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.