The other day, something so amazing happened, my flabber was totally gasted. I had a long conversation with a nice, personable, reasonable letting agent (no this doesn’t end with: ‘…and then I woke up.’) We began to discuss how landlords and tenants should be friends, and how it is that letting agents can get in the way of that friendship.
We agreed that the worst problems are often caused by new landlords with unrealistic expectations of tenants, and also how much money they will make by renting out a flat. How they can snipe, be nervous and find it hard to accept that what was perhaps their own home is no longer theirs.
She stuck to a newly established party line: that tenants should scrub the carpets (hiring professionals – not with a Vax!) and that they shouldn’t really decorate, but should put the place back to exactly how it was, not a trace remaining of their habitation.
Except for reasonable wear and tear: where she said that on training courses, she would insist that landlords must accept a few marks, and stresses to her trainees that they must not consider the check out as an opportunity to make money. Now that was a breakthrough moment.
She said that fear makes many landlords behave unreasonably, but stuck to the mantra that tenants can be a nightmare: this we know, but give people a chance before you start treating them as criminals. Happy tenants stay longer. And then I mentioned retaliatory evictions: yes she said - many landlords just don’t understand that they must do repairs as soon as reasonably possible, and they will lose out if they chuck out tenants on a whim for a tiny misdemeanour.
We didn’t agree on everything - rent capping for example, but then, they would say that wouldn’t they. I am again reminded that the entire system is adversarial. Tenants are customers, and landlords are providers. Many act as is they old style medieval lords, and start by eyeing all renters with malice and suspicion. Tenants, especially young tenants might even view their landlords as ‘parents’ and dutifully obey all orders (I’ve seen this myself) and believe everything they are told. They don’t want to make a fuss even when deposits are not saved properly, or repairs not done.
Unfortunately, many agents I’ve encountered have been hostile, rude, ill-informed, spending many hours inventing new ways to charge tenants for what should either be free or paid for by the landlords. Many agents don’t understand the law about renting, and since they are unregulated and untrained, go unpunished when they mess up.
But still, having spoken with a nice letting agent, who was practical when wear and tear is perhaps the most contentious of all issues between both parties, I realised she was realistic and even reasonable, I think; they’re not all bad, and some of them are even helpful. Why can’t it always be this way?