Monday, 10 December 2012

You Are The Landlord

Here is my tribute to ‘You Are The Ref’ a popular cartoon strip in Shoot magazine, I think, where a dilemma about the national obsession with the professional game involving twenty-two overpaid grown men kicking a plastic globe around on some grass is discussed and resolved.

So, let’s play ‘You Are The Rentier’ (my campaign to render landlady/lord obsolete continues.) Pretend you own property (pretend? Dream…) and wish to rent it out. Now let’s try and resolve some recurring and topical issues with the tolerance, wisdom and practicality you wish was used by real life rentiers.

Some decisions are easy for me. Prospective tenants are smokers? Sorry, but no. I hate smoking: it stinks and the place will need redecorating far sooner than for non-smoking occupants. Do you trust people to smoke outside, all the time? So that’s a no.

Next, some excellent tenants have asked if it’s okay for them to have a pet. Here, I am torn: I’m thinking yes, albeit it with a proviso making tenants responsible for repairing, or paying for the inevitable puppy/kitten door scratching. And while I would expect to do post occupancy clean, I’d want the carpets cleaned (I love puppies and kittens, but they can be ‘messy.’) I would ban those poor hairless hand-bag dogettes, just because I hate them. See – power corrupts.

Children? No problem. Children to be actively welcomed and encouraged: in a house it’s also reasonable for the tenant to fit safety gates and other child-protection type things. And yes, they might scribble on the walls, but it’s paint isn’t it.

Would I house an unemployed renter? Yes. Some of this is about ability to pay, and there is a whole LHA minefield, but yes. I know, some mortgage providers ban claimants including the publicly owned RBS. Expect a court challenge on that – moves are afoot.

Tenants with bad credit rating? CR checks are next to useless for assessing the potential reliability of tenants, or their ability to pay. As the wise Sir Ben Reeves Lewis has said, Siralan ‘You’re Fired’ Sugar is a rehabilitated multiple bankrupt. There are many reasons why a tenant might even not have paid a former landlord, so I’d want more information, but that’s another yes.

I wouldn’t ask for a massive deposit: what’s the point? In the event of a default, a huge, albeit protected deposit just delays the inevitable. And if tenants want to decorate, I’d discuss this prior to them moving in, but a coat of emulsion would be fine – horrible wallpaper a no-no. I’d place some hooks on the wall, and like my own Landgirl, and allow personalisation of what is the place they are paying to call home.

Life is messy and people are complicated. I once interviewed an award-winning landlady who was proud of her record with arrears: she had never evicted anyone, having elected insted to stay in contact with errant tenants, made no threats and never tried to kick down a door or employ heavies to menace renters. She always got her money in the end.

Finally: that was never an offside free penalty tackle kick. Or something. Was it?

40 comments:

Sazzle Dazzle said...

I pay slightly over the odds in rent for my two bedroom apartment in East London/Essex compared to others in the area.

However...my landlord is AWESOME, I could tell from the outset he was cool and I was happy to pay a little extra in return for someone so cool.

"Can I paint?" "Sure. Just nothing too garish."

"Can I get a pet?" "Sure go ahead (as long as any major damage is repaired)

"Can you fix ABC?" "Yup I'll be there tomorrow?"

I know it shouldn't be that way to necessarily have to pay extra to get that Landlord, but they are such a scarcity that for me - it's MORE than worth it!

Sazzle Dazzle said...

I pay slightly over the odds in rent for my two bedroom apartment in East London/Essex compared to others in the area.

However...my landlord is AWESOME, I could tell from the outset he was cool and I was happy to pay a little extra in return for someone so cool.

"Can I paint?" "Sure. Just nothing too garish."

"Can I get a pet?" "Sure go ahead (as long as any major damage is repaired)

"Can you fix ABC?" "Yup I'll be there tomorrow?"

I know it shouldn't be that way to necessarily have to pay extra to get that Landlord, but they are such a scarcity that for me - it's MORE than worth it!

Anonymous said...

As a landlord and person in general I am or would like to think I am quite chilled. but as in life with your snakes and ladders rental game above everyone is slightly different , as an aside my uncle also a landlord also chilled got so red in the face over gay civil partnerships V church weddings the other day I could not believe it Partnerships yes went the rant wedding no the bible says....... the man hasn't been to church in 20 years.there are no two landlords and no 2 tenants alike
help us level the playing field ,private landlord directory website and facebook pages , its growing !!!!

RenterGirl said...

Hi Sazzle - no, it's never worth paying more than usual for a wht should be standard service. There are companies who keep trying to post on here who do that (and are mopping up work with local authorities and homeless people). I hope your landlord isn't one of those hypocrites.

And Anon - these prejudices are serious when it comes to denying housing to gay couples, which happens.

alison cuff said...
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Anonymous said...

The above post is right to an extent , People can smoke to their hearts content in any of my houses kill your self in any way you wish however I have 2 blocks of flats , when I say blocks one is only 18 and the other 6 however I don't allow smoking there the rerason firstly insurance reasons second when the smoking ban in public places came into effect I was advised that the comunal areas of these buildings however unintended became part of this legislation which means I would be wide open to legal action

space cadet said...

I agree with Alison. But we do need workarounds. Maybe these could include:

If you want to have pets, be prepared to accept a non-furnished property?

Smoking is a difficult one .. because people do smoke inside. (esp. here in Scotland). Proving it, is the really difficult bit. Or, is it? Is there something out there on the market that can tell if a home has been smoked in? Should these be installed in rented homes?

If this was possible, smokers could be asked to pay a retainer to the LL for a re-paint (the cost of such a retainer, could even be fixed, with regulation) and this could be returned if appropriate at the end of the tenancy. ie. if it's clear that the tenant didn't smoke inside the property.

It's not exactly rocket science is it.

RenterGirl said...

I mostly gree with tennts hving these freedoms, but after five years of heavy smoking tenant the plce would stink nd redecoration doesn't help. At least if it's forbidden in the rules, people might hide it by smoking outside/opening windows etc.

Dazzla said...

"when the smoking ban in public places came into effect I was advised that the comunal areas of these buildings however unintended became part of this legislation which means I would be wide open to legal action"

What?

space cadet said...

(Re: heavy indoor smokers) Redecoration is all you really have. Maybe some fumigation aswell. But this is what we need legislation for. To be fair to both sides, in these situations. Landlord's are calling all the shots at the moment.

Barney from Newington said...

I quite like Sazzle Dazzle's idea of paying more for a good landlord.

You pay different prices depending on what service you want done when you get your car washed so why not pay different prices depending on service given when you rent a flat.

RenterGirl said...

Yeah Dazzla - I thought that too. Landlords always get bad legal advice, or operate on daft assumptions. I wonder what the reality is on smoking in communal areas? I remember the no-smoking signs in Dovecot Towers. lthough - since I hate, hate, hate smoking I wouldn't have every sympathy with a ban: no getting into smoky lift.

RenterGirl said...

Don't be silly Barney. You'd pay less for a bad damp flat, or a thug of a landlord who evits you ate will? More for landlord who does they repirs they are legally obliged to do?

alison cuff said...
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alison cuff said...
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RenterGirl said...

In the event I am ever real rentier not a hypothetical one, I will have no problem with banning smokers. It stinks. The stench lingers for years. I also loathe militant pro-smokers who equate the urge to smoke malodorous cancer sticks with personal freedom. No: discrimination against gays, people of colour, etc - that's a freedom issue. Smoking? Just.Plain.Horrible.

alison cuff said...
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RenterGirl said...

Farewell! I appreciate your principaled stand against my ban on the vile and damaging stench of cigarettes in my hypothetcial buy to let home that I am unlikely ever to own!

Dazzla said...

I have to disagree here. I'm an ex-smoker, although not militant about it (and every couple of months I smoke a cigarette and realise that smoking isn't as nice as I remembered it to be) but it is a point of freedom - tolerating things which we personally find pointless (and it IS pointless: cigarettes do nothing), noxious (but there again, it's no more noisome than excessive consumption of garlic. It really isn't), or dangerous (if you don't want to go into a smoky pub, don't go: should we also ban drinking in pubs because some religious groups object?) is at the very heart of freedom.

You can't say "I support personal freedom except for a, b, and c. You support someone's right to do something than doesn't harm others, or you don't.

Putting it another way, if smoking was banned tomorrow, who chooses which schools and hospitals we close due to the £12bn loss in tax revenues?

RenterGirl said...

Oh come on - you can't equate smokers 'rights' with homophobia. In my hypothetical flat, causing so much ire with it's potential and unrelsied ban on smoking, I will ban smokers. In theory.

In others news, my 'A' key is sticky broken. Damn.

Dazzla said...

No, you can't equate anti-smoking crusaders smoking with homophobes. I'll be grateful if you pointed out where I said that you could. But I remember many years ago, in the early 90s, well before smoking was banned in pubs. I was in a pub with a friend smoking a cigarette when someone came and sat on the table next to us and said rather harshly "Put that out". I pointed out that there were many seats in the pub and that he was welcome to choose one of them if he wanted. he wouldn't leave it alone, and I wasn't going to stop smoking just because he was looking for a fight.

Later, when I left the pub, he followed me down an alley and jumped me, leaving me with a dislocated knee (it still pops out occasionally even now) and two broken ribs. I was 19.

But that's not as bad as gay-bashing, is it? After all, I imagine that I was asking for it.

space cadet said...

"I appreciate your principled stand against my ban on the vile and damaging stench of cigarettes in my hypothetical buy to let home that I am unlikely ever to own!"

Oh Penny, come on. That's a rather churlish response isn't it. Alison is right, your personal (hypothetical) preferences as a (metaphorical) landlord shouldn't factor.

Smoking is undeniably horrible, but this is my home, not 'yours'. If I trash it with the stench of cigarettes, then a) I'm a thoughtless soul and b) You must factor it into your costs as a landlord.

I'll just tell you I'm a non-smoker, when you meet me for the first time.

alison cuff said...
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alison cuff said...
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RenterGirl said...

This is ridiculous. In my hypothetical home I will theoretically rent to: bankrupts, the unemployed, and allow decorating, but am chastised for not wanting the stench of smoke permeating the building? My personal story is of arelative shome that ws painted white and within months turned yellow from heavy, relentless heavay smoking. And I'm as churlish as someone not reading because they don't let my stance on a theoretical situation! Blimey - this is getting odd.

alison cuff said...

I have removed my previous posts. You just missed my point completely thats all.

Anonymous said...

Alison,

"Exactly, that is what a deposit is for. And if you aren't willing to take the risk of clearing up after a tenant has moved out, then you have no business being a landlord."

The cost of clearing up a property after long term, heavy smoking far outweighs the average deposit. New carpets, curtains, redecorate, defumigate etc and even then, a non smoker can still smell it. Added to which is the additional fire risk.

To refuse a potential tenant on those grounds is entirely reasonable. It is the business of mitigating risk.

Where I am wholly in agreement with you is against power crazy (hypothetical) landlords, refusing tenancies just because of their personal hatreds.
Just.Plain.Horrible.

Regards, HB Welcome.

RenterGirl said...

Right: the point about the business of being a rentier requiring a ban is interesting. Am astounded at how I can hypothetically accept the kind of theoretical tenants that other swould reject, and when I say I don't want a certain kind of problem, someone agrees and states my reason, and then disagrees with the pretend argument. The oddest thread so far on this blog.

So how abaout I ask tenants not to smoke? You're right, it can got o far, but I've had friends who are secret smokers who go to great lengths to hide their horrid habit. Which would mean the place didn't stink. Hopefully. In another reality.

space cadet said...

"Chastised" for suggesting that smokers can and should be discriminated against. And because you seem to be contradicting so much you've ever said on this subject. Discrimination is not the LL's job. Nor is it "reasonable". Like it or not, that still includes smokers.

One's personal preferences and prejudices do not factor. Unless it's ok to be one of those "power crazy (hypothetical) landlords, refusing tenancies just because of their personal hatreds."

Anyways, just stick to the lease right, and sue them for breach, if the walls turn yellow. There's not much else you can do. Common sense must prevail here, on both sides.

Barney from Newinton said...

You say you wouldn't rent to smokers.

What would you do if someone took your hypothetical property claiming that they didn't smoke but then smoked in your property?

Dazzla said...

I think this demonstrates that we all think we're tolerant until we discover the thing that we won't tolerate. I include myself in this. If I discovered that a place that I rented out was being used to plot, say, a campaign of violence against people of a certain race, or to plan attacks against abortion clinics or animal testing facilities, I'd want them out of my house as soon as possible.

I'm far too lazy to be a landlord though. I just wish a lot of actual landlords would realise this in themselves.

Anonymous said...

RenterGirl said...
"Right: the point about the business of being a rentier requiring a ban is interesting. Am astounded at how I can hypothetically accept the kind of theoretical tenants that other swould reject, and when I say I don't want a certain kind of problem, someone agrees and states my reason, and then disagrees with the pretend argument. The oddest thread so far on this blog."


I think you've missed the point on this one Penny.

No one disagrees about you refusing to let to smokers because of potential damage to the property.

It is your refusal to rent to any smoker because of your personal opinion of "I hate smoking" that is offensive.

Regards, HB Welcome.

space cadet said...

"No one disagrees about you refusing to let to smokers because of potential damage to the property".

Wrong. You see, there is always the potential for damage to a property. From anyone. If you rent to smokers, well, you're asking for trouble though, right?

The answer is: not necessarily.

One smoker might never smoke indoors. The other may take the proverbial piss and do it everyday. How are you going to tell them apart? You can't. Is the answer to discriminate against all smokers? No. The answer is to exercise some common sense and accept that with this business venture (as the proverbial landlord) comes risk! Them's are the breaks.

(And as I said before..) Frankly, a tenant can tell you they don't smoke (when they do) and you (the LL) would be none the wiser anyway.

space cadet said...

"None the wiser" when granting them the tenancy, I mean. If the LL wishes to pursue the tenant for a breach of the lease, that is your choice. After all, that is what the lease is for. LL stipulates "no smoking indoors" and tenant should have the common sense to follow it. If the tenant doesn't follow it, then that tenant should not be surprised by any LL that pursues them in court, for breaching the terms of that lease (and possible turning the walls yellow)

Not to say all lease terms are fair. Far from it. But "no smoking indoors" *is* a sensible request and doesn't prevent you from allowing smokers to live there.

Dazzla said...

Also, many apartment blocks ban deep-frying because it's really dangerous and damages apartments. How far do you go? Do you enquire after your tenants' diet? Do you ask how much they drink in case they come hiome drunk and leave the oven? This last actually happened in a house I shared. One of the other tenants came home drunk one night, put some sausages under the grill and fell asleep.

space cadet said...

I can't help wondering if anyone's made it into court for deep-frying:)

This discussion highlights so well, the problem with renting. How we live, is such a very personal and intimate choice. Who is anyone else to take the moral highground and tell people how to live (when they are within the law).

With home ownership comes autonomy, and all the lifestyle choices are your own.

Dazzla said...

Um.

I hope you haven't gone away from here. I don't think anyone meant to be hurtful. I certainly didn't.

RenterGirl said...

Well that got bizarre. Final words (and these are the final words): I hate smoking because is dirty and stinks. As my Landgirl says, the place I now live in housed smokers before she took over. It stank. She had to remove all the soft furnishings, including the carpet to eradicate the lingering stench. That's not reasonable wear and tear. Enough now!

Shoe said...

Interesting debate RE smoking. I'm an ex smoker but I lapse from time to time. So do I qualify as a smoker? Not really, and on the rare occasions I bring one home, its usually outside. That said, I'd understand why you wouldn't want a 60-a-day around you - its really really filthy. But I do think its invasive, I mean where does that stop? No cooking fish? No deep fat fryers?

As for paying over the odds. No, you got to be kidding. There should be no such thing as substandard accommodation, so why should anybody pay more to have what they were entitled to in the first place? I'm renting on and off since 1997, and nearly a year in the first ever place that was well maintenance, not too expensive, clean and properly managed and the landlord declaring income for tax purposes. That equates to one out of 7 rentals (8 if you include my UK rental soujourn).

And sadly, the only reason I was able to get somewhere nice was because, for once, I had somewhere to temporarily camp while waiting - and that took well over a year to find. The vast majority of similar quality properties in my area cost 25% more, and anything cheaper is almost definitely substandard (or just plain horrible).

There are a number of key issues:
1. anybody can rent - unlike a taxi driver in most countries, you can be a gangland drug dealer and still rent out homes - proper regulation of the rented sector means filtering out those who are a danger to others, for their own safety
2. basic checks on minimum standards that are properly done and actions taken - punishments that have teeth - if I race on the M25 I get penalty points, I get a fine so why is it I can buy a dangerous building tomorrow and let it to vulnerable people with no punishment?
3. rigorous regulation and checks on agents. like financial services providers - nobody would argue they should be free to roam. maybe set limits on fees (if not ban them) and insist on full visibility on all fees to all parties in a contract. its really nice to know when your landlord pays an agency 1500 a year to maintain the place when they do nothing
4. general proper regulation on all building
5. special caution for those letting to social subletters
6. and finally, special interest to be given to apartments and conversions - I think this is where things are really at their worst - shared houses, bedsits, badly built apartment blocks - would benefit everybody. My memory of having to endure the slapper upstairs being banged several times a week at full volume is still too raw (as is the arsehole beating around the girlfriend downstairs).

RenterGirl said...

Shoe - all excellent points.