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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Industry group takes "emotionally charged" Shelter to task

The Residential Landlords’ Association has taken Shelter to task for what it describes as “emotionally charged” media statements about alleged harassment of tenants in the private rental sector.

Last week we reported that Shelter claimed 125,000 tenants had suffered abusive behaviour from landlords in the past year, although the number of tenants cited as calling its helpline was in fact under 17,000.

Now RLA chairman Alan Ward has written to Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb to take the charity to task over how it sources its figures and the case studies it used in some press releases. 

Ward’s letter has been put on the RLA website and speaks for itself. It is reprinted in full below:

Dear Campbell 

It was with concern that I read Shelter’s recent press release (dated 2nd September) claiming that more than 125,000 tenants in the private rented sector have faced “harassment, threats or assault from their landlord in the last year alone”. 

At the outset, I should make clear that the RLA condemns any landlord who engages in such activity and believes that those who are in anyway violent or aggressive have no place in the sector. 

Given the serious nature of the issues you raise however, it is deeply disappointing that the figures you have produced do not add up. 

As an example, whilst noting in your England-wide press release that over 125,000 tenants have been affected, in your release for the North West you argue that 100,000 tenants are “experiencing an act by their landlord that could have resulted in legal action” whilst in the Midlands the figure is set at 120,000 tenants. Given that in these two regions alone the total number of tenants affected exceeds the 125,000 England-wide figure I would be grateful if you could indicate where these numbers have come from. 

Have they come from extrapolating them from the much smaller survey sample undertaken by YouGov? 

You note that the numbers produced by Shelter have been come to as a result of research undertaken by YouGov. In order to inform debate would you not agree that the full, raw data should be published for all to see? Why has this not been done so far? A failure do so only heightens a sense that Shelter is being selective in the data it chooses to publish. 

I was interested also to note the case studies used within your press releases. 

In your England-wide version you tell the story of Chris, renting a property in London. In your press release for the North West as well you tell the story of a tenant called Chris whose case study is word for word the same as the one in the England-wide release, but omitting the fact that he is renting a property in the Capital. This undoubtedly gives the misleading impression for the media, and through them the public, that the case study used in the regional press releases is from the region you are sending them to. This is, I would argue, simply wrong and misleading. 

Finally, I would be grateful if you could indicate how you have defined “harassment, threats or assault” for the purposes of your research. 

The issues you highlight in your press release are undoubtedly serious and the RLA stands ready to work with all groups to combat aggressive behaviour. However, given how emotionally charged your press work has been on this issue, it is clear that the public deserve answers to the questions that I have raised. 

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    Well done RLA for calling Shelter out on this one. Not that the general public's opinion would be changed, even by a retraction or correction.

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