Tuesday, 3 February 2009

We're As Mad As Hell

Reklaw left this comment recently on quite an old post, so you might have missed it:

“We have been renting for the last three years and have had to move three times in that period. Two of the landlords decided to sell the property that we were living in, one after only three months into the tenancy - even through the property was advertised as "long term". Unfortunately the third move is now imminent. We have contacted our local council in the hope that they may be able to offer a solution only to be told that the wait for any property would be in excess of five years with no guarantee and at the most a one bedroomed flat may be offered. It would seem that we are destined to be nomads heading into retirement. Would be grateful for any comments/solution!!”

I don’t know much about Reklaw, but you know what; this comment really upset me.
Even though I try and put a positive spin on things, all renters, myself included, must accept that the genuine possibility that we might have to move every six months for the rest of our lives. What are we supposed to do? Move to Europe, where renting is the norm, and tenants are treated with respect, rather than as some freakish cash-cow/cockroach hybrid, to be milked dry and then eradicated?

It’s infuriating when people say: “…so move.” Do they imagine that magically, we beam our possessions from house to house like on Star Trek, and that the diligent flat-hunt is undertaken by the property fairy-grandmother?

Moving is always fraught and difficult, and letting agents still insist: of course it’s a long term let. Even my all time best ever landlord demanded assurances that I was in for the long haul, which I took to be two years. He gave me notice when he decided to sell after just eight months.

Moving is also inconvenient and unsettling. There are agency fees to be found, removal vans to hire and pay for, and the time-consuming task of multiple views. There’s overlapping deposits alongside rent in advance, and references to wheedle from lazy or reluctant landlords, who might be going bankrupt. That’s alongside the inevitable loss of internet, phone, and in extreme cases, water and power. Worse for me is the constant packing, unpacking and repacking, time after time after bloody time.

Social housing is scarce. We have no choice but to live this way, and successive governments have decided the private sector must build and then run rented housing. Tenants who stand up for themselves are portrayed as whining and belligerent.

You’d think we were demanding caviar, fresh flowers delivered daily, and stables for the miniature Shetland Ponies we’ve requested, all died pink, when all we want is security and fairness: things like repairs, and the freedom to remain unless there’s a genuine reason to turf us out. The right to vacant possession is regularly abused. When it is, landlords should be fined, and heavily. Owners shouldn’t invest in rental property unless they intend, and have the means for, long term lets, by which I mean decades, not months.

Tenants need a serious official body to protect our rights. The Health & Safety Executive (look upon their name and tremble) is regarded with respect, and a healthy measure of fear. Tribunals overseeing disputes in Employment, Disability and Equality are a proven, powerful and efficient way of making sure obligations are honoured.

But ultimately, what’s needed is a new law: “The Tenants Being Generally Maligned, Abused and Totally Shoved Around (Prevention) Act 2009.” I am aware this blog is regularly read in The House Of Commons. For the sake of people like Reklaw, can we get a sponsor? Because we’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reklaw: Move To Sweden!

There is plenty of room in the smaller towns away from the coastline and the social security e.t.c. is way above the UK.

Anonymous said...

The tenancy laws in this country are abysmal (and I say this as someone who has rented in other countries).

My 1 year tenancy will be coming to an end in a few months and I will not be signing a renewal - what's the point? If I don't sign anything I get 2 months notice and if I do sign a new contract I, in effect, get 2 months notice (from 4 months). I will however be suggesting to the landlord that A 3 year contract with a break clause requiring 6 months notice from either party would be a contract I would consider signing. If he's not interested then I will start looking for a new property that will give me what I want. It's a renters market at the moment. And no - 6 months security of tenure still isn't enough. It should not be possible to evict a tenant without good cause.

I'm also going to be writing to my MP shortly to ask him what he intends to do about the disgusting lack of security of tenure tenants have in this country. I can only suggest that everyone else does the same. If half a dozen people actually write (not email) their MP then something might actually start to get done (although I doubt it - my long term plan to fix this issue is move to a country which doesn't treat me like scum).

RenterGirl said...

The powers that be are aware, but wrapped up in bailing up failing banks and propping up and ailing and declining car industry.

However: I disagree about 6 months notice for tenants. It should assumed that tenancies are permanent, but may be broken with one months notice from tenants, and two from landlords.

We really do need a parliamentary champion. How many people have had to move more than four times in three years, as I have. We can't live this way.

fajensen said...

I'm also going to be writing to my MP shortly to ask him what he intends to do about the disgusting lack of security of tenure tenants have in this country.

Your MP does not rent, never has and never will have to, so, basically, you will find it's not his/her's problem (now, if you have 10K to spare then maybe ...)!

Anyway, every country is screwed in some way:

In Denmark tenancies are either one year fixed-contract or permanent. If the one-year contract is extended it's permanent. This surprises many landlords.

But the main problem is getting rid of scummy tenants that destroy entire neighbourhoods by robbing their neighbours e.t.c; apparently the poor disadvantaged creeps have "rights" - and an infinite supply of do-gooders and world-improvers wasting time on them - so whole areas are allowed to go derelict as the decent tenants move out to get away from the scum.

The large housing associations are at least finally putting their feet down and are now running eviction cases all the way through the High Court to finish it.

Another problem is that rents are fixed by a rents council so that the cash-flow on rental property has been negative for the last 15 years. This means that no new rental property is actually built and the existing decent areas are impossible to get into unless one "knows a man" - or have cash!

One popular dodge here in the DK is to rent only to VAT-registered businesses. Tenants rights belong to "consumer law", while businesses can agree anything they want as long as it's legal.

Emma said...

Oh, I agree with this wholeheartedly. I don't think it's the least bit unresonable for a tenant to be able to assume that a tenancy is 'permanent', if they've made it clear that's what they want and they've been 'sold' a property with the assurance that it's a long-term let.

The last property I moved from was one such 'long-term' rental. We made it absloutely clear that we needed somewhere for at least two years, and the letting agent assured us that there was no chance of the property being sold (as it belonged to an organisation, rather than an individual), that the previous tenant had been there for seven years and as long as we 'kept our noses clean' we could stay as long as we wanted. So we moved in, bought furniture, bought gardening tools and cleaned up the garden, paid to get the phone connected, dealt with the inevitable problems ourselves so as not to bother the landlords and to prove ourselves worthy tenants, and bit our lips when the letting agent proved to be useless. After all, you can put up with a lot for a fairly permanent 'home', can't you?

Unfortunately, everything we had been told turned out to be a lie. The property was up for sale, and both the landlord and letting agent had known this before we even moved in. The property was being sold through the estates part of our letting agent, and there was also a stong chance that their development branch would be the purchasers. Our 'long-term' tenancy lasted seven months. We moved twice in less than a year and it cost us an absolute fortune. The most galling part was when we went to the OEA (not just about the lies, but about other, fairly serious issues with the agency) we were told that, as we had rented before, we were unreasonable to expect a tenancy longer than six months, despite what we'd been told.

The law definitely needs to change, and soon, otherwise I'll never be able to hold onto my savings long enough to get anywhere close to a deposit.

RenterGirl said...

The idea that tenants can never be evicted is obviously unworkable, but things went too far in the other direction. It's too easy to get rid of tenants, but a vandalism, anti-social behaviour, violence etc, are all good reasons for a due legal process to be started. Or a genuine and policed right for vacant possession. A rolling permanent tenancy, ended for a good reason. I'll say it again: it can't be right that we might have to move every 6 months, forever.

G Orwell said...

This makes me feel a lot happier about having bought.

One solution would be for social housing to go to local workers first. Non workers could have a flat somewhere, where there are empty flats like Glasgow. They would not have to go - they would of course be free to refuse the flats and make their own arrangements.

fajensen said...

Forgot to mention: When a rental property is sold, the tenancies are sold with it. The only way to evict the tenants is in case the owner himself is moving in (and you will find that rule hard to enforce in practice because the courts always have a suspicious eye cocked in the direction of landlords).

The best property for buy-to-let AND renting here in the DK are apartment blocks with 6-8 flats in the small villages: The tenants are usually elderly locals or divorced that still want to live in the village but do not want a house and not people sent there by Social Services (Which you do not want as tenants / neighbors because if they send them, they have been evicted from somewhere else and since SS pays the rent for them, the only remaining reason for eviction is because they thrashed the last place)!

The reaper said...

Maybe I've been lucky,but I've always left of my own volition.That may well be because I tend to rent 3/4 bed detached pads where the owners are either abroad or families who can't let go of their deceased parents hosue for whatever reason-greed/sentiment.

It's important if we want a balanced system to allow LL's to evict but security of tenure has to move forward.The costs of moving,are hard to bear if you have few savings,allowing for deposit overlaps you may well need a £1000+ overdraft and thats without mvoing costs.

I am well aware of the costs associated with moving and think it would be appropriate for LL's to have to contribute if they give notice.

The biggest problem the rental sector has is the presence of many BTLers who got into it in the last 7 years.They are poorly funded,generally have IO mortgages(and thus more prone to repossession/forced sales).You can't legislate bad businessmen out of existence but what you can do is make sure that EA'/LA's are regulated.Thus if they lie or cheat,they can be struck off and denied a living in that field.

th reaper said...

just reread my comment and think me banging on about 3/4 beds may make me seem arrogant,I'm jsut relaying my experience that's all.

My only other rental experience was bedsitting/flat shares-nightmare.I can well see why people want to live on their own.

Anonymous said...

However: I disagree about 6 months notice for tenants. It should assumed that tenancies are permanent, but may be broken with one months notice from tenants, and two from landlords.

I don't understand what you are trying to say? That's pretty much the state of things at the moment. Do you mean landlords have to give 2 months notice, but only with a valid reason? Otherwise you just end up with the awful current situation where you have to think twice before even exercising the pathetically small set of rights tenants already have as the landlord just gives you 2 months notice for 'being difficult'.

The more I think about it, the more I realise I wont be in this country in 5 years. It's just not worth it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Reaper. I'm currently in a 4 bed property that I would like to stay in for a few years. The boiler has been broken since last friday and it's going to be at least another week before it's fixed. Before that the alarm system kept playing up and the electrician had to come out half a dozen times. The power also went upstairs - and then the lighting went downstairs. There's no insulation to speak of and the place was getting damp (damp specialists advice - heat the house all day, which was too expensive and blew the boiler anyway). I'm only mentioning all this crud (believe it or not, it's a nice house - I think it might have been empty for a few months before we moved in hence all the issues) because it's now at the point where I have to think twice before I ask the landlord to fix anything. I'm on the verge of being a 'difficult tenant' because I insist on everything in the property working. If I keep complaining there's always the chance I'll get 2 months notice. Landlords should not be able to evict tenants without a damn good reason. Period. If they don't like that then don't be in the business of selling people a place to live.

the reaper said...

'If I keep complaining there's always the chance I'll get 2 months notice.'

If I was you,I'd cancel the DD,tell the LA that he should use the deposit for the last months rent and that if he takes you to court for the remainder you will cite him/LL for breech of contract.If the repairs were that bad I would move out.Seriously.I build a bit of leeway in my offers.I love character houses but some have too much character.

'Landlords should not be able to evict tenants without a damn good reason'.
On that one,I couldn't agree with you more.And that doesn't include their business plan having failed.If a BTLer has a sitting tenant,then the house should be sold on that basis.

Anonymous said...

I'll be doing exactly what you say Reaper if the boiler isn't fixed at the earliest possible date. The property is actually in good shape - all the repairs have just been due to the fact the last tenants did not take care of the place at all (and stopped paying rent before disappearing) so there are all sorts of things that should have been fixed over the last 2 or 3 years that need to be done in one go.

RenterGirl said...

That's all good advice, and more people should be that strong. Another way is to find some local estimates for the repairs, and send them. The higher the better. This often concentrates the owners mind. But this is your home. It's unsettling. Reaper - you don't sound arrogant for living in a decent house, any more than does the occupant of a one-bed. And what I mean is this: sitting tenants with no way of getting rid of them when they are 'delinquent' is not healthy for the renting world. But far worse, is the insecurity. It should be assumed that all tenancies are rolling and/or permanent, unless there is damn good reason to end it, not six months if you're lucky. And I agree: going bankrupt is not a good reason. Anonymous: keep us posted with the outcome. The tide is turning, along with the worm.

the reaper said...

'I'll be doing exactly what you say Reaper if the boiler isn't fixed at the earliest possible date. The property is actually in good shape - all the repairs have just been due to the fact the last tenants did not take care of the place at all (and stopped paying rent before disappearing) so there are all sorts of things that should have been fixed over the last 2 or 3 years that need to be done in one go.'

I should state again,I'm not a lawyer-as per previous threads-most lawyers would say 'ooh no,too dangerous etc'.In my experience,these things never end in court.You have a very valid point,by law,I believe the LL has a duty to make sure there is an effective heating mechanism(as long as you pay the bills).Ergo,it's his problem and he has a duty to fix it promptly.

My sadness for tenants is that many get bullied into accepting second rate service because the LA's bluff them with specious quasi legal arguments.

Not paying rent is a last resort,it has never ever got that far for me.keep copies of all letters and phone calls conversations.State the facts of the case to the LA,refer them to the following CAB advice

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/family_parent/housing/disrepair_in_rented_accommodation.htm

and state clearly,that you believe the LL to be in breech of his duties under the law.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about me. I'm a landlords worst nightmare. I'll quite happily quote exact clauses in the various statutes governing tenancies at them when required. I'm not someone who accepts being messed around. In the end though it all comes down to possibly having to move yet again if I enforce my rights. This has to change - and for me it will as I'll go live in a country that treats me like a valid human. I just feel sorry for those who aren't as capable of looking after themselves as me.

the reaper said...

'In the end though it all comes down to possibly having to move yet again if I enforce my rights.'

good on you.the best solution is that you stay put and the LL does his duty.I would emphahsise that to him and the LA.

With the economic situation deteiorating,any LL with a tenant will consider himself lucky in 6 months time.Many banks may well become accidental LL's and that's what this country needs-serious,professional LL's,not some muppet who thinks buying on a 3%-4% gross yield is anything but a financial suicide pact with the County Court,the lender and the bailiffs.

soph said...

Another barrier to moving, which is now a step closer to being removed is LL's running off with the deposit. We're (fingers crossed - I still can't believe it 100%!!!!) about to move and I couldn't be happier. We moved into our wreck of a flat before the new tenancy deposit laws came in, so the deposit in the new place will be in a TDS. I still don't think it's ideal, as really you need it back to put the deposit for the new place down, but I guess it'd be hard to think of a way to do that... I'm just waiting to see what hideous tricks my current LL pulls out of the bag before we go. I have got better at knowing about my rights than I used to be - and I've had to use a few of the ones I know already with him as he's already tried to rip us off an extra month's rent!! It can get really demoralising but reading all your comments cheers me up, it's not just us then, and I'll have to check out those links to the CAB advice to see whether I can learn some more. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It's definitely worth spending the time to learn your rights. Otherwise you get pushed around with agents insisting they can enter with 24 hours notice, requiring 2 months notice to leave and all the other crap they try and pull.

RenterGirl said...

Knowing your rights is always a good thing before you start withholding rent. The overlap in deposits is difficult for those on a low wage (which is why, after all, many rent.)To: Soph, Anonymous (please use a tag!) and Reaper: keep me informed. If you don't want to go dpwn the road of legal action, start by being polite, talking, if it's repairs offering to sort it out and deduct amount from rent (get it in writing though!) This a ludricous situation: landlords and tenants need each other. As for agents...don't get me started.

Stella Magnitude said...

Hi Rentergirl. Great blog and I hope it does get read in the Commons because any politician who hopes their party will gain power in the future should be listening to the huge army of reluctant and disenfranchised renters created by the pie-in-the-sky property boom. I have been renting since the 1980s and I can remember when we DID have the rights you are calling for - until the Conservatives took them away in 1988. It's ludicrous that some chancer who watched too many property shows on TV and borrowed money for a tanking property 'portfolio' should be treated as a righteous citizen by the law whereas we who didn't fall for the bubble, work hard and pay too much of our monthly money over to landlords should be treated as if we were marginals with less legitimate civil status. If you want to kick some political butt I am right behind you. Stella M

the reaper said...

'It's ludicrous that some chancer who watched too many property shows on TV and borrowed money for a tanking property 'portfolio' should be treated as a righteous citizen by the law whereas we who didn't fall for the bubble,'

what's even more ludricrous is that said chancer will be getting you and I to pay for his banks bail out!

I feel sick.