I am not a fan of campaigns to ‘kick out rogue landlords’ who I believe to be both a minority and a distraction. Personally, I am more concerned about the constant, low-level misery caused by insecurity or short term contracts, and in London, rocketing rents. And don’t forget: many landlords are, like my current ‘landgirl’ (she wants to be called that) superlatively decent and reasonable.
But bad landlords exist. They are out there. A friend had a nightmare experience: she moved newbuild flat, and in the middle of a freezing winter, followed the best instructions on what to do about the pipes, and went away.
She returned to find the flat deluged after a burst pipe, and living in a nightmare of flooded possessions, was forced to leave her uninhabitable home (the one she paid rent for.) The letting agent were singularly nasty and obstructive, and after months spent sofa surfing, my friend could not get back into her flat. The letting agents contrived to blame her for the leak, claiming that pots and pans in the sink had caused water to spill (!) and then refuted their own plumbers report, which agreed that any damage was not the fault of my friend.
The lesson is a common one: she did not feel able to take the landlord to court. She discovered he was not on the local landlord register (she had not, in common with many tenants, checked this before moving in.) And so here’s what she suspects: that her landlord did not have permission to let the place from the mortgage provider, had no insurance (I always say that like drivers, landlords should be insured by law) and so tried to shift the blame onto my friend.
At that point she was held responsible for the flooding, broken down and demoralised. Oh and also: she was homeless. There is no happy ending. She invested her energy in finding somewhere to live: a decision most tenants make. They do not pursue bad/rogue/vile landlords – instead they move out and move on and I don’t blame them. While entirely understandable, it does have the effect of letting the landlord keep on harassing, flooding and tormenting the next tenant.
Elsewhere, even a casual chat with friends has garnered tales of bad landlords who: harassed and tried to kick down doors, refused outright to repair heating in the middle of a freezing winter, went bankrupt, confused the right to inspect with the need to enter randomly at will, collected or reclaimed vital furniture while tenants were out, and the worst of all, who illegally evicted tenants by sending round thugs.
Tenants can be evicted if they misbehave: procedures are in place. But what happens to landlords who terrorise tenants? There should be a licence, withdrawn if landlords act unlawfully, or by actions or omissions cause physical and/or mental harm. Oh – and they should forfeit the property. There really aren’t that many, but increasing reliance on the private sector means more amateur, untrained rentiers and resentful ‘forced’ landlords. Tenants will show their love for which ever party legislates about this by voting for them.