Monday, 7 January 2013

An Extra Layer of Hell

Life for renters is hard and even The Daily Telegraph agrees (I know!) But what could possibly make life even worse for tenants? Permitting instant, summary eviction by saying ‘I Evict You’ three times aloud? Denying us food? Replacing furniture with a bed of nails in every room, to remind us about the precarious nature of our home, and indeed, life itself?

Almost. Renting is a growth industry. Consequently and inevitably satellite businesses are making themselves a fortune by charging for spurious services, skimming the cream, creating a false need and charging a fortune when exploiting it.

It’s not enough that the private rented sector is dominated by untrained and unregulated letting agents/landlords who cause constant low-level misery with impunity. No. Now tenants must endure a host of newfound untrained feral specialists, all keen to rake in dosh and claim their piece of the renting pie.

First: those self-proclaimed deposit protection specialists. Totally unnecessary, since there exists a perfectly good procedure for reclaiming deposits registered and saved with the various schemes, and all operate a dispute service. If that doesn’t work, there’s the always the small claims court. (FYI I don’t endorse these companies, despite what you might read - legal action beckons.)

Here’s a new one: specialist inventory checkers. My poor Landgirl suffered at their hands: the other superfluous layer ie the letting agency contracted inventory checkers to inspect the flat. They managed to miss inter alia: hair in plugholes, damage and the general filthy state of the place. Landlords and letting agents maintain an unfounded fear that a simple inventory signed and agreed by both parties like in the old days will lead to disputes. It won’t. And they charge a fortune for walking round the place with a list (and then ignoring the list.)

And we have newbuild buy-to-let furniture suppliers. Seemingly harmless, they source stock from IKEA (if tenants are lucky.) Landlords pay inflated prices, and tenants get shoddy, collapsible furniture and cupboards full of cheap chipped glassware. Not the worst example, but costly to both renter and rentier.

But the worst, the very worst and most sinister are so-called ‘Tenant Eviction Specialists,’ aka bully boys. Not lawyers, just thugs paid to scare tenants into leaving fast. One firm asked recently if they could do a guest post hereabouts. My reply was terse.
Also controversial are professional cleaners who come round when a tenant has vacated and supposedly scour, steam and polish the filthy flat until it shines (oh – the tenant usually gets the bill.) Landlords could just as well buy some mops, brooms and lung-dissolving oven cleaner and do it themselves.

Hellooo reference checkers! Come on down! They use ordinary websites to check individual references, with similar dubious results. They also operate ‘affordability checks,’ where a stony computer really does say ‘no.’

The problem is that many landlords do not appreciate that managing property is time-consuming, and rented flats can be brittle and they break. Instead of factoring this in to their business plan (and…landlords always have a business plan… right?) they fall prey to parasites. And it’s the tenant, always the tenant, who pays.


Marco said...

true true being a landlord is not an easy task we can vouch for that and with the rent rather low compared to house prices the margin of error is very small. Trust me this is not easy money.

RenterGirl said...

I know. But tenants pay for this rubbish. nd rent might SEEM low if trying for profit on the weekly income. It's high if you're paying it. Profit was once (and should be again) made on the eventual equity.

Barney from Newington said...

I love the last line of this blog:

Overall the UK PRS is a huge success story. It is vital that this message is not lost in the tide of negative publicity from organisations with their own narrow agendas and campaigns

RenterGirl said...

No it isn't. Renting is costly and insecure. Tenanaats have the costs which should be paid be landlords added to rents, when inevitably they rise.

You sound paranoid with your constant talk of an anti landlord agenda/shadowy groups. Too much coffee Barney?

Barney from Newington said...

The anti-landlord lobby exist, if you read the responses to the Scottish Governments consultation on Premiums you can work out exactly who they are.

Regarding the PRS I do agree that the market is changing due to Generation Rent and that the PRS has traditionally been used over the short term will have to adopt to meet this challenge.

Where I disagree with the anti-landlord lobby is that I think a solution is needed that meets the needs of all stakeholders.

The anti-landlord lobby reckon that they can achieve another win for tenants on the issue by mis-representing all the other stakeholders as rogues and using the influence they have in parliament. In the long term this will prove to be self defeating and damage the PRS as landlords will no longer make their properties available to rent.

RenterGirl said...

Ok. You're right. There is an anti-landlord lobby, Barney. And.. We're behind you! Boo!

Don't be so silly: there exists an anti BAD landlord lobby. I am glad you like my blog so much. Bad landlords should be made to lose their assets (including their OWN home) if they attack tenants or illegally throw them out on the streets. This is happening. And the tenant fight back is starting to happen now. Good!

Oli said...

I disagree that 'profit should be made on the eventual equity' as that implies that prices should rise further when in reality they need to drop. Landlords should make their (small!) profits on the (small!) margin between their costs and their income, based on the added value their service provides. You know, like all other businesses. Landlord profits shouldn't be based on a speculative gamble about capital appreciation; that's the mindset which brought about the bubble in the first place.

The reason that renting is too expensive is not profiteering landlords – a lot of them aren't even breaking even and plenty are in negative equity – but grossly inflated property prices. Find a way to bring down property prices and high rents will sort themselves out.

RenterGirl said...

I mean specifically long term accrued equity over decades, not the furious spiralling profits of a febrile bubble. Many landlords ARE profiteering, often at the behest of letting agaents who incorporate a built in increase every six months.

Oli said...

Sure, there must be some who make a lot of money - mostly ones who bought at pre-bubble prices and can charge rents at today's rates, but then again cashing in on that is effectively a form of profiting from capital appreciation.

Those who bought-to-let any time after about 2004 or 2005 are not making any kind of serious money, and (outside London) are probably in negative equity too. What looks and feels like profiteering to the tenant is more likely to be the landlord desperately trying to stay afloat, rather than them raking in.

I have no sympathy at all for them - god knows I've had terrible landlords who I'd dearly love to see go bust, and there's a special circle in hell (the eighth, if you're into Dante) reserved for lettings agents - but part of solving the housing crisis lies in correctly analysing the cause of extortionate rents. On the whole, large profits by landlords are not the problem. Inflated prices are.

Barney from Newington said...

I expect that if letting agents do got to hell then they will be joined by football referees as this is a profession that does a similar job to letting agents.

On the Fifa World Cup Final video you can see referee Howard Webb looking a bit shaken at half time as he is aware that the final isn't going the way he hoped with constant fouls and bookings. He takes a deep breath and says "Oh well we have a job to do" this is the same as a letting agent.

You do everything in your power to make a tenancy go well by getting signed contracts stating the rights and responsibilities of each party.

When it doesn't go as planned then you simply have to apply the rules/law and accept that both parties will be trying to deflect the blame on to you.

Howard Webb may have been booed at the end of the World Cup final but I for one salute him and his performance.

Dazzla said...


I'm guessing you're a United fan. Webb is well known in the blue half of Manchester as Fergie's 12th man.

But generally speaking, your post was insincere horse shit.

RenterGirl said...

Not really Barney. Refs are paid minimal sum, and have to pass various fitness tests. You can see where I'm going with that debunked extended metaphore.