Monday, 8 February 2010

The Property Pixies Are Here To Save Us!

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.


Geraldine said...

I know what you mean. But people must be silent no longer. People must not be afraid to take a stand. Getting deposits back through the small claims court is quite straightforward actually. If the landlord hasn't protected your deposit, then he/she has 100% broken the law and will have to pay up.

Dangerous landlords can be complained about even after you have left, so just do it! COntact your local council standards department with your complaint and photos if you have them!

Do not be scared to make a stand!

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your blogs but after seeing that you don't want blokes (you're right they probably are blokes!) with dubious sexual requirements or gay bashers following your blog I wonder how you feel about letting agents?

That's right I am a letting agent and proud, although not necessarily about being a letting agent. Joking to one side I agree with a lot of what you say; we do need better standards generally in this business and the whole industry needs to get away from being a 2nd class option for people who cannot afford to buy.

Just in case you readers think there is sanctuary out there I am afraid we are not perfect either but we aim to improve all the time and put things right when we get them wrong!

RenterGirl said...

Oh - I don't mind the 'gentlemen' reading - as long as they read about tenant rights. Also - some of the keywords are abosutley horrible, and I didn't mention them because they just were'nt funny.

But as a letting agent - you're welcome to read! I wish more would. Letting agents should provide a service, it's just that many really do look down on their clients. Maybe this happens because they (you?) also act as gatekeepers, and so have begun to disdain the people they work with.

Geraldine - you're right, but people are scared to go to court or a tribunal. They shouldn't be but they are.

The private rental sector is going to be charged with housing more and more people. It's needs to be - well, a whole lot kinder. Thanks for reading!

Gregling said...

Not that this is a problem page ... but I recently went a month without a fridge and 6 weeks with no working bath taps. After they were fixed I suggested a return of some rent for amenities I hadn't had access to. I was met with a silence so intense I could hear my own nose hair rustling.

RenterGirl said...

Greg - I am pleased you feel able to talk to me. I always joke about these things, but the sense of powerlessness can be truly depressing. Have you put all this in writing? Have you informed the landlord - disrepair harms their property. Furthermore, when your bath taps were not working, on a scale of 1-10 (one being 'like a new rose' and ten being like a summertime sewer) just how smelly were you?

iguana1996 said...

Dear RenterGirl and her readers,
I'm a private tenant myself and for the last 2 1/2 years I have been sending complaint letters to the landlord to no avail. I now want to take further action to force him to do repairs which are timely and of good quality. I've done extensive searches on the internet but I didn't find anything like a national private tenants association. I feel very isolated in this fight. Can anyone suggest a private tenant organisation I could join? Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Any remote possibility of my voting Labour in the next election evaporated completely when John Healey put in his two penny's worth in favour of private renting. I've been away for three days and come back to - a Notice Requiring Possession the day the six-month AST expires because the landlord wants to sell.

And people wonder why renters HATE landlords, letting agents, and idiotic government ministers who want to expand the private rented sector.


gonsalves said...
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RenterGirl said...

It is horrible, realy horrible. Iguana1996 - I cannot give advice except for this: there are help sites listed on my blogroll, such as the CAB, and Shelter. I would also add that you can go to your local council. They have Tenancy Relation Officers, whose job it is to help in these situations. If repairs are potentially dangerous, then try Environmental Health. Don't let people get away with it, which I know takes courage.

And Clare - it is things like that make my blood boil. You have two months to find soemwhere else, and I hope your next home is safe, peaceful and long-lasting.

To both of you - please let me know what happens.

Jay Parmar said...
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