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

mark at mark at
Fri Oct 11 19:49:40 BST 2013

National Trust 'fails as landlord', says tenants' group
BBC News
by Jeremy Cooke, BBC News UK affairs correspondent
Date: Fri 11th October 2013

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 
'We are devastated'

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

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 

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 

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 

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 

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.

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