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5104National Trust 'fails as landlord', says tenants' group

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  • marksimonbrown
    Oct 11, 2013
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      National Trust 'fails as landlord', says tenants' group
      BBC News
      by Jeremy Cooke, BBC News UK affairs correspondent
      Date: Fri 11th October 2013
      Ref: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24461918




      The High Peak area of Derbyshire forms a beautiful rugged landscape.
      Like so much of Britain's uplands, it is countryside preserved and
      protected by the National Trust.


      Many of the traditional stone cottages dotted across the hills are
      Trust owned, providing homes for some of its 6,500 tenants.


      But according the the National Trust's own tenants' association, it
      too often fails in its basic duty as a landlord.


      One of the cottages has been home to the Dean family since last year.
      Carl and Wendy Dean say moving to the picturesque property with their
      four children was a dream come true.


      But in a few weeks, they will be required to pack up and move out.


      It's a bitter blow, especially after they've just spent £6,000
      improving the property. They've fitted a new kitchen, new flooring and
      redecorated.
      'We are devastated'


      No-one is saying the National Trust is breaking the law, or even the
      rules.


      The Deans did only sign an initial six-month contract, which was
      renewed for a further six months - but they expected it to be extended
      again.


      They say they were told by a National Trust representative that being
      able to stay long term was "standard practice" if they were good
      tenants - an assurance the Trust say was never made.


      Standing in their front room Wendy is sobbing: "It's appalling. We are
      devastated. It's made me feel ill. We are not expecting them to change
      their minds. We know we are going but we don't want this to happen to
      somebody else."


      Her husband says: "We are being moved out like you would move cattle
      around. They don't care that we are a family, they've just said,
      'Right, your time is up.'"


      The Tenants' Association of the National Trust (TANT) says there are
      growing problems across the country, with their helpline taking calls
      about poor repairs, rising rents - and, increasingly, tenancy
      disputes.


      Andrew Turner Cross is a long-time Trust tenant. He is also chairman
      of TANT.


      "What we're looking for is a fair deal for tenants, we're getting all
      too many calls on our helpline to do with the same old problems -
      leases, repairs and rental increases… some of those cases are quite
      heartbreaking."


      Of course, thousands of tenants live happily in National Trust
      properties - the average length of tenure for tenants is
      nine-and-a-half years - and it says it simply doesn't recognise
      reports of widespread discontent.


      Clearly, caring for and maintaining old, sometimes ancient housing
      stock is difficult and costly.


      Mary Marshall has been a Trust tenant in West Wycombe for more than
      two decades. She describes it as a first-class landlord.


      And she says her fellow tenants should make allowances for the fact
      they live in such desirable properties.


      "I think you have to accept that you are moving into a part of
      history," she says.


      "You are part of the history of the country and the buildings. And it
      is a privilege to live in a place like this. You need to accept that
      the Trust are doing everything in their power to conserve it."


      But the BBC has seen an internal report that suggests there is also
      some serious dissatisfaction.
      'Successful track record'


      The survey - commissioned by the National Trust itself - concludes
      that although 72% of tenants are happy, there is a "disconnect between
      tenants' and landlords' expectations".


      It also says: "The National Trust falls short of the 'special'
      expectations of them but also of the basic expectations of a
      landlord."


      The National Trust's rural enterprise director, Patrick Begg, says:
      "It's not a damning indictment. I don't think it's universal, I think
      the vast majority of what we do, we get right, in places we don't.


      "I can't say enough times, I don't recognise that picture. We stand
      behind our role as a professional and fair landlord. We are always
      striving to do better, of course, but with a track record of success."


      But among the significant number of National Trust tenants who are
      unhappy is hill farmer Neil Priestly.


      When land next to his existing National Trust farm came up for rent,
      he jumped at chance to grow his business, paying out thousands for
      sheep especially suited to this hard landscape


      Again, he was on a fixed contract. Again, he says he was told it would
      be renewed after 12 months as a formality.


      But the Trust denies this and now requires him to move on.


      "If they'd come and from the start said this is what the plan is going
      to be, but a total lack of communication and a lack of regard for my
      own personal financial well being or anything like that, they've just
      ploughed on, on this road that they've set off down, with total
      disregard for local people," he said.


      The National Trust is among our best loved, best supported charities.
      The uncomfortable message from some of its tenants is that it is
      better at conserving buildings and landscapes than looking after the
      people who rely on it for their homes.
      [end]