Should I join a Landlord Association?
Investors who have recently become landlords as well as those that have been doing it for some time will eventually come across one of the ‘trade’ landlord associations that claim to represent their interests. The main landlord bodies that exist in the UK are:
What do they do?
Each organisation offers a range of benefits for their members, these include:
- discounts on products such as insurance
- produce a magazine containing articles giving tips and advice
- some provide free forms & tenancy agreements
- campaign and lobby on behalf of landlords with the aim that any legislation is ‘landlord friendly’
- some offer training and courses so that landlords are up to date with the latest legislation, practice and procedures
Sounds great where do I sign?
All the above sounds great however the downside to membership is that it is not free. Basic annual membership costs between £75 – 90. In the case of the NLA one of the added attractions is that landlords have access to a telephone advice line. Landlords should not forget that whilst these organisations portray the image of being an organisation working tirelessly for their benefit; they are first and foremost a business. They need to make money to pay their chief executives, fund their rent and cover the expense accounts. They do this partly by levying their membership fee, but also by selling landlords products for which they get commission. In short they are a business not a charity.
Should I join one?
After weighing up the benefits of membership, the big question is should I join one? On the face of it there are very few benefits of being a member that can’t be obtained for free elsewhere. Websites such as Property Hawk offer many of the member services offered by these organisations such as ASTs, information and articles without having to pay. We can do this because we do not have to support the costs of expensive offices, chief executives and other corporate paraphernalia. One of the other advertised attractions of membership of these organisations is that they offer specially negotiated deals and rates for members, such as discounted insurance. Again these rates are often nothing different to those provided by other intermediaries. Property Hawk has partnered with Alan Bosewell Insurance Brokers to provide discounted rates on landlord insurance which are comparable.
The one useful function that they do provide is the facility to represent the wider interest of landlords. It is undoubtedly true that the associations do play a useful role in lobbying against some of the more draconian and poorly thought out legislation emanating from Government. What is not clear however is how much of their budget they actually spend on it in relation to other expenses such as wages, pension and running costs. I suspect it is relatively small. The Associations also produce a magazine, which contain some useful and interesting content. The question is that is all this worth £75+ per annum; you may think it is and if so you can always offset it against your rental profits for tax purposes.
Which one should I join?
Personally, if I were to choice one to join I would probably go for the NFRL. This is because the NFRL is actually an umbrella organisation for over 40 local branches. When you join your local organisation you will also obtain membership of the national body. Subscriptions are generally cheaper than the national associations. For instance membership of my local branch; the East Midlands Property Owners (EMPO) is currently £55 and this entitles you to a discount of £60 from the HMO licensing fee. Being a member of a local organisation means that you stay tied in to local issues. This is becoming increasingly important as much of the new legislation such as HMO licensing often has to be interpreted by your Local Authority. The thing to be aware of is that the quality of these local groups is variable, depending very much on the time and resources that the voluntary committee can devote to running them. I must add my local group EMPO is very good.
My advice is therefore think very carefully about what you are getting from membership before signing up. It may well be that you are actually paying to keep a load of executives in expensive suits, when in reality most of the benefits they offer can be had for free.
Do you agree or do you think that Associations provide a useful service?