Wednesday, 28 July 2010

I'm Afraid For You.

I’ve written previously about the device I use which shows the keywords used to find this blog. Apart from the usual queries involving rubber gloves (still strikingly popular) recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing development.

There’s been a notably increased amount of phrases such as: “I’m afraid of my landlord.” Or “…my landlord comes round unannounced.” Worst of all was “My landlord threatens me.” Along with “Is my landlord entitled to go through my underwear drawer.”

He isn’t.

This might sound crassly obvious – but it’s horrible to live in fear. For most tenants, the next few years will be lived under a palpable sense of nervousness, as we ponder the perennial question: whatever will become of us? With increasing reliance on private rented housing, the regulation of agents and landlords has been ruled out, and – judging from some of the comments/keywords/comments I’ve seen, the other measures supposed to protect us simply do not work.

People are scared. Large scale private investors are looking to do what those individual buy-to-let investors did: build loads of news homes, and then decide who lives in them. Occupants (i.e. tenants) are not now, and never will be consulted about their needs, or even what they’d like from a home. And landlords…ah landlords…

They argue on a loop claiming to endure restrictions so tight they can barely breathe, let alone their sacred right to evict renters randomly at will and throw their belongings out on the street…(Oh, I’m being bad I know, but it’s a right they cling to.)

It is a paradox – most tenants like the freedom of renting a house: not feeling so tied down, living a life of short term contracts matched by short term living arrangements. But the downside is a life of insecurity: wilfully encouraged by landlords and letting agents, who delight in undermining any hard-won semblance of security.

But this philosophy is pernicious. It seeps and infects your life: tenants never know when they will have to move and are treated like mould in the bathroom – tolerated briefly and then eradicated.

And now we are scared. Some of us are terrified. Landlords are flexing their muscles, and in certain distressing cases - are behaving badly. Judging by the recent onslaught of questions about personal safety reaching me, it’s only a matter of time before something really bad happens.

So please: if you land here because you are being threatened and/or intimidated – please use more the helpful sites on the blogroll to the right of the page, especially the wonderful Shelter.

And remember this: you have rights. You are not vermin. You are a human being, paying rent to live in a building which is a home (not the physical embodiment of another person’s luxurious retirement bungalow dream) and you should not live in fear. Remember this when you are being terrorised: slipping away and not making a fuss is tempting, but if we don’t fight back, it’s going to get worse, and worse.


dansette said...

You say tenants treated like mould in the bathroom – tolerated briefly and then eradicated. That might be the case if it doesn't need a landlord to deal wtih it but if it does you'll never see the end of that mould!

RenterGirl said...

Good point, dansette. What was I thinking?

tenantsunion said...

Gret post. I'd love to hear your suggestions for dealing with the situation- how do you see it improving, or what action do you think we all need to take to bring about changes to this appalling situation?

RenterGirl said...

Tenantsunion - it won't get better. It will get worse. I am aware of a palpable and disturbing sense of landlord's feeling hard done by, and chafing under the current useless and ill-operated rules. I would like: landlords compelled to put an equal deposit into the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, payable if they err, an assumption that agreements run as long as the tenant wants to stay (you shouldn't let out a place if you don't long-term tenants.) Landlords who unlawfully evict or assault their tenants to forfeit the property. An strict regulation letting agents. For landlords to be subject tot he same stringent financial checks as tenants. For change in the culture that prevents tenants treating the rental property like a home (permission to decorate? end it now) And don't get me started on the change sin planning and design of built to let property I'd like to see. What about you?

spacecadet said...

Could i add..

All agents must be legally bound to declare their fees ands charges upfront. So they can't make them up as they go along and sting you with an unexpected bill.

I went to a view a rental property last night. I asked the agent what their fees were. £125 she said. Today, on email, she tells me they're £200.

And don't even get me started on holding deposits. But this is well worth a read:

Anonymous said...

I think you're right that it will get worse, RenterGirl.
Here in Spain, where tenants' rights have long been taken a lot more seriously by the powers that be, there have been a lot of stories on TV in the last year or so -- plus one on the front page of the free, commuter newspaper -- about the ruin of humble, low-income, hard-working landlords by tenants who have stopped paying. The stories are long on sad-faced owners and short on basic information -- such as whether there was ever a lease. The owners are not allowed to enter the property without the permission of those living in it, and this seems to have really annoyed someone with some power in the media.

RenterGirl said...

No - when you are sitting in Letting Agency and have no home as you had to move and are awaiting your deposit refund and are told: pay up and sign or you don't get the flat/house, then it's absolutely the tenant I feel sorry for. But never the letting Agents. Never.

Dazzla said...

You should go ahead and sign. When examined in court, any clauses in the contract that contradict or contravene the law will be struck out and the contract taken as it stands. You should also make sure the landlord or letting agent knows this. Unfortunately mist tenants don't have a well-funded legal department to help them.

When will this anger turn into a wave of action?

RenterGirl said...

landlord - you don't get the flat if you don't sign the agreement! It's not irrelevant - especially if you are new to this and scared, or homeless. And Dazzla - you are right, but it uses up so much energy.