I believe in the property pixies, and so should you. If we ever stop believing in the property pixies, then they will die, and we renters mustn’t let that happen.
The property pixies operate secretly at night, repairing roofs, negotiating with malevolent landlords intent on evicting blameless tenants on a whim. The property pixies are marvellous: they visit letting agencies to read them the riot act albeit in a kindly way – in their little hats with bells on (the pixies – not the agents.)
Housing Minister John Healey also believes in the property pixies. I know this to be true because that’s the only possible explanation for his latest plans. Admittedly, regulating the private rented sector is daunting but here’s his big idea. It’s a list:
• A hotline (anyone remember the cones hotline…?)
• Word of mouth advisory website (which will be closed down immediately due to libellous comments.)
• A requirement for written tenancies.
• Boosting the number of tenants protected under the established tenancy agreements (but not ending the farcical six month long agreements in common use now.)
• A national landlord register (but no fine/penalty for not registering.)
• ‘Better regulation’ of letting and management agents. I love the word ‘better’ - better than what? Better than now, when it’s like the wild west?
It’s all as hazy as the Rugg Report which seemed to say that most tenants are happy, and surmised that because the majority are happy, there’s no urgent need for strong laws to protect the minority who are turfed out of a damp, shabby hovel without notice on a whim by thugs. Admittedly this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s horrible.
Landlords enjoy a range effective and efficient ways (some legal – others not so) to evict erring renters, but tenants have little power. We move on silently, even if the owner has gone bankrupt and we’ve been notified by bailiffs hammering on the door, even if they have left the flat in a dangerous state. We pack up again, and hope, often in vain, that we’ll get our deposit back (yep there’s the Tenancy Deposit Scheme but some tenants are scared to use it – tribunals seem daunting, and landlords know this.)
John Healey must surely believe in the property pixies - he trusts them to enforce his proposals, and those pixies can be fierce. Which is a good thing, because unless sanctions punishing errant landlords are included and enforced (forfeiting the property or punitive fines) then those naughty landlords will carry on disregarding rights, thumbing their noses at the law, and taunting the pixies. Bad landlords must be forced to behave; they won’t do so voluntarily - it just won’t happen.
Right now I’m sitting at home, waiting for those adorable little fellas to reseal my windows and persuade my letting agents to refund the fees they charged unlawfully. The property pixies take care of everything, I am completely sure of it. You don’t believe me? Well then, take a good look at the sterling work done by the financial services elves.