Comment on today’s Sunday Times article

Commenting on an article in the Sunday Times today, a National Trust spokesman said:

“We’re extremely disappointed with the piece which is littered with inaccuracies and biased reporting.

“The reason that we rent properties is to raise vital funds, which we pump back into our core charitable purpose: to look after the special places enjoyed by tens of millions of people every year.

“We always aim to be professional and fair in the way we work with our 8,000 residential, agricultural and commercial tenants – charging no more than a market rent in return for the homes, premises and land that we let out.

“We’ve recently joined the most recognised independent benchmarking service within the sector, run by Savills. This has shown that we charge average market rent for our residential holdings, and around 20 per cent under market for agricultural rents.

“To suggest that we are pursuing a new, aggressively commercial agenda is unfair and inaccurate. In fact, our recent residential tenants’ satisfaction survey showed that the vast majority of our tenants are perfectly happy with the relationship we have with them and also that 8 in ten would recommend us to their friends and family.”

The article contains reference to three case studies:

Wickham Farm – a debate about market rental value is a normal part of any negotiation process; agreeing that critical benchmark is at the heart of reaching any final settlement. That we have not been able to reach an agreement with the tenants’ agents on this crucial figure, or how to calculate it, has been a major sticking point in making progress quickly. In addition, we have presented suggestions for the type of new conservation and public access activities that could make a real difference and form part of the rent ‘equation’. The tenant’s and our agents are meeting later this month to discuss the proposition. We very much hope to be able to move forward as a result.

Harbour Challenge – with our help and support, this charity has operated on-site rent-free for over a decade. It is now well established. The rental agreement will – as you would expect in any comparable situation – formalise the relationship we have with them so we can agree who is responsible for what on site. The rent we have proposed is around £6 per day and represents a huge discount on local market values. We continue, very happily, to publicise their work in our marketing material at Brownsea.

Marble Hill Lodge, Felbrigg – this is a longstanding dispute over a rental agreement where the tenants pay a very low, regulated rent but are responsible for repairs and maintenance. Over the last 35 years they have failed to maintain the property, have built an unauthorised conservatory and converted the loft. Gaining access to carry out a professional building survey has taken years to achieve and has revealed that the works are of such an extent that the structural integrity of the building has been compromised and the lodge is now seriously dilapidated and requires significant repair valued at £70k. We have offered various options which would not only ensure that the urgent repairs are done, at the Trust’s expense (even though this is not our responsibility), but also allow the Clements to stay in their home under a new agreement. These proposals have been discussed with the help of the local MP and we are all hopeful that an agreement can be reached.

Contact the National Trust press office on 0844 800 4955 press.office@nationaltrust.org.uk information on this issue and comment on the case studies included in the Sunday Times article.

Find out more about the National Trust and tenants here.

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