A Life of Experience
I’ve been a tenant for most of the past few decades, in a wide range of situations, located in various parts of England at different times – always with a private landlord. I write from the perspective of someone with a lifetime of experience in both freelance and employed technical roles across multiple industries, as well as being a parent, all of which gives me many ways of seeing things.
I gradually learned how many grotty landlords there are and how an estate agent’s customer is the landlord, not the tenant. But also I have had a very notable experience with one FANTASTIC landlord for a period of quite some years. It served only to highlight just how poor the understanding, integrity and conduct of some other landlords had been. Actually, he did suddenly raise the rent by a large percentage at one point, which I think must have been because the market had crept up and his other dozen tenancies had seen increases when tenants changed, whereas I’d been around a bit longer. He was amenable about it, made it clear that there was a smaller property he had available if I wanted to move, and frankly it was a good place with good service and a high standard of upkeep, so “it was what it was” and I stayed on happily. In practice, he and I developed a healthy working relationship – he gave me access to a bit of extra storage space and I did some of the repairs and maintenance that I knew how to do, so we got along nicely for, as I mentioned, quite some years.
Family circumstances required me to move to a different part of the country last year though – and so I’m back with a more familiar sort of landlord and estate agent. I was warned off the letting agent, actually, since their reviews included a recent comment at the time from someone saying they’d been laughed at when quoting a verbal agreement that had been made. It’s been over a year, but eventually I had the same happen to me – a small thing, but significant. I wasn’t entirely surprised.
An Unexpected Visitor
Back to the satirical “letter to my landlord” – I myself had a far more explicit example of the sort of thing mentioned in the article. One day, someone I didn’t recognise knocked at the door and literally asked about measuring up my flat. Just like when Arthur Dent is flabbergasted that someone he thought had come to clean the windows was in fact there to demolish his house. Except in my case there were no publicised plans because it wasn’t a demolition – simply that a property tycoon had been “given permission” by my landlord to measure up prospective properties he might wish to purchase and develop. This is the place I and my children call home.
Let me be clear – I have a well-established and stable rental, the agent and landlord have easy means to contact me, and yet the level or courtesy, professionalism, understanding and human decency they were able to muster was nil. Not a word or comment, just sent the guy around to knock on my door. He was polite, and promised he won’t buy the place up for some years (apparently), but my kids weren’t overly impressed or made to feel secure in their home by such an unannounced arrival at the door.
Onward and Upwards
Lucky for them and for me, I’m pretty resilient and can deal with this sort of thing. But that doesn’t make it a remotely reasonable way to go about things, unless you really convince yourself that buildings and people and families are genuinely just commodities to be traded for commercial purposes. I, however, think not.
There seems to be a baffling gulf between human beings living in homes where they imagine a decent existence, maybe bringing up a family, versus individuals who are really quite detached from any of that reality and see the bricks and mortar as expendable resources purely there as another way to be able to make a profit. Profit isn’t necessarily an evil thing in and of itself – but how it is acquired (and at what human cost) is certainly an ethical issue not to be overlooked.
Harsh Realities Aren’t Just for Tenants
If you cannot afford the risky business of property investment and the colossal cash-flow challenges you can face in the long-term, then perhaps you shouldn’t be playing at a game you’re ill-equipped to engage in, rather than passing all the hurt, harm, damage and failures on to tenants unlucky enough to be in a property you can’t make work the way you thought when it first seemed like a good idea to seek a “buy-to-let” mortgage.
I’ve been appalled in just recent weeks at seeing a stream of YouTube adverts that present a jumped-up stereotype “wide boy” promoting how rich they got by not even using their own money in renting properties they don’t own. (I’m literally quoting the advert.)
Like I said, I’ve had good and bad – and one exceptionally good landlord who had worked incredibly hard for years to build up his business and to be able to create some homes which he looked after well – but when we as a people are looking at how we can provide somewhere to live for our citizens, should we really be doing it on the back of a semi-amateur get-rich-quick scheme half the time just because we can point to the good cases where it’s okay the other half the time?
anonymous private renter. Original ‘Letter to my Landlord’ article is here: https://socialhousingmatters.co.uk/index.php/2020/11/15/letter-to-my-landlord/