Opinion Research

Blog: PEARL – A PRS powerhouse

Alan Ward
Written by Alan Ward

Its work has made the front page of The Times and has even persuaded a global enterprise to change its operating policy. That is the power of good research. Here RLA Chairman Alan Ward reflects on the first 12 months of RLA research lab PEARL.

Research has always been a key part of our work here at the RLA.

In the 20 years since the association was established we have commissioned several reports examining everything from the impact of increasing legislation to investment.

Last year, with the increasing economic, social and political issues putting pressure on our members day in, day out, we decided the time had come to focus our efforts on uncovering evidence vital when it comes to changing the hearts and minds of those in power.

Building an in-house research team may have raised some eyebrows, but we were convinced that investing in a team who could gather the solid evidence we needed to underpin our campaigns work was vital if we were to make a difference on the ground.

Fast-forward just 12 short months and the RLA’s Private Renting Evidence, Analysis & Research Lab, or PEARL, has become the trusted go-to place for private sector data.

PEARL enables us as a landlords association to react quickly to the changes we see happening around us, and quickly gather the evidence we need to develop robust and workable policies.

With the PRS coming under more and more political scrutiny anecdotal evidence will not cut it.

What politicians and ministers need are hard facts on the issues facing the sector and the impact they are having on landlords and tenants alike.

Hard facts along with rigorous research processes that will stand up to tough scrutiny.

Since establishing PEARL, our Senior Researcher Tom Simcock and his team have seen an immediate impact, with their work opening doors to Government departments and MPs.

PEARL research has been referenced in Westminster a total of 47 times, with more than 25 pieces of evidence provided to Parliament and Government.

The politicians are listening. Business is listening

Following the production of two reports on the impact of short term lets on rental supply in London, global firm Airbnb confirmed it was making changes to properly enforce its 90-day letting limit.

We scored big wins in last year’s budget as a result of extensive work on welfare reform and the impact of Universal Credit on landlords and tenants alike.

And the word has spread internationally.

Dr Simcock was invited to Uppsala in Sweden earlier this summer to address the European Network for Housing Research on the impact of short term lets. He also spoken to delegations from Spain and Japan on the issue.

And it isn’t just the politicians. PEARL data is making an impact in the media as well.

Landlords don’t take kindly to being pilloried in the press.

Now we have a comeback.

Claims tenants are being moved from pillar to post by landlords evicting after six months can be swatted away when our research proves the average tenancy is more than four years.

Landlords not interested in long term tenants? Actually 63% have said they would offer long tenancies in the right circumstances. The list is endless.

With nine full research reports and an up-to-date dashboard of official housing statistics from trusted sources across the industry, what we have built with PEARL is a nothing short of a PRS powerhouse.

Its work behind the scenes is advancing our campaigns work on the ground to bring about the changes we need to see to make renting better for all.

About the author

Alan Ward

Alan Ward

Alan is the Chairman of the RLA. He has been a landlord and property developer in the PRS since 1993, became a founding director in 1998, and has been the RLA chairman since 2008.

He believes the PRS provides an essential service to the nation with little recognition for its economic contribution. He says regulation is pointless without effective enforcement, and that requires an intelligence-lead approach to target the criminals.

He has faith in the well-meaning majority of landlords to self-regulate. He despises the criminals and frauds who disproportionately concentrate the minds of those in Westminster and town halls.

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