Landlord MPs have earned at least £2.9m from rent during the pandemic, and likely much more, NationalWorld can reveal.
An in-depth analysis of the register of members’ financial interests dating back to January 2020 shows that more than one in six MPs earned rental income of at least £16,676 during the pandemic, with many assumed to be banking significantly more.
During a period when many private renters have built up significant arrears and struggled financially without direct government assistance, landlord MPs have earned millions.
Of the 650 MPs in Westminster, 112 were in receipt of rental income during the pandemic.
The majority of landlord MPs are Conservatives, including all of the top ten earners through rental income.
Between January 2020 and August 2021, MPs earned a minimum of between £2,901,600 and £4,486,000 from rental income, NationalWorld’s analysis shows. This includes just the 106 MPs who had property for the duration of that period, excluding properties bought or sold part-way through.
The total figure on rental earnings is unclear, due to inconsistencies in how MPs must register their outside interests and a lack of transparency which has led experts to describe the system as “more reminiscent of the 19th century than the 21st”.
MPs only have to register properties worth more than £100,000. If they generate rent of at least £10,000 per year they must say so – but they do not have to say exactly how much.
Inconsistencies in the way that MPs register their rental earnings means in some cases where an MP lists multiple properties in one entry it is unclear whether they receive at least £10k per year in rental income for each property, or collectively.
And one MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, has failed to list the specific number of rental properties he owns, instead registering “various let properties in London”.
In total, there were 174 entries in the register for property interests that brought in at least £10k annual rent – but between them these entries concerned 397 unique properties.
That gives the estimated minimum income range of £2.9m to £4.5m – even before considering some properties may bring in much more than £10k.
Rose Whiffen, research officer at Transparency International UK, said: “Transparency over MPs’ outside interests allows the press and public to scrutinise any potential conflicts. While this information is disclosed, its publication as individual paper-based files rather than a searchable database is more reminiscent of the 19th Century than the 21st.”
There are several MPs who earn more through rental income than their basic MP salary, even assuming they earn the minimum registerable amount from each.
‘A government of landlords’
Although the government did enforce a ban which meant that the vast majority of evictions could not go ahead during the pandemic, campaigners criticised the lack of direct support for private tenants.
Research from housing charity Shelter which was conducted just before the ban was lifted in May, found that 1.8 million private renting adults in England (22%) were worried they would lose or be asked to leave their current home at short notice.
While the government announced its backing for mortgage holidays, offering many homeowners the option of pausing their mortgage payments, no such provision was put in place for private tenants.
This has led to many renters building up significant arrears, which a number of housing charities have warned will lead to a rise in evictions now the ban has been lifted.
A report published by Citizen’s Advice in January 2021 found that one in three private renters have lost income because of the pandemic, with half a million people behind on their rent as a result.
In February 2021, the Resolution Foundation found that rental arrears were “at least twice the level of arrears observed going into the crisis”.
Speaking to NationalWorld, Arvind Howarth from the Bristol branch of community union ACORN, said that there being so many landlords in parliament represents a conflict of interest.
He said: “A government of landlords is not going to look out for the interests and wellbeing of the 13 million private renters in this country - that’s one in five people who pay a landlord to have a roof over their head.
“Why should they provide more social housing when it’s them and their mates profiting from a dearth of homes? Why should they put caps on rent, unaffordable in all but two areas of the country, when the ballooning costs of renting are going straight into their pockets? And why would they look to protect us from eviction and homelessness, when they might be the next ones calling out the bailiffs to kick families out onto the streets?
He added: “We saw MPs repeatedly fail tenants during the pandemic, while offering generous mortgage holidays to homeowners, and now we’re seeing the result - unfair rental arrears for tenants and evictions and homelessness rising.”
Speaking to NationalWorld, director of Generation Rent, Alicia Kennedy, said: “We hope that the landlords who serve in Parliament represent the very best of the sector, properly maintain their properties and wouldn’t dream of evicting tenants who had done nothing wrong.
“They will know as well as anyone that too many landlords treat their tenants appallingly, so should back measures to raise minimum standards that everyone can expect from their landlord.”
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