Shelter’s Income and expenditure figures highlighted13:57 PM, 4th February 2019
About 2 weeks ago 35
The Guardian has sunk to new lows this week with the publication of the most vehemently anti-landlord article, by Rhik Samadder (such an expert in the field that none of us have ever heard of him), that I have ever seen published by a national newspaper. The title alone is shocking:
It then goes from bad to worse, when Samadder declares that:
‘Most buy-to-let opportunists make their tenants’ lives hell – giving them a prize is like giving Stalin a humanitarian award.’
He might think he’s being funny but my question is: Since when was it okay to compare an entire occupational group to an evil communist dictator who was responsible for the deaths of around 20 million of his own people and decades of misery under communism? How can a mainstream British newspaper publish such a disgusting claim?
The role of the private rented sector in supplying and servicing essential accommodation for millions of mobile workers, young professionals, students, migrants, families, the low-paid and those on benefits – amongst other things, filling the gap left by successive governments’ sell-off of council housing and also forming part of the economy’s critical infrastructure – is ignored. Other simple, sober facts, such as that tenants in the private sector express greater satisfaction with their properties than those in the social sector, are invisible in this narrative.
Instead, we get:
‘The fact is, they’re all rogue. Whether your landlord is a genial profiteer or an actual psychopath is the luck of the draw.’
The dictionary defines ‘psychopath‘ as: ‘a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behaviour.’
I would like to see Samadder’s evidence for this assertion. If he hasn’t got any, then he can withdraw the comment and apologise.
As for his claim that landlords are ‘social parasites’ because they make a living out of renting out housing, the clear implication is that landlords should not be allowed to make any profit from their businesses because housing is a human necessity. Why, then, is the author not saying that all supermarket owners and share-holders are parasites, as they are making money out of people’s need to eat? Presumably, the journalist accepts no money for his work either and lives on fresh air. Perhaps he also thinks that writing hate-filled diatribes is more productive than providing a roof over people’s heads.
He further shows his ignorance, when he mentions the termination of short-term contracts as the main cause of homelessness. As I have to repeat practically every month ad nauseum to various ill-informed people, this is patent nonsense. It is the private rented sector which provides this housing in the first place. What’s more, landlords – unless they are supremely stupid – don’t evict for no reason – the most common reason is arrears and damage.
It is pure tautology then to say that the loss of the home ‘caused’ the homelessness. When an employee loses his job for stealing, who caused the loss of the job; the employer or employee?
He then mentions ‘revenge evictions.’ I believe these were a very rare occurrence in the past and have now also been outlawed, so why is he suggesting that they are still a problem, when tenants have legal protection against them? Perhaps he didn’t mention it because he doesn’t know about it; so-called journalists who do a tiny bit of research on a complicated subject often think that makes them an expert on it.
The next part is completely off the scale of the decency and objectivity which one would expect to find in a national newspaper:
‘Just sit on a damp mattress and cough up the cash. All so they can keep expanding, squatting over lives like feudal incubi. If you’re one of these people, you can shove your property portfolio up your arse.’
Incubi are evil spirits ‘supposed to descend upon and have sexual intercourse with women as they sleep.’
It is hard to know how to take this dreadful and libelous condemnation of our profession. The Guardian’s readership has been shrinking over recent years, with it standing at about a tenth of that of the Daily Mail – so they may be deliberately publishing hugely offensive material in a last-ditch attempt to gain more readers. But that’s still no excuse.
Needless to say, landlords have been completely taken aback and been commenting on social media about this. Landlord Owen O’Neill said of the author ‘He does seem to have a lot of opinions supported by no facts and an axe to grind. And if you swapped ‘landlord’ for any religion it would be hate speech and he’d be in prison.’ Another landlord, Terri Nash: called it a ‘totally disgraceful article’.
Yet another said:
‘Isn’t it strange that it’s OK for this person to label every landlord a parasite. I assume using his logic it’s also OK to brand every Muslim a terrorist, Every Black person a gang member, everyone from Ireland a thieving gypsy. I wonder what would happen if he published that.’
There is a more general issue which this article throws up and that is the implications of wholesale condemnation of occupational groups. This is not a new phenomenon; groups targeted in this way over the years have included: traffic wardens, bankers, teachers, social workers, MPs, estate agents and so on. And whilst groups with ‘protected characteristics,’ such as women and/or black people are able to take legal action when faced with such discriminatory attacks, occupational groups have no such protection.
If this hate writing is allowed to continue, it is only a matter of time before it leads to outright physical attacks on landlords; indeed, it is implicitly an incitement to violence.
One can speculate on the motivation for such vehement anti-landlord sentiment, of course and one landlord hit the nail on the head when he said:
‘He probably missed the boat and is upset that he isn’t a landlord.’
It is a given in psychology that hatred is often fueled by jealousy.
Nevertheless, regardless of his perverse and personal motives for making this attack, it is dangerous and as such I say to the editor of the Guardian: If any landlords are physically targeted after the publication of these articles, then the blame will lie squarely with yourselves for stigmatising a whole occupational group. I am also sure landlords will fund a legal case for anyone affected to bring those who incite such violence to justice.
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