Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Invasion Of The Private Landlord Snatchers

It’s creepy. Private landlords, renting independently have all but vanished. You could be forgiven for thinking they’ve been abducted by aliens, or chased away by angry villagers brandishing pitchforks. Apparently, over the past few months, while we were asleep, nearly every flat in town has been taken over by letting-agents (and you know how I feel about letting agencies.)

Why does it matter? Well, sadly this could indicate that most, if not all private landlords are either too afraid to stay in business alone, or have gone under. Imagine the personal misery: the bankruptcies and evictions. Apart from that, dealing with agencies can be difficult for both renter and owner alike, since they can be lax about collecting rent and pass tenants straight back over to landlords when repairs are needed, while charging fees apparently at random.

But total corporate control of the private rental sector is fused with another emerging complication. It’s this: there are so many newbuilds in urban areas, and so much rented property flooding the market, that some letting agencies are even refusing new instructions. In certain blocks, entire floors are empty.

Smaller owners (silly; I don’t mean short landlords, but people who own just the one flat) are scared. And they have every reason to be: there are too many flats and not enough tenants. I suspect that when they are accepted onto the books, landlords are either grateful or over-confident and wait, as advised, for higher rents even where opportunities are shrinking.

I suspect that landlords are promised high occupancy levels by agents making free with the ‘c’ word i.e. certainty (although I’ve heard agents called a different c word altogether.) Mercifully, they’ve stopped ramping up the rents, but now they’ve added a flourish to their game. They’ve set an artificial ceiling on the cost of a one or two bed flat (as for studios, the prices are totally weird).

If agents have accumulated similar flats, what impetus is there to lower rents when knowledgeable prospective tenants barter? Instead, they hold out, to maximise their potential income. Consequently, rents are falling, but more slowly than might reasonably be expected.

Letting agencies do very little for the money, other than operate the Tenant Find service (even I think it’s a good idea for landlords to use this option to screen incoming tenants.) But with regard to prices, agents sit tight until the bitter end, playing poker for higher rents. They’ve far less to lose than a landlord who might willingly accept £50 less per month (still a reasonable income) in return for a good night’s sleep. It’s the callous and greedy leading the terrified and deluded.

In the future, perhaps landlords could stick together and form a co-op, or a gang, because the options for landlords are twofold: either (a) drop the rent or (b) go bankrupt. It’s that simple. In option (a) the only party losing out will be the letting agency, and my eyes are already damp with tears of laughter.

16 comments:

Dot.Hakers said...

We are currently looking to relocate back to London and even though when we started looking we went to estate agents, we soon realised that these guys (and girls) with their Minis are hopeless! The service provided definately doesn't compensate for the £400+ fees they are after. Hopefully, the Gumtree website has an option to only search for private landlords; we have found that they are more realistic about prices and they don't photoshop the property's pictures, which is very annoying!!!

I find it quite strange that in the age of internet, private landlords haven't come up with a website or a plan to overcome the estate agents burden!

RenterGirl said...

Gumtree does have a private landlord option; but there aren't that many. And, the Smart car driving agents: they do have some strange ideas, don't they? As for London...that's a different experience entirely. Even so, I understand that realism is striking there, but the fees are ludricous.

RenterGirl said...

Make that 'did' have a private landlord option...

Dot.Hakers said...

Still does... But admittedly, they aren't that many! You probably get around 10-20 properties daily by private landlords... Hey, we are viewing one today! :)

Anonymous said...

We forwarded some mail that was addressed to our landlord to the address on the tenancy agreement (if it's not there then ask the agent for it - by law they must give it to you). We included a little note saying something along the lines of 'here is your mail. Would like to meet you'. We now know the landlord and before our tenancy agreement ends I will explain why I wont be paying our agent another penny for 'renewal fees' and that the landlord should chuck them now he knows we wont bother them over blown lightbulbs or something stupid. Win-win for everyone except the useless agent.

the reaper said...

'find it quite strange that in the age of internet, private landlords haven't come up with a website or a plan to overcome the estate agents burden!'
me too.

LA's are lazy f@ckers.I was in an office the other day when I went to see mine and sehe ahd a call from a prospective customer asking for a viweing.the arrogant old cow told them she'd be there at one the following day and that was it.

I hate them.

It's one reason I love winding her up.How that chin wobbles when she dosn't get her lunchtime donut.

RenterGirl said...

To be fair, I think they're scared, and maybe out of their depth, and in many cases desperate. And sometimes...lazy. I've said it before: tenants need a home/landlords need a tenant. So many things are getting in the way of what should be so simple. I have spent the past weeks being sneered at by letting agents. How's the househunting going, Reaper?

the reaper said...

sorted,scored a lovely pad,the kid loves it.naturally could never afford to buy it.

LL was desperate,Ol reaps smelt it and scored a nutmeg

there's a similar one down the road up for £1400 pcm....naturally we're paying nowhere near that...and I mean nowhere.....

some LL's are up in the clouds.hope to buy one day,but as they wont stop dropping for ten years,could be a long wait!!

NL said...

I'm a solicitor, usually acting for tenants in housing/Landlord & Tenant cases. I see a lot of cases where the LAs have behaved badly, but the trouble with doing them is that technically, they are only the LL's servants. Sometimes their behaviour is LL authorised, sometimes not, but unless their deeds are independently a civil or criminal offence, then it is only the LL we can go for. (Mind you, in one case, the 'hidden' LL turned out to be the owner of the LA. Given that that case involved illegal eviction, harassment, physical violence and unlawful holding of the T's belongings, it turned out to be quite a juicy claim against both LL and LA).

We also hear from a lot of LLs who have been, shall we say, 'having difficulties' with their LAs, but that is purely contractual - not a L&T issue, so not for us.

The lack of regulation, liability and accountability for LAs is a very big issue. Aside from a complaint to the (several) professional bodies, assuming that the LA belongs to any of them, there is little formal recourse, which is frankly scandalous.

PS. Could I also be cheeky and suggest a link? my blog is run by a team of specialist barristers and solicitors and has up to the minute law and case law on residential landlord & tenant and housing law. A lot of it is social housing related, but all the illegal eviction, disrepair, harassment, quiet enjoyment, rent deposit, notice and Housing Act 1988 stuff applies to the private sector. Sadly we can't give individual advice via the blog, though.

the reaper said...

'(Mind you, in one case, the 'hidden' LL turned out to be the owner of the LA. Given that that case involved illegal eviction, harassment, physical violence and unlawful holding of the T's belongings, it turned out to be quite a juicy claim against both LL and LA).'

good on you.due to my recent experience,I have a cquired some small knowledge on the issue of quiet enjoyment.I can't believe they aren't regulated,they f****** should be given the misery they can cause.

the reaper said...

'Could I also be cheeky and suggest a link? my blog is run by a team of specialist barristers and solicitors and has up to the minute law and case law on residential landlord & tenant and housing law. A lot of it is social housing related, but all the illegal eviction, disrepair, harassment, quiet enjoyment, rent deposit, notice and Housing Act 1988 stuff applies to the private sector. Sadly we can't give individual advice via the blog, though.'

thanks for that,interesting blog.appreciate what you do,well done

RenterGirl said...

NL: it is an interesting blog. Links? I will if you will...

NL said...

Rentergirl - of course.

Nick said...

Dot.Hakers - The Mini Cooper Company are well known in the industry as having no ethics but unfortunately, like fraudsters from Maxwell to Stanford, the suckers are taken in by an expensive front. I think http://pimlico-flats.co.uk/blog/renting-studios-flats-in-london/renting-scam-4-men-in-suits/ will describe your experience accurately.

Nick said...

"Hopefully, the Gumtree website has an option to only search for private landlords"

Gumtree are trying to "Monetise" their service, which means that many Private Landlords such as myself, are charged & called Lettings Agents in listings, even though we are private landlords.

RenterGirl said...

When will they be licenced and trained, solicitors and food preparation workers must be trained and licenced. My recent experienecs of these darlings are to follow next week.
Thanks for reading.