Friday, 26 February 2010

Renewal Time (Again...)

I am being quieter than Little Miss Q Quiet of the Quietland Quiets (who has a GCSE in Being Really Quiet.) I do not make a sound. I am in hiding. I remain deathly pale so as to blend in with the brilliant paint on my walls. The fact is, I am playing a game of cat and mouse with my letting agents, and do not wish to draw attention to myself. Yes, it’s tenancy agreement renewal time, and I’m sort of hoping that my letting agents have forgotten that I live there.

I would like to stay where I am, but only if the rent remains the same. Given the low interest rates, a rent rise would be cheeky, but remember that my letting agents are cheeky bunch of …monkeys and I’m not sure where I stand. By the time you read this, I doubt I will have been given any notice to quit, or informed of any intended rent rise, for the simple reason that I suspect they’ve forgotten me. While sitting in the office under many baleful glances, I asked for a six month agreement – not their standard nine months, which was greeted with bafflement. I was feeling insecure when I met them, and having the endured the experiences I’ve written about previously hereabouts, I wanted any escape route to be within easy reach.

Mercifully, they usually leave me alone, but the downside means that this ‘solitude’ leaves me communing with all the things they’ve failed to do, like putting shelves in the bathroom, resealing the lounge window, apologising for allowing repair men to walk whenever they fancy a look etc, but on the whole, it’s the best I can expect (I suppose.)

It’s always the way with rental agreements – you never know what’s coming next, and tenants have very little control over their lives, but here’s a new twist: as pointed out by a commentator on this blog recently, Scotland enjoys a rule which means that if neither party contacts each other before the legal agreement ends, then the original agreement is repeated, and identical terms are applied. I hope this happens. I really do, and I’m worried that it won’t.

I still think that the best of all worlds would be an assumption that tenancies last for as long the tenant chooses, with a minimum of two years. There should be no eviction process started unless the landlord gives a genuine reason. ‘I felt like turfing that loser out because their mum dresses them funny’ is not a good reason. Neither is the strange urge landlords sometimes have to nurture and house their dear old mum, which sadly means they must give notice to their blameless tenants.

I shouldn’t have to worry every six months whether or not I can stay safely in my home. I want some security. If things remain as they are, I could genuinely be forced to move every six months - for various reasons it’s been that way for the past seven years (only once has the move been my own choice.) I resent feeling utterly and obviously powerless. It’s just that I’ve been here so many times before, and I’ve had enough – I really have.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Property Pixies Are Here To Save Us!

I believe in the property pixies, and so should you. If we ever stop believing in the property pixies, then they will die, and we renters mustn’t let that happen.

The property pixies operate secretly at night, repairing roofs, negotiating with malevolent landlords intent on evicting blameless tenants on a whim. The property pixies are marvellous: they visit letting agencies to read them the riot act albeit in a kindly way – in their little hats with bells on (the pixies – not the agents.)

Housing Minister John Healey also believes in the property pixies. I know this to be true because that’s the only possible explanation for his latest plans. Admittedly, regulating the private rented sector is daunting but here’s his big idea. It’s a list:

• A hotline (anyone remember the cones hotline…?)
• Word of mouth advisory website (which will be closed down immediately due to libellous comments.)
• A requirement for written tenancies.
• Boosting the number of tenants protected under the established tenancy agreements (but not ending the farcical six month long agreements in common use now.)
• A national landlord register (but no fine/penalty for not registering.)
• ‘Better regulation’ of letting and management agents. I love the word ‘better’ - better than what? Better than now, when it’s like the wild west?

It’s all as hazy as the Rugg Report which seemed to say that most tenants are happy, and surmised that because the majority are happy, there’s no urgent need for strong laws to protect the minority who are turfed out of a damp, shabby hovel without notice on a whim by thugs. Admittedly this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s horrible.

Landlords enjoy a range effective and efficient ways (some legal – others not so) to evict erring renters, but tenants have little power. We move on silently, even if the owner has gone bankrupt and we’ve been notified by bailiffs hammering on the door, even if they have left the flat in a dangerous state. We pack up again, and hope, often in vain, that we’ll get our deposit back (yep there’s the Tenancy Deposit Scheme but some tenants are scared to use it – tribunals seem daunting, and landlords know this.)

John Healey must surely believe in the property pixies - he trusts them to enforce his proposals, and those pixies can be fierce. Which is a good thing, because unless sanctions punishing errant landlords are included and enforced (forfeiting the property or punitive fines) then those naughty landlords will carry on disregarding rights, thumbing their noses at the law, and taunting the pixies. Bad landlords must be forced to behave; they won’t do so voluntarily - it just won’t happen.

Right now I’m sitting at home, waiting for those adorable little fellas to reseal my windows and persuade my letting agents to refund the fees they charged unlawfully. The property pixies take care of everything, I am completely sure of it. You don’t believe me? Well then, take a good look at the sterling work done by the financial services elves.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Hello everyone!

I am honoured to have won the Users Best Blog Prize in The Prime Location Property blog awards. It won't change me, or go to my head. I will remain the same old grounded, ordinary, angry, pissed-off-at letting-agents-blogger that I've always been...