Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Meeting My Landlord

I met my landlord in person a while back. Despite heroic efforts, even Mr Indolent couldn’t avoid the journey this time. I didn’t really want to meet him. I prefer to keep landlords at a healthy distance.

‘William’ my landlord is a relaxed character. I showed him some of the problems in that flat: not whining, just saying that the lack of splashback by the sink, and the poor tiling in the bathroom were affecting the value of his investment. Disarmingly, he agreed, admitting that some fittings in newbuilds were just plain crap. He was pleasant enough, but the problems I have with him became clear: he’s really easy going, not through diffidence, or philosophy, but through an ingrained desire to avoid confrontation. Making a fuss, and doing anything about said fuss would use up valuable energy.

He stood on the balcony and surveyed his kingdom. Noticing my belongings in boxes, he wondered how long I intended to stay. I explained that I had to repack as the building site opposite creates so much dust. I mentioned some noisy neighbours – we both know there’s nothing he can do about that. He considered buying one of the new dovecots being built close by, claiming to know the management company (never seems to get anything done though). His motto seems to be ‘C’est la vie/Que sera sera,’ and other real and imaginary songs by Doris Day.

My brand new washing machine had broken. Rather than repair it, he bought a new one, choosing to deliver and install it himself, as he had messed up the online process. This seemed slightly extravagant, but after six weeks of hand washing bath towels, I wasn’t complaining. I suppose he must get some sort of tax incentive.

For some property owners, the only real power (and fun) they have comes from nit picking their tenants behaviour, acting as masters of their subordinate’s destiny as if they own a museum or a show home, and are charging not rent but an entrance fee. Meeting landlords can be extremely awkward and the suspicion is mutual.

Previous examples have tried to be mates, while others were clear cut enemies from the onset: visiting unannounced (illegal by the way) and striding around their kingdom, barking instructions while evading their own obligations. Others have arrived hopefully with a bottle of booze, and been slightly put out when shunned by what they thought was ready supply of willing and adventurous ladies, denied their imaginary droit de seigneur.

‘William’ is genial, calm, and brandishes his authority gently. I imagine that he is as aware as I am that - due to the growth of buy to let - the balance of power between lessee/lessor is shifting. He keeps quiet about his life outside being my landlord, didn’t ask personal questions (or any questions) and was entirely reasonable throughout his visit. He ignores all my emails, and is happy that I usually sort out repairs. He isn’t evil, just idle.

However we seem to agree on this one thing alone: landlord and tenants should never be buddies. It will only cause problems later on.


DaveC said...

Hi Renter Girl,
Thanks for sharing your comments with the wider world. Having shared your views on the inflated and over-hyped buy-to-let world over the past few years, I see it all falling like castles built on sand.

You obviously have to cope as best you can with some of the worst problems associated with BTL, but I hope you manage to get out of it sometime!

I have a daughter at UEA who shares a house, but luckily her landlord is a reasonable and helpful man who decorates/repairs etc. I hope I have the same luck with my son at Warwick next year.

Best of luck and keep up with the blog,

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Dave!

Judging from the comments and emails I receive, there are some decent landlords out there.

And Anonmymous below: yours is extreme, and awful, and I am so sorry to hear what has happened. It must be terrifying. I get quite annoyed when people say to me '..why not move?' I like to think people can stand up to intimdation and threats. Wrongful eviction is serious and a crime, and one I have been planning to write about for some time. In the past, friends have been seriously intimidated. Can you check with the CAB, and ask if you would lose out should you vacate? And then sue him afterwards? Do you have anywhere else to go? I believe in standing up for myself, by personal safety is paramount. I'd also visit the police station, and explain about their lack of support: legal training for the police is often very poor indeed, and they might imagine '..he can do whatever he wants in his own house' but that's incorrect, and they need to know that. I wish you all the best, and please let me know what's happened. Good luck!

RenterGirl said...

Sorry; the comments elves gobbled up this disturbing comment, and I really wanted it to be published. I am really worried about you Anonymous. Please let me know what happens, and all the best.
'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.'

Anonymous said...

So funny to read this post today, since I had my first visit with my landlord's representative yesterday. I was absolutely shocked by how unpleasant the woman was. Ignoring my greeting and brushing past me into my home and immediately barking a question at me about why one of the four fire detectors in my barely 400 sq. foot flat was no longer in the ceiling (but on the window ledge instead). (Answer: it blares whenever I broil anything and is too high up to shut off.)

I'm perplexed about why landlords and their employees feel the need to adopt such ridiculous posturing stances. I love my home and have invested weeks of labour and thousands of pounds of my own money into improving the property. I pay my rent on time, even when the landlord takes months to fix dangerous and unsanitary problems with my flat. Is it too much to ask to be treated with civility in my own home?

Anonymous said...

Renter girl,

I've just come across your great blog, which gave me brief respite from trying to get my landlord to do repairs.

To Anonymous above in the terrible situation with their landlord, I really hope you get through it ok. If your landlord's barrister really is a barrister, perhaps you can complain to the Bar Council or the relevant regulator if you're not in England and Wales? He shouldn't be threatening you with things that aren't legal, like harassment! Good luck.

katarina said...

What happened in the end? What do you DO if you're unlucky enough to get a landlord like this?

RenterGirl said...

I don't know what happened, and I really wish I did; that's scary. I now request that if poeple tell me their horro stories, that they tell me the ending. If you have a landlord like that, my advice is fight within the bounds of safety by using legal means such as the courts. But ultimately, move. It's wrong isn't it?