Two friends live in very different flats, where the owners employ opposing philosophies with regard to managing their nest egg.
The first place is an ancient, purpose built block in an area that’s down on its luck. The flat itself is beautiful, featuring everything that renders estate agents boggle-eyed with joy: plaster mouldings intact (get me with my fluent estate-agentese) large rooms with high ceilings, views of a nearby park (I’m turning into one of them) original solid wood floor (give me a job?) and spacious hallway (somebody stop me...)
The rent is very reasonable. Why? Over the years, the owners have neglected this amazing property. Windows are mercifully original not UPVC horrors, but the grand and frigid lounge is deserted in Winter, with occupants huddling in bed to keep warm.
Worst though is the bathroom. There’s a hole in the floor, and I don’t mean a dent, but a gaping pothole in the floorboards, next to the bath, where years of ignored leakage caused the chipboard to rot. One tenant is a gifted carpenter, and offered to mend it in return for a month rent free, but the landlord hesitates, saying he needs the income.
They might benefit from stressing that the aforementioned hole is dangerous, because when the residents fall into the flat below and end up in casualty, he’ll be sued so bad he won’t know where to run. Elsewhere the building isn’t dangerous, but doors are falling off cupboards, furniture is broken/inadequate/missing, and there are no curtains. The landlord didn’t even provide a hoover, but at least he’s a friendly, easy-going guy who arrives with beer, despite avoiding repairs wherever possible.
The other flat is also cheaper than you’d think, but for different reasons. The owner believes that if rent is set slightly below market levels, tenants are more likely to stay, thereby avoiding the dreaded voids in occupancy, and so she’ll gain in the long term. It’s draught proofed, subtly renovated but not destroyed, and still has all its original features.
The owner replaces the mattress every now and again, has provided a dish-washer, pays for the upkeep of the communal garden, and does repairs fast, because as she might need to live there herself one day. Tellingly, her kids rent in a another town, and so she treats her own tenants as she would wish her offspring to be treated: fairly, courteously and lawfully.
What I don’t understand is this: property is an investment. If you earned money from a building, wouldn’t you care for it? Both ways of working are entirely legal (except leaving that massive hole in the floor.) Little can be done about the draining neglect of landlords who fail to maintain their investment, causing misery, or harm to tenants.
Nobody cares to enforce what laws do exist, even when landlords are brutish thugs who terrorise tenants, cramming them into rooms which are blighted by damp, cockroaches, freezing draughts and mould. Meanwhile, low-level, debilitating conditions which drain mental and physical health must battle to sound important. Important is exactly what they are.