VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Help renters by giving landlords a break

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Landlords play a crucial role in the property market – we cannot afford to drive them all away

Britain’s buy-to-let market is on the brink. A supply crisis means competition is now so fierce, renters are being forced to engage in secret bidding wars or queue around the block just to view a property.

And it will only get worse as landlords continue to sell up because strict new legislation means they are struggling to break even, let alone make a profit.

So after nearly a decade of punishing buy-to-let crackdowns, is it perhaps time to ease up?

Squeezed: Landlords are selling up in droves because strict new legislation means they are struggling to break even – let alone squeeze out a profit

I’m very sympathetic to renters — after all, not so long ago I was one. And it is absolutely right there are strict rules in place to protect tenants from rogue practices.

Many are paying more per month than they would if they had a mortgage and should not be living in substandard conditions. But if the Government continues to strip away landlords’ rights and any incentive to invest, it will have a mass exodus on its hands.

This will push up prices further, making it even harder for renters to save for a home of their own.

There is a gross misconception that all landlords are raking it in from huge property portfolios and living a life of luxury.

This simply isn’t true. Many scraped together the cash to buy one property as a prudent investment to provide their family with a modest income in retirement.

Others may have inherited a flat or house after a loved one died.

Most are very fair and only increase rents when they absolutely must, not just because they can. So rather than vilifying landlords, it’s time to recognise that they play a crucial role in the property market. We simply can’t afford to drive them all away.

Desperate times

If you needed further evidence of how desperately we require swift action on energy bills, look no further than Birmingham.

The City Council is so worried about how vulnerable residents will cope this winter, it is seeking to identify free, warm public spaces for people who can’t afford to heat their homes. These might include community centres, places of worship and libraries.

As Councillor John Cotton puts it: ‘It should not be the case that people cannot afford to keep their homes warm, but that’s the reality we are facing.’

Password tip

After we bemoaned how difficult it is to dream up strong passwords that you can actually remember earlier this month, Money Mail reader David shared some great advice.

The 78-year-old from Surrey is very tech-literate and helps people (mainly the elderly) with their computing activities.

‘You won’t be surprised to hear that cries for help over the years have mainly been password-related issues — especially forgotten ones,’ he says. His top tip is to start with a sentence that is memorable to you but meaningless to others.

‘For example, a Frank Sinatra devotee might use: Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on 12 December, 1915.’

Then you use the first letter of each word, plus the numbers, to form your password — in this instance: FASwbiHNJo12D1915. You could even add symbols resembling the letters to make it extra strong: FA$wbiHNJo!2D!9!5. And if you feel you must write it down, David suggests that in this example you could note it on the back of a photo of Ol’ Blue Eyes.

Tales of triumph

I was heartened this week to hear more of your money-saving success stories.

One reader, Tim, says he spotted an article in our sister newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, which suggested holidaymakers could save money by cancelling and rebooking rental cars after prices plummeted. Doing so saved him £292 in Croatia — and he bagged an upgrade.

Meanwhile, after discovering his boiler insurance had edged up from £19.50 to £20.10, Stephen called his provider ‘for a joke’ to ask if it could reduce the price by 10p.

After two minutes on hold, the firm knocked his premium down to £18.72. It’s not a huge saving, but a victory nonetheless. And now, every little really does help, so keep those triumphant tales coming!