Part of the supply crunch is because other landlords, as Mr Roberts, have sold up. A series of Government measures, such as cutting tax relief on buy-to-let mortgages, plans to abolish Section 21 “no-fault evictions” and the introduction of minimum Energy Performance Certificate requirements, have squeezed profits making a once lucrative business almost unaffordable.
Mr Roberts added: “If the anti-landlord rules were relaxed, we would see normal market forces, supply and demand would come back and there would be lower rents.”
He had hoped to slowly dismantle his empire by selling the properties as and when his tenants moved on. However, as the supply crunch deepens, Mr Roberts’ low-income tenants are increasingly unable to move anywhere else.
His solution is unconventional and expensive. He has spoken to 30 tenants offering to pay their 5pc deposits if they can get mortgages to buy their homes from him – at a total cost of £260,000 based on an average property price of £130,000 in his portfolio.
His second plan is to take a 10pc hit on the sale price but only if another landlord promises not to evict the current tenants. This would cost him more than half a million pounds.
He wants to act soon, knowing that more anti-landlord rules are in the pipeline. Housing secretary Michael Gove plans to introduce a landlord register and apply the Decent Homes Standard for all private rental properties via the Renters Reform Billl. This could resemble the selective licensing schemes rolled out by some local authorities.
The council in Nottingham, where Mr Roberts’ owns his properties, launched a selective licensing scheme in 2018. Landlords have to pay £890 per property to be accredited.