Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Landlords and villains

Yesterday day I drifted into the weird world of those mysterious beings who dwell on The Other Side, the dark side, the outer edge of the property map marked ‘….here be dragons’.

Actually, I was looking at some blogs posted by landlords, researching what these creatures of the night were saying about me and my fellow landless peasant scum.

Most landlord sites are quite straightforward, posting and answering queries about tenancies, rogue traders, and insurance, etc. Their current concern (or obsession) is staying strong and not selling up in the face of ‘The Oncoming Crash,’ believing that if too many of their comrades sell up in the face of fear, a chain reaction will begin, and they will lose everything in that dreaded scenario of plummeting house prices, and worthless investments.

Others are vile. One suggests boosting rental income by advertising a flat without stating the precise rent, but requesting sealed bids. The highest offer wins the flat. One blogger refers to his tenant casually throughout his posts as ‘that bitch’. She paid her rent late; not good, but part and parcel of the landlord experience, for those who know. Now she’s paid up, he is set on evicting her, seemingly because he can. This attitude is pretty rich considering the great evil landlords themselves are occasionally known to do.

Many landlords openly despise even blameless tenants for no clear reason. They assume we are evil. Where does this resentment come from? We need a home. They need our rent (we pay their mortgage, and ergo their pension fund) and usually this works out fine, so why the hostility?

Elsewhere, there are innocuous hints on improving the property, confirming what we all know: effectively maintained properties decorated in neutral colours, supplied with sturdy, pleasant furniture and decent white goods will raise more consistent rental. One site basically agrees with many points made here: don’t skip repairs, don’t abuse the tenant relationship, don’t be a bully and turn up unannounced.

These pointers are presumably aimed at dilatantte landlords, dimly aware there’s a flat somewhere around these parts, which they vaguely remember acquiring, which would account for the money that comes in sometimes (how lovely!) These hobby landlords must fondly imagine that repairs are done secretly at night by kindly elves, and anyway: just who are those dreary ‘tenant’ people squawking about the leaks and collapsing ceilings?

The majority of landlord sites discuss methods of securing a mortgage; there's much less chatter about the benefits (and obligations) involved in keeping the property in an appealing condition. What landlords need is consistency; encouraging happy, settled tenants to remain in place and reliably pay rent must surely be their aim.

We are in this together. Tenants need well constructed homes, intelligently and sympathetically fitted out. We need flats we can live in for some time, a sense of security, but above all else, a home, a real home, not rat runs for lab animals. Landlords would also benefit. In so many ways, we are on the same side. So let’s not fight.


David said...

I've been both a tenant and a landlord and cherished neither status. I always felt I was a fair landlord, but was disappointed at the end of each tenancy by the amount of stuff I'd have to repair/replace. At the same time, I always remember being in dire houses with dire interiors and hating the miserliness of the landlord. Unfortunately, it's a state of affairs which goes back thousands of years. Not sure what the solutions are. But when you're paying money for something, you always feel like you're being taken for a ride, and when you own something, you always feel other people abuse it. It has the same feeling as bosses and employees. The shared equity thing might be a way forward for the long term renter.

Anonymous said...

I am currently experiencing serious issues with my landlord. I've been living in his property for 8 months and always paid rent on time, a month ago his daughter and his my fiancee fell out as the landlord and his family were showing up in our house unannounced and even stayed over in a spare room we've got. The landlord lives in Malta, and usually stays with his daughter when he is in London but due to financial issues he has now decided to start using a spare bedroom in our home. He served us with a notice to vacate the property within the two months agreed notice and we accepted believing that we had no choice.
A few weeks after the notice was gives his daughter showed up at our home trying to get through the front door. My fiancee blocked the door so she pushed the door and phoned police when he pushed back. Police came and went and didn't do anything.
The day after the landlord arrived and checked the property twice and left, he then decided to come back at midnight and get into the house. we'd locked the door inside so he was not able to come in and decided to push the door open with force. We phoned the police, they showed up two hours after we'd phoned and let him back to the house. They didn't ask him for any proof, they just let him in even though i explained that we were tenants and showed our contract. They said that he owns the property and pays teh mortgage and can do what ever he wants.
The following day I phoned Citizen Advice Bureau and they told me to call teh council tenancy officier. Which i did and went to see them the same day with all evidence I had (emails, voice mail, photographs, video clips, police cad numbers). They decided to take the matter further and come to our house to talk to the landlord who was still in the property. He had by now changed our locks and said that he wouldn't provide us a key until we've paid for the locksmith even though he'd broken the door him self.
The tenancy officer spoke to our landlord who had now let in his barrister and a friend into the house. I sat and listened and throughout the meeting my landlord continued to intimidate me in front of the officer saying that he owns the house and can do what ever he wants. His barrister approached me after the officer had left saying that he lives locally and can make things very difficult for me. I asked them why they are doing this and the landlor replied that We are doing this to ourselves. I feel like i am in a bloody gangster movie.
Last night he moved in two new people into the house, they seemed to be people he has paid to come and intimidate us. They stayed in our living room and have today throughout the day been phoning their friends to come over this evening to finish the job.
The tenancy officer is coming over today unannounced and taking the matter further, whatever that may mean.
Most my friends are begging me and my fiancee to leave the property as its obvious that our landlord is a thug and is intending to harm us. But we are staying, we have done nothing wrong and we do not want to give up, we want him to learn a lesson and not do this to anyone else.
I've been staying in my bedroom most of the time and have been researching the internet for stories relating to bad landlords, its horrible what people can get away with before the law or police can actually interfere.
Anyhow, i Know that this is only temporary, so I hope to God that we'll make it through this ordeal unharmed and safe.

RenterGirl said...

Dear Anonymous, below. I've had a few comments and emails from readers who are worried about you (as am I!)
Please let us know what happens, and let me send you all the best of luck in the world. (See Meeting My Landlord in April's posting for some other well wishers.)