden gate was operated by using a key 🤔 apparently that's a secondary means of escape! They never came out to inspect works so it was a waste of everyone's time as usual. Also, surely most HMO landlords have received a complaint from someone over the years, tenant or neighbour, they are not specific, so again they are likely to get a high number of 'yes's' to that. Of course that's probably what they want."

Perceptions about PCC motives were left in the response to help PCC understand how it has have alienated a significant proportion of the landlords out there – the actions in the 'PRS Strategy' were largely dependent upon the support and cooperation of local landlords as we said at the time and we have seen no effort to work more closely (would have been good to involve us in the survey for example) or to stop treating landlords like villains (reference to still unanswered PDPLA questions about the tone and wording of PCC letters for example).

 Why Should I Complete The DLUHC One?

Their words:

"We recently sent you an email inviting you to take the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)'s survey about private lettings in England. If you haven't had the chance to complete the survey yet, there's still time. The answers you give will help the government understand the needs of the private rented sector, and create policies to meet those needs. This is a great opportunity to have your say.

The survey is being managed by NatCen Social Research. All information provided will be treated in strictest confidence in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018. No one will be able to identify you, your property or your tenants from the survey data or findings. Your details will not be passed on to DLUHC or any other organisation.

The research findings will be published in Spring 2022 by DLUHC. No individual or property will be identifiable in the published findings."

This is a much more scientifically managed piece of research than the PCC examples - you can only participate if invited, but if you have received an invitation please do take the time and respond.

In the words of the NatCen Social Research, " The EHS is conducted throughout the year across England. The sample is scientifically chosen to represent the wider English population."

 The Health & Wellbeing One?

Members who attend meetings will be no strangers to PCC staff imploring landlords to help house the most vulnerable or to do this or that to improve their lot. This one falls into that category, and whilst housing does have a strong bearing on the health and wellbeing of a properties occupants, we do not get the support or encouragement to do more than we already do in this area - but anyway, here is the survey:

Do You Know Of A Poor Property / Bad Landlord?
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