Landlord association chairman urged to resign after comparing the treatment of landlords and tenants to “Nazism”

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The chairman of a landlord association has been urged to resign after comparing the treatment of landlords and tenants of houses in multiple occupation (HMO) to “Nazism.”

Martin Silman, chairman of the Portsmouth and District Private Landlords Association (PDPLA), has come under fire for a blog post in which he claimed that certain Portsmouth city councillors “stir up hatred” against HMOs, leading to “more extreme behaviours.”

In the post, Mr Silman said: “I have spoken of parallels with Nazism before and some say I am over-reacting, but for me, a very plausible outcome will be an ‘HMO Kristallnacht’ at some point in the future, with violent mobs on the streets smashing HMO windows and harming people who live in them.”

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Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass”, occurred on November 9-10, 1938, when Nazi forces and civilians in Germany vandalised Jewish businesses, synagogues, and homes. Thousands were arrested, marking a significant escalation in the Nazi persecution of Jews.

HMOs (Houses of multiple occupation)HMOs (Houses of multiple occupation)
HMOs (Houses of multiple occupation)

Defending his comments, Mr Silman said the decision to draw the parallel “was not taken lightly” and those offended “are perhaps oversensitive to the Jewish link,” missing “the basic point that anyone in power should not unfairly incite hatred of innocent parties.”

He mentioned that he consulted with a fellow HMO landlord who holds a senior position at the Portsmouth Synagogue, who assured him that the parallel was valid. “Given that his grandparents were concentration camp survivors, I trust his judgement on this one,” he added.

He also shared emails, including one to the chair of the planning committee from a development company director who expressed fear for their safety at future city council planning committee meetings where controversial HMO applications are decided.

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Mr Silman added that the director was approached by members of the public with comments like “we hope you die in a ditch” and “you should rot in hell”.

He justified his speculation surrounding an “HMO Kristallnacht” in Portsmouth by citing a recent decision to refuse planning permission for an HMO in Hilsea.

The decision notice stated the refusal followed “powerful testimony of the adjoining neighbour, [creating] a reasonable belief of a fear of crime.” The application was also refused on the grounds of foul water capacity and the impact on the Solent Special Protection Areas.

He added: “Sadly, this is just one example of councillors playing to the gallery, stoking the fears of individuals and then, deciding (on zero evidence) that people who live in HMOs are criminals.”

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In response, the leader of the Portsmouth Independent Party (PIP) Councillor George Madgwick labelled Mr Silman’s language as “dangerous.”

“Apparently wanting to protect family homes, lower crime, keep streets cleaner/safer, reduce sewage issues and reduce parking problems, meanwhile informing local residents of these applications makes us Nazis,” he said.

Fellow PIP councillor Russell Simpson called on Mr Silman to resign “with immediate effect” for creating a “landlords vs councillors” culture.

He said that residents’ disdain towards HMOs is something Mr Silman “can’t accept” and that the local concerns weren’t created “out of thin air for political purposes”.

“This has come from a reputation of very poorly run HMOs over decades and residents talk,” Cllr Simpson added.

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