I Will Not Say Sorry for Being a Good Landlord

by Mary Latham

7 years ago

I Will Not Say Sorry for Being a Good Landlord

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I Will Not Say Sorry for Being a Good Landlord

An article in the Telegraph last week really offended my sense of justice. I am well aware that only landlords can really understand our business but “well informed” people seem to have very short memories. I want to remind them about some recent history of why housing is now costing the public purse so much more, while I don’t hope to convince our critics that the PRS is a solution, rather than a problem, I will fight our corner with the facts. I hope that other landlords will be inspired to bring some balance to the discussion too.

Have we forgotten that there are now many tenants living in the PRS who were once cared for in specialist units by the NHS? Many facilities were removed in the past and people were moved out into other homes, many of these homes were and are provided by private landlord. “Care in the community” – remember that? I know many great landlords who take very vulnerable tenants and provide care that was previously provided by specialists or who provide homes where care workers can visit and support these people. I really admire these landlords who work with people with enduring mental health issues, disabilities, drug dependency, alcohol related problems etc. Where would these people be without these landlords?

Some of the supply of homes in the PRS have been reduced to fill this important need and, coupled with the diminishing stock of all local authorities following ‘right to buy’, demand is now greater than supply.

Who will increase the supply and give people a choice of where they live? Council? RSL’s? Or will it be those private individuals who have invested in property and who are often reviled for doing so?

It is a simple fact that when demand is higher than supply for any product or service, customers have less choice and prices rise. Private individuals should be encouraged to invest in property – yes invest – and that means making a return/profit, no different to supplying any other service. Why should landlords be ashamed to make a profit, only those who have not taken the risk and have no idea of the amount of work involved would expect anyone else to work for free. Rents may well be increasing, but so is the cost of being a landlord. Interest rates are only a part of the story, we also have to pay for HMO and Selective licensing fees, loss of rent, repairs and replacements, cleaning, decorating, insurance, gas and electric safety inspections, EPC’s (increases in energy efficiency measures), accountancy fees, fees to our support organisations like NLA, sometimes letting and management fees and often legal fees, Accreditation and CPD seminars. A home that is rented out is far more expensive to run than one that is owner occupied; many people will be aware of the cost of running their own homes.

I made a very serious offer to a local authority officer earlier this year- “If you donate your income for a month to charity I will do the same”. My offer was not taken up. Before anyone says that I can afford to do this and that he could not, I grew up in a council house, I have not inherited anything, and I have not been given anything. I have worked hard since the age of 17, never avoided paying tax or NI and I also pay into a private medical scheme so that the only time that I have ever used the NHS, yet still paid for for all these years, is when I gave birth to my children. I am going to ensure that I am not dependant on my children, the NHS or any other organisation or individual to take care of me in my twilight years. I have always donated my time to what I consider to be good causes, I look after my tenants and my properties very well. Everything that I own I have paid for from my own endeavours and I will not apologise for being a good landlord, nor for making my income from my very hard work and risk taking over almost 40 years.

Perhaps those who criticise landlords like me would tell us what they have done to make this country a better place in which to live and thrive?

How many people have they helped to get through the day?

How many people are living in a safe comfortable home because of them?

How many people have they enabled to be mobile to take up job opportunities?

How many hours have they spent helping vulnerable people to cope with their difficulties?

How many times have they left their homes late at night to help out another person?

How many hours have they donated to support those in need?

How many cups of tea have the drunk while listening to those who feel alone and uncared for?

How many risks have they taken that have cost them hundreds of pounds and put pressure on their families?

How many homesick students have they supported to enable them to go on to reach their goals?

How many young people coming out of care have they given a home to?

How many families have grown up in nice homes provided by them?

How many couples have begun their lives together in homes provided by them?

How many people have found a safe haven because of them?

How many people have stayed with them, moving from home to home as their circumstances have changed, because they trust them?

I am proud to be a good landlord, what are those who criticise landlords like me proud of?



Comments

Ben Reeve-Lewis

7 years ago

Mary I think you could be the best landlord in the world and it wouldnt dent the image of landlords overall. Its in the perception of a landlord that so many prejudices lays.

The Illusionist Derren Brown states for the record that when you are doing a mind reading trick, or a 'Guess my personality' trick, called 'Cold Reading' in his trade you need only get a few things out of 10 right because people conveniently forget the times you were wrong.

Similarly with landlords. The all pervasive evil landlord stereotype rides rough-shod over people's actual experience, to the extent that they only remember the stuff that chimes with their pre-formed vision.

You could do good deeds until you are blue in the face but if it doesnt match commonly held mis-perceptions nobody will notice. I hear this all day long. The complaints that tenants make to me about their landlords are endless and unpleasant and when I have to make 'That' call I usually encounter lovely people mystified as to why they find themselves being painted as Shiva the Destroyer.

Newspapers will often write these articles because, buying into the stereotypes, landlords are an easy target, like Chavs, asylum seekers, dole scroungers, rioters, hooray Henrys, bankers and on and on and on are lazy but convenient pegs to hang a hat on.

Us Buddhists have a saying, "Dont major in minor things". Journalists will often look for a common whipping boy. Their business is selling papers, your business is being a good landlord, just stick to what you do best

Sharon Crossland

7 years ago

Mary, are you able to back up anything with statistics? The reason I ask is because I notice that you are a member of the NLA and it has long been my contention that outside of this environment (and those of other trade bodies) is a whole different world where the types of landlords you describe simply don't exist.

Mary Latham

7 years ago

Sharon I am the first person to admit that not all landlords do a good job and that those who do a really bad job have a major impact on the lives of those human beings who they have chosen to house BUT I meet thousands of landlords every year, many are not members of any organisation, who de a brilliant job often over and above what a landlord is expected to do. These landlords make the lives of their tenant better because they really do care about them.

I haven't got statistics to prove what I am saying but I have a huge pile of thank you letters and cards from past tenants who appreciated that I take my job very seriously and work hard to give them a good home. I know many landlords who have files of such letters but they just keep their heads down and get on with the job.

As Ben says good landlords make newspaper stories people don't want to hear about the good guys that is just boring they would rather hear about the few who spoil the image of all of us. Around 3.5 million people live in the private rented sector and if all the 1.5 million landlords were really bad at our jobs people would be up in arms on a regularly basis.

Sharon where do you think people who have the difficulties I have talked about live? You must surely be aware that the health service is in crisis and that there is very little care for these people within special facilities that once exisited to make their lives better. Did you know that there are many landlords who specialise in offering homes to people who would otherwise struggle to find a roof over their heads. These landlords privide care staff 24/7 and have become qualified in dealing with the issues surrounding some of the more difficult cases.

Where do you think young people live when they reach 18 and are too old for the care system in which ,many have spent their lives?

Local authorities struggle to house the most urgent cases and many of these live in bed and breakfast accommodation provided by private landlords. Most authorities are now contracting with private landlords who get them to house the homeless.

This is the real world Sharon I see it every day and the landlords that I describe do exists and do a wonderful job I promise you.

Please don't tar us all with the same brush I want the bad landlords out of this business more than you do believe me.

Sharon Crossland

7 years ago

Hi Mary,

Appreciate your reply. I think the point to be made here is that you write from personal experience which in the main is extremely positive. I too write from personal experience but in the main, mine is extremely negative.

I have been a renting tenant myself for a considerable number of years, from rooms in people houses to flats and I can say that over those years, (starting from my early twenties), I have had more than my fair share of rubbish landlords. There is one positive note that in the last 7 years of renting I got a great one. Throughout those seven years, I behaved no differently than I had done the previous years, always believing that the landlord/tenant relationship was a simple one: I needed somewhere to live, and the landlord provided me with somewhere and in return I should respect that property as my home. Which I did. Unfortunately that respect wasn't given to me.

When I moved into my partners flat, I expected to have kissed goodbye to the problems I experienced over the years as a renting tenant. But no! A freeholder landlord serving jail time for Customs and Excise fraud, managing agents who didn't give a s**t and a block that sustained over two decades of neglect.

Now we own and manage our block and I have the the types of landlords that I have been dealing with most of my rented life and so you can understand where I am coming from.

I would also point out that many tenants are not only unfamiliar about their rights but are also in fear of their landlords and will not report them or seek help, other than come to me, where I have had some considerable success in assisting them.

This however is not the point. I agree with much of what you say but from where I stand, the bad ones you and I want to remove from the sector operate 'under the radar'. Until this is addressed then you and I are not going to get what we obviously both want!

7 years ago

The point I find interesting, Sharon is that you say these bad landlords operate below the radar. I think that is key and it is a shameful situation which leads to tenant intimidation.
With all the rules and regulations continually increasing which in turn increase a landlords' business costs, which in turn increase rental prices why does there seem to be no will nor any power to enforce these rules. The government can keep introducing more and more certifications but if they don't use some of the revenue from that to ensure the rules are enforced then the problems of bad landlords will continue to exist.
One of my bug bears 🙂 Same for dodgy plumbers, sparky's etc. there's not the resource or will to enforce the rules beyond constantly charging legitimate businesses for certifications to do what they've been trained to do. Until the government follow through and take firm legal actions against the businesses who do not bother with certifications then what's the point beyond handicapping legitimate business.

Mark Alexander

7 years ago

I completely agree Teena. I was speaking with Ben Reeve-Lewis earlier this week and there are only another 109 Tenancy Relations Officers in the whole of the UK. There are 50+ cities and 2,000+ towns. More Ben clones are required! Did I really just write that? !!!

Mary Latham

7 years ago

KP what a brilliant post. Spot on

More regulation means higher overheads for those who comply and a bigger margin for those who do not. Those who do comply need to increase rents to cover the additional costs and those who do not comply harvest the higher rents and therefore higher profits.

Local authorities KNOW who the bad guys are but many are now not enforcing against them because they hold large portfolio and if they pulled out the supply would be dramatically decreased. I know one authority who told me that they were "in discussions" with a large landlord because he had failed to licence many HMO's or to put in fire safety equipment and central heating. I asked why they were in discussions and not in court and I was told that the landlord houses a lot of vulnerable tenants and the LA needed to keep him on side. I really kicked off that a LA would allow this landlord to hold them to ransom in this way and the officer said "I thought that you were meant to be protecting landlords". I work to protect GOOD landlords and I would throw the key away with landlords like this guy - who I know is very wealthy but has no respect for those tenants who fund his lifestyle.

Government need to ensure that the LA's use those many powers that they have to enforce against the bad landlords and leave the good guys alone to get on with the excellent job that we do,

Mary Latham

7 years ago

Sharon I am really sorry that previous landlords have made your life so uncomfortable and I am so pleased that your last landlord did a good job and made life better for you.

I do know that mant tenants do not complain because they fear that to do so would put their tenancy in jeopardy and this is why LA's need to seek out the bad guys and take action against them without relying on tenants to do their jobs for them.

I come across many landlords, who attend my seminars, that simply do not know what they should be doing and once they are aware of their responsibilities they do go away and change their management methods. I try hard to bring about a change of attitude when I run my seminars because it is often the "thinking" that is at fault. I ask many questions that begin "How would you feel if.........." The classic being "..... you got home today and found that someone had entered your home without your knowledge and then sent you an email telling you that they did not like your lifestyle" That always sparks an interesting debate which always ends in ageement that every human being needs their safe place, where they can be themselves and do what they need to do to achieve peace in their lives, a HOME.

Landlords offer homes to human beings not buildings to tenants. No one forces a person to become a landlord and if we are not prepared to understand the needs of people we should go into another business. Its a simple message

Mary Latham

7 years ago

Yes you did Mark and you are 100% right

Mark Alexander

7 years ago

Without wishing to sound like 'teachers pet', the PRS also needs a lot more people like you too Mary. We are extremely honoured that you have exclusively chosen Property118 as a blogging platform to share your wealth of knowledge and ethics.

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