Tuesday, 4 November 2008

With Reference To Landlords

Despite his promise, ‘William’ still hasn’t given me that reference, which set me wondering: how come there’s no way for tenants to appraise our landlords when we leave? There are after all plenty of ‘rogue tenant’ sites and databases (some of them cheeky enough to link with this blog.)

Before taking a new flat I must bare my soul, providing financial guarantees, actual guarantors, references, deposits and one of my kidneys to keep in the freezer in case I do a runner. But things being as they are and times having a’ changed, I demand similar documents and assurances from future landlords. After all, we need to formally evaluate their financial stability in case they forfeit the property i.e. our home.

I was once badly let down by a landlord. He agreed to let me a flat but changed his mind the night before I was due to move, and so, to even things out, I will need a non-returnable holding fee while deciding whether or not to formally take up residency.

I’d also like a bank reference confirming owners are financially secure, that my rent will cover the mortgage, or written proof that they earn enough to make up the shortfall themselves. Oh – and they can pay for their own credit check, same as me. I also require, randomly, for my own entertainment, a character reference from “…a responsible, professional person.”

The worst of all property overlords are creepy, lazy, strange, abusive, bullying, elusive and perversely, disturbingly over-attentive. Or intrusive: P’s landlord let himself in while P was in bed with his wife (P’s own wife, not the landlord’s.) This landed charmer intended showing some prospective replacement tenants around P’s bedroom, suggesting jauntily: “…just pull the covers up over yourselves.”
Indeed. You’re absolutely right. The correct response ends in -off.

Tenants are especially vulnerable when landlords keep a key. A small minority of landlords are openly and unrepentantly malicious. They delight in making renters feel powerless before exploiting them.

The man who moved into the spare room and terrorised his blameless occupants intending to scare them out is the worst example I’ve encountered hereabouts, although elsewhere a friend awoke to discover that her leering landlord had occupied the room next to hers. Like a coiled spring, she was gone (he also kept her deposit.) Can we have their door key please, to use if they misbehave?

My own particular landlord-from-hell deserves more than bad references or financial penalties. He should be frog-marched through town with someone hollering: “Unclean!” then publicly tattooed on the forehead with ‘W’ for weirdo, and afterwards shunned forevermore.

I was living in a large, shared house. While home alone, I heard someone moving around from room to room; I was stranded upstairs and petrified. With the intruder approaching, I hid in the cupboard, peering through a crack in the door.

Astonishingly, my landlord and not a burglar wandered in. Furtively, he glanced around, before pulling back the bedcovers to ‘inspect’ my sheets.

And before you ask: yes, that really happened.

18 comments:

MattW said...

Some very bad examples of landlords there. They wouldn't get away with that in the rest of Europe. It seems that since 1979, the UK has been living in a situation whereby the disadvantaged are constantly in a precarious situation whereby the more fortunate can exploit situations with support from the law.

If I decide to return to rent next year (if I can sell my flat), I too would like to know if there is a mortgage secured against the property. A lot of good tenants are loosing their homes because Landlords were too optimistic (or were misled) with their initial expected rentals and I certainly do not want to be in a similar situation. There should be some legislation allowing tenants to remain in the property - even during a repossession - whereby the tenants can stay and pay the same rent to the lenders until it is subsequently sold on. This buys the tenant some more time to find somewhere else to live.

RenterGirl said...

There are benign landlords, I've even lived in properties owned by some kind and reasonable ones (hello A!) but when they are nasty, it must never be forgotten that they have the key to our home. Perhaps the deposit bond scheme could be expanded: tenants pay in, and so do landlords, a deposit forefeited in the event of misdemeanours such as the ones listed above (and I have plenty more where that came from!)

Mo said...

In France the situation is very different, for example, it is illegal to evict a tennent during the winter, or to evict anyone over the age of (I think) 60.

People in France still think of renting as a long term propostion, I have a friend who has rented the same charming little flat in the rooftops of the old town here for a decade, and the rent is now way below the norm for the area (since rises are rare) but this is far from exceptional.

Mo

DANNY MCFADDEN said...

nasty

JB said...

Rentergirl, the LL doesn't have the key to your home if you change the lock barrel, which you are perfectly within your rights to do. So long as you either provide them with a key for the new barrel or replace the old one when you leave they can't do anything. A new barrel is actually very easy to fit for most locks and i've been using the same one for the past three years.

red333 said...

In other European countries tenancies are longer than six months, hence the different relationship between landlord and tenant - plus it gives rise to a different type of property investment. The short tenancies of the UK give some landlords the opputunity to bully (and we've had them since 1988). I keep on about this subject, but until we understand it, we're all debating in the dark about issues of renting. Your rights of occupation as a tenant is the fundamental issue. From this stems every other issue to do with your occupation of that property.

RenterGirl said...

The insecurity of being a tenant is horrible; most people seem to stay for six months on a rolling extension, which is still pretty tenuous and reliant on the goodwill of the landlord. Landlords often fail to grasp that they might enjoy abusing their power to bully and rile tenants. But that they benefit from secure tenants who will stay paying rent diminishing voids. I know that bad landlords are minority, but the harm they cause is disproportionately nasty.

Anonymous said...

what I'm beginning to see is a sea change in those LL attitudes.My LL is just desperate for me to stay.He knows he won't replace me that easily.

So I get what I want-within reason-when i want it.totally different to a year ago but will last us for 15 years through this depression.

'let em burn'

Anonymous said...

Six month tenancies are absolutely ridiculous. I'm not even allowed to rent a phone line for that short a period, so why that's considered acceptable for a 'home' is beyond me. And landlords, even 'good' landlords, do take advantage of the fact that tenants in this country have such a staggering lack of security. The vast majority of renters that I know are afraid to even mention minor issues for fear of being seen as 'difficult' and not having the tenancy renewed, as if living in anticipation of the next move isn't bad enough. It's a horrible, horrible way to live and it's got to change.

RenterGirl said...

The phone line/tenancy discrepancy contract is a strange one, isn't it? i think tenancies should be for six months and then on a rolling contract unless there are problems. It allows tenants to move without incurring penalties. I think most landlords are aware that they need tenants to stay. After my experience in Dovecot Towers, six months would give me a chnace to try-before-I-commit, kind of thing...

la glitz said...

Rentergirl - have just moved into a newbuild in Manchester, and absolutely love your blog. Here's one for you: the lightswitch in our bathroom didn't work when we moved in. (The light could only be turned on by standing on a chair and reaching into the depths of the airing cupboard.) We reported it broken on the inventory; two months after moving in, and three electricians' visits later, it was fixed. So not so bad.

The thing that was truly astounding, though, was that the electricians concluded that the flat had been wired wrongly when it was built... in 2004. The flat has been in continuous occupancy since then, and yet evidently no tenant has stayed long enough to report such an obvious problem. And the landlord clearly never visited to check the state of the property. Short leases only lead to swift degradation of the property, and surely that's not what landlords want.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks! I'd love to say I'm shocked by what your tale but...

la glitz said...

I owe you thanks too - I read your blog religiously in the months coming up to my move to Manchester, and took your words about postrooms, common areas and front doors to heart. The city centre flat we decided on is reasonably pricey, but completely secure, and responsibly curated. If it hadn't been for your blog, I don't think I'd have bothered checking the security of postboxes or the state of maintenance of the front hallway, and might have been exposed to a lot of the horrors you report. So thank you! It's a great public service!

RenterGirl said...

I'm glad to be of service. Why should things like security be extras, though? All the best in your new home.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god girl! Get out of there!

My friend was living in Manchester on exchange two years ago; she is convinced that the ratio of landlords that are paedophilic, voyeur,weirdo, creepy, close-talking,power freaks is higher than anywhere else in the world.
I'd have to disagree. Birmingham takes the cake on that one. But manchester is a close second.

X

http://www.anirritatingtruth.blogspot.com

Hywel said...

Under no circumstances should you allow your landlord access to your apartment unless he has agreed it with you beforehand. Change the locks.

RenterGirl said...

Easier said than done when you are living in an shambolically organised HMO (as I was for the pervy landlord nightmare). Change the locks, and pay for up to eight sets of keys? Or as I did move out. Fast. Also: I've heard of landlords breaking down the door. No, they're not supposed to do that, but a small minority are a nightmare and ignore not just civilised humane behaviour,, but the law.

rental rights said...

RE: database of landlords, that is one of our aims over at rental rights - http://rentalrights.org.uk/

We are trying to build a campaign against all this abuse, so please check it out and sign up if you like the idea of it.