Whenever I write about bad landlords, the good landlords get angry. They pout with indignation and claim to be doing a great job, while assuming that I am exaggerating, rabble-rousing or lying. They are, they insist tormented to the edge of ruin: “Tenants trashed my precious flat,” they say “…and then they did a runner!”
Sorry; it’s not the same at all. Bad landlords are dangerous, but you probably think that’s over the top.
I once lived in shared flat where the landlord’s daughter was a fellow tenant, so you’d think we’d be treated well. Not a bit of it.
We told the owner that the ancient combi boiler was temperamental and that we could smell gas, but he just sneered, stating - somewhat oddly, I think you’ll agree:
“Don’t come that communist nonsense with me – all property is theft and rubbish like that. And don’t try and boss me around.”
“I’m hardly stirring up a revolution,” I replied. “But that boiler’s dangerous. Would you please fix it?”
He ignored me, so I energised him with an enormous estimate from a registered repair firm. Eventually, he sent round his friend, a gas-installer, who took one look at the appliance and turned white with rage.
“You stupid bastard!” he shouted down the phone. “Get your arse round here right now and you’d better bring the money for a new heater! It could blow up any minute! It’s like a bloody bomb!”
Outraged, he continued: “Your daughter lives here! For crying out loud, what’s wrong with you?”
The landlord was unrepentant, and frankly, a bit miffed. I left soon after.
Landlords do their worst in ramshackle shared houses, where tenants move in and out like renting yo-yos. In one HMO, the ancient shower broke; the landlord agreed to replace it, but only after accusing us of “....being heavy with him, when he’d been nice to us.”
Being nice, by the way, involved him once turning up late at night expecting “…coffee.”
To our dismay some ‘cousins’ arrived. They let themselves in unannounced with a spare key, and swaggered around, saying things like: “Hey – ladies, time to paaarrrtay!” After clocking our surly expressions they left in record time, but at least we had a new shower.
Some time later I heard a scream - my terrified housemate had suffered a serious electric shock, and was genuinely lucky to be alive.
The sodden plaster had been partly washed away, exposing bare wires embedded haphazardly in the wall. We called Health and Safety, who confronted the landlord, ordering him to get it sorted, or else.
His response was petulant and unapologetic:
“…you know what girls are like,” he said. “Always nagging and whining.”
The word bitch was used.
As you might have realised by now, I am writing this post in anger. Here’s why. Thanks to the excellent Nearly Legal (see blog roll) for alerting me to this case from Cornwall. To any landlords out there who are feeling betrayed by calls for regulation, please remember this: bad landlords are a minority, but owners can be lazy, negligent, callous, defiant and stupid. The worst landlord is a killer landlord. In a bad way.
Report by The Residential Landlords Association: “A young mother was electrocuted by bathroom taps at a rental home. The coroner said he found it inexplicable that whilst gas safety checks and annual gas safety certificates are a specific legal requirement, electrical checks are not. He called it a loophole.
The woman, Thirza Whittall, 33, was found by her five-year-old daughter Millie. The young mother died instantly when she was hit by 175 volts when running the bath.
Heartbreakingly, the little girl said a prayer over her dead mother’s body before taking her two-year-old brother, George, out of his cot, locking up the house, and walking down the street into a shop to get help.
A series of electrical problems had combined to make the bathroom a death trap, the inquest heard. Mrs Whittall was electrocuted after she part-filled the bath with water and touched the taps with wet hands.
The home had not been professionally rewired or inspected electrically for nearly 30 years. The landlady, Hilary Thompson, had it rewired in 1981, and it had then been checked by her husband. Since Mrs Whittall’s death, the property has been rewired, at a cost of £4,000.
Mr Whittall, a builder, said: “I remain deeply concerned that there is a gap in the legislation which permitted this incident to occur and which puts others at risk. “Whilst landlords of rented properties are obliged to provide an annual gas safety certificate, no such regulation applies in relation to electrical wiring in rented properties.
“As we have learnt to our cost, a fault in an electrical installation is every bit as dangerous as a faulty gas supply.”
The Electrical Safety Council, a charity, is now calling for basic checks to be carried out on rental homes and has published a new guide – the Landlords’ Guide to Electrical Safety.”
Anyone out there still think I’m being unfair?