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The RLA and NLA merger – is one head better than two?

Monday 16 September 2019

It’s finally happened, for years it;s been talked about and now on the 1st of Jan 2020 the National Landlords Association and Residential Landlords Association will re-launch as one organisation, the NRLA.
 
But is this really a good thing for the industry
 
As you may be aware, I worked with the NLA for over a decade and therefore was not surprised at all when I heard the news. It had been talked about for some time but never really looked like it would ever happen in the near future… And here’s why.
 
There are significant differences between both organisations, culturally, commercially and geographically. Any merger was therefore always going to be something of a challenge, but worthy of consideration in the sense that, in theory, it would strengthen the perceived significance of the representation of the PRS (private rental sector) when lobbying the government - and would therefore be an advantage to its members and landlords across the country.
 
I’ve always been a big advocate of landlords joining such organisations as the NLA and RLA, many landlord friends of mine are members of both.
 
A good friend of mine once justified being a member of both by saying ‘Why have one wicket keeper when you can have two?’ His point being that both organisations serve to protect the interests of their members and both provide regular information on the private rented landscape with slightly different views - and therefore being a member of both was easily justifiable.
 
That being said in the last few years it does feel like the two organisations have cemented very different positions in the market, with the NLA taking a more pragmatic view on the political landscape and policy and the RLA seemingly gravitating towards the more commercial side of being a landlord. As a result they’ve taken a different stance on key issues such as licensing.
 
So, is this merger a good thing?
 
In short I can completely see how this makes commercial sense for both organisations. There will clearly be economies of scale from the merger that they will benefit from and they will certainly have a wider view of landlord issues covering the full breadth of the country.
 
But.
 
I’m not altogether convinced that this move is good for the landlords that they represent. Let me explain.
 
As it stands today, both organisations claim to have circa 40,000 members each and consequently they have two seats at the table when it comes to such things as government consultations. They are also positioned slightly differently and therefore attract different landlord types and different local authority engagement.
 
Ultimately as separate organisations, appealing to different audiences, they provide a greater representation of the sector. I suspect that once they have consolidated their respective memberships, removed duplicate and affiliate members and then reported accurate figures, they will only really be representing circa 50-55,000 landlords and therefore as the new consolidated organisation, they now only have one voice, one seat at the table, and represent less landlords than they were perceived to represent as two separate organisations…
 
In my opinion they would have been much better off remaining as two separate organisations and creating a strategic partnership. I am really interested in seeing who the dominant party will be in this merger and I’m really intrigued as to how they will present themselves to the market and how they will represent their members.
 
In the past few years both organisations have been accused of representing their own views and that of its most boisterous members as opposed to representing the best interests of the sector itself, and personally I hope the new NRLA will serve to change that perception. With the level of political and regulatory change facing the sector over the coming the months, we need effective representation. I hope that’s what we get.

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