I Will Not Say Sorry for Being a Good Landlord

by Mary Latham

13:56 PM, 24th October 2011
About 9 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?


Sharon Crossland

12:14 PM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Hi 🙂

I agree with you and have asked the same questions myself on many an occasion. If the local authorities are not going to play ball (and judging by Mary's recent post then some certainly aren't) then lets just get a simple licence in place as per the Rugg Review, use the licence number on all landlord activities and start getting the c**p landlords out into the open.

Make the PRS a sector of real choice rather than necessity!


Sharon Crossland

12:36 PM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Again, I find myself agreeing with you on a number of levels. I can certainly accept that many landlords will not always be familiar with their role because I understand how much legislation is out there governing the PRS.

However, there are far too many out there, where the approaches you take at your seminars (and by their very attendance it clearly indicates that many landlords do want to do their best) simply will not work because these people aren't really landlords: they are criminals that have simply exploited the ease at which anyone can operate as such, without there being anything in place to offer the remotest bit of a deterrent to such people.

Having said all that, I am still by no means negative because its by reading posts such as yours that I get reminded that there are some really good guys out there. I just wish that for once, I would get some of them here! 🙂

Mark Alexander

12:51 PM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Hi Sharon

I don't believe that licencing will get any more c**p landlords out of the business as the good ones will pay for the licences and the resources to prosecute the unlicensed ones don't exist. Please take a look at this 2 minute video in which I offer some potential solutions to the problem http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOxGx3M1aLU

Let's stop focussing on the problem and turn our attention to understanding the cause and fixing that.

Fix supply issues and the choices you seek will appear.

Mary Latham

22:43 PM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Sharon I know that sounds like a simple solution but the same landlords who avoid other regulation, like HMO licencing, will also avoid what you are suggesting. Julie Rugg suggested registration of all landlords and I agree with her but I fear that only good landlords would register (and no doubt pay) which again gives those who do not pay the commercial advantage

Mary Latham

22:44 PM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Teachers pet! hahahahaha

Mary Latham

23:03 PM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Sharon "Success by the inch is a sinch, by the yard it is hard". Many landlords own and let a lot of property and for each one who has a change of thinking many tenants will benefit but it will take time. Like you, I think that landlords who attend the sort of siminars that I run do so because they realise that they need to learn. Over time more and more landlords will realise that they need to move into the 21 century where it is not an option to be ignorant of the law or the needs of our customers. Tenants are becoming more knowledgable and I think that bad landlords will soon meet their Waterloo.
A landlord told me today that his tenant has been given advice that he can live in the property without paying rent for up to 9 months - the time it will take that landlord to gain legal eviction - sadly this is a good landlord and the tenant is, of course correct. This illustrates that tenants have far more legal rights than landlords and therefore, if for no other reason, we should be working hard to keep them happy.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

6:33 AM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Aha Mary for the first time I disagree with you haha. Tenants dont have more rights than landlords, tenants have different rights to landlords that become more pronounced in effect depending on the circumstance in which they arise. Even in a standard tenancy agreement the pages of 'Tenants Obligations' far outweighs the list of 'Landlord's Obligations'.

A landlord may complain when a tenant witholds rent because they have not been supplied with a section 48 address, which is the tenants right, but then the tenant complains that the landlord has all the rights when the landlord decides they want the tenant to leave simply because they want to sell the property. A person's perceptions of who has the most rights is dependant on the situation that the exercising of those rights comes up

Your example of the tenant not paying the rent isnt a right that they have. They are obliged to pay their rent up to the day they leave, the fact that a tenant might not pay doesnt mean that is their right not to, and tyhe fact that chasing the money might be difficult if not impossible doesnt mean a landlord doesnt have the right to do so.

All day long at work I hear landlord's complain that tenants have all the rights and tenants complaining landlords have all the rights. Landlords always have the ultimate sanction, to take the home away. Tenants dont have rights anywhere near that extensive.

I have often wondered if it would be possible to compile a list of landlords rights and tenants rights just to see if they balance out. I dont think you could do it on a numbers basis only as some rights have more effect than others.

I also think the perception that tenants have more rights might be made worse by people in my kinds of job who have to advise on those rights. Ever had a phone call from a Shelter adviser , I train 'em haha. And that is why, wherever possible I step back from that approach and advise both parties equally. I absolutely hate having to tell a landlord, whose tenant owes them rent, that they have to go to court to get a possession, becaise I well know how long it will take and that they are unlikely to get the money back but I also tell the tenant that they are knackering their references and credit score which may mean they cant rent in future and that there is nothing I can do to stop that and I have no moral quandry with helping the landlord get the paperwork right to make things as quick and painless as possible. Surprisingly the tenant often hadnt thought of the long term effects of rent arrears on them and start paying again.

Mary Latham

17:39 PM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

I agree Ben it is not about how many rights but the impact the rights of each has on the other. Yes you are right ultimately the landlord can take back his property but I honestly don't know any landlord who would excercise that right if the tenant had been a good tenant. I accept that in recent years some people have become reluctant landlords because they cannot sell and I exclude these people because if they did not make it clear that the let would only be short term they should have done so - very unfair to tenants.

On the other hand a good landlord might still end up with a tenant who does not pay his rent and intends to remain in the property free of charge until he is legally evicted and this can take several months. Yes a landlord can pursue the tenant for the lost rent but he is unlilkely to be paid unless the tenant has assets. The tenant has not got the legal right to withhold his rent but he has got the legal right to remain in the property undisturbed even if he is damaging the property, fixures, fittings or furniture.

In summary

*A landlord who owns a property must continue to pay his mortgage, supply the property and everything in it in perfect working order despite the fact that the tenant is not paying rent. He must go through, an often costly, legal proceedure to reclaim the property that he owns from the tenant.

* A tenant must leave a property that he understands from day one is only let to him for a given period of time and which he does not own if the owner of that property takes the correct legal action and after the tenant has been aware of this for several months.

Who has most power?

Ben Reeve-Lewis

18:58 PM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Nope. I still think the landlord has the most power, the ultimate sanction.

I completely understand and sympathise with landlords stuck with deliberately non-paying tenants who cant pay their mortgage if the tenant doesnt pay the rent but as I always point out to them, the law that stops them gaining summary justice and protects the non-paying tenant is the same law that stops the banks repossessing the landlord's investment summarily and makes the lender follow the same process as the landlord has to. Blind justice and all that.

When you say you dont know any landlord who would repossess against a decent tenant, I have to also disagree because I regularly see tenants, in no arrears being evicted because the landlord wants to liquidate their asset. I think any landlord in the current climate would be foolish in the extreme to do this, given the slump in the sales market but most amateur landlords dont research that deeply and dont know what people like us know.

On your point about a tenant remaining a property, not paying rent and damaging the place, I agree, this definately does happen, and often quite wilfully, driven by the entrenched cultural dislike of landlords (I have written a companion piece article on this) and I also acknowledge how frustrating this might be but think on the how you would resolve this. If you shorten eviction times and move towards a generally more efficient system that would deal with the problem to the landlord's benefit you will be tinkering with the very core of the judicial system itself.

I see landlords accuse tenants of rent arrears that they dont really owe, there are always 2 sides to a story. To seek to take a person's home away on the basis of an accusation of any kind, such as rent arrears, damage or nuisance, is to, in effect, make anopthe rparty guilty by accusation and the basis of most country's legal system is that an allegation must be proven and that the accused should have a chance to defend themselves. That is why the legal system is as it is.

Let me give 2 examples. A landlord, a dodgy one, hell bent on keeping themselves out of a tricky paper trail, doesnt give the tenant their contact address (I would say 30% of my cases are like this) They accuse the tenant of rent arrears but under Section 48 rules, until the landlrod supplies thier address they arent legally entitled to receive any rent, so the arrears dont actually exist. Alternatively, a landlord knows that the tenant is in arrears and has no intention to pay. the tenant complains to me but I also know the tenant is playing the system. The law has to be in place to cover all eventualties, in this instance, including the protection against the dodgy landlord trying to stay off of the books. Do you see what I am driving at?

Section 21 claims are simply a landlord claiming their property on a no fault ground, anything else is an accusation basically, and the judical system forces the complainant to justify their complaint and gives the defendant the right to defend themselves.

To change this for landlord and tenant situations would be to change the entire basis of the legal system

Mary Latham

20:11 PM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Ben I agree with you and I would not wish to change the law for all the reasons that you have stated. I would, however, wish to speed up the Section 8 process, which as you point out, gives both parties the chance to state and prove their case. In my opinion these cases should be dealt with by Residential Property Tribunals not the usual court procedure. If a tenant is at fault it is unjust that a landlord has to wait for weeks and sometimes months before the case is even heard.

I also agree that any landlord who is breaking the law should not hope for the legal system to aid and abet him.

I know that we also agree on one fundemental point. The law should protect the innocent whhever that might be.

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