Maslow’s Theory Applied to Landlords and Tenants

by Mary Latham

16:42 PM, 30th December 2012
About 7 years ago

Maslow’s Theory Applied to Landlords and Tenants

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Maslow’s Theory Applied to Landlords and Tenants

Maslow Theory Applied to Landlords and TenantsIn the West Midlands we are addressing the issue of educating the young to understand their future housing options, financial obligations and choices. I work on behalf of NLA with a consortium called HOMESTAMP (www.homestamp.com) and we are just coming to the end of a major project to get a module into the national curriculum for 14-16 year olds. Under the subject of Financial Management this module will help to break the cycle for many young people to prevent them becoming the 4th generation of their family to base their lifestyle on “benefits will provide”. This will be a reality check for those who may believe that becoming pregnant will ensure them a “nice little flat off the council”.

All local authorities are becoming more and more reliant on the Professional Rental Sector (PRS) to help them to house their homeless and it is vital that young people are aware that their only future options will be to stay at home, provide their own homes (by renting or buying) or to convince a private landlord that they will be a good tenant. By the time these young people leave education the Universal credit will be in place and there are serious concerns that giving people a “purse of money” will further increase rent arrears, not only for the PRS, but also for local authorities and Registered Social Landlord’s (RSL).  The utility companies will also become victims of those who choose to misuse the money provided to them, from our tax pounds, to keep them safe.

We all learn from what we absorb and young people who are brought up in families where no one gets up in the morning and dashes off to work become accustomed to this life style for them it becomes the norm. It will take some time to re-educate these youngsters that there is another way of living and that the alternative may, in future, be their only option. We need to appeal to the innate desire of each new generation to rebel against the lifestyle of their parents. No one wants to live in a society where we don’t care for those who need our help and financial support but it is in meeting the needs of the needy that we also fall victims to the greedy. I am well aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find work and that withdrawing or reducing benefits alone is not the answer but we must start with motivation, because it is only motivation that will break the cycle. We need to get to the point where young people leave education “knowing” that the next step is to find a way to fund the life that they plan.

Schools need to play a major role in making these youngsters aware of the life that they could have rather than allowing them to become myopic about their future. Parents also need to play a part. Those of us who do work often allow our offspring to open an account at the bank of mum and dad and, while this may be necessary during the years that they are in education, we need to close their accounts one month after they leave education and motivate them to become self supporting and to gain the dignity that comes from paying your own way. It is selfish of us to want to give our kids what we did not have because in doing so we take away from them one important thing that we did have, MOTIVATION. I consider myself fortunate that my parents could not afford to allow me to remain unemployed, I grew up knowing how hard my parents worked to fund our simple lifestyle and I could not wait to earn my own money. I knew what I wanted, I also knew that the only way that I would get that I wanted was to work.

As a tax payer, I welcome the Governments plans to gradually reduce the “dependence” mentality of many people in this country. As a landlord, I do fear that some of these plans may impact on my own income. All landlords are only one redundancy away from a tenant who is on benefits and we all need to position ourselves to ensure that whatever else comes out of that “purse” of universal credit our rent comes out first. ALL Assured Shorthold Tenancy’s (AST) should carry a clear clause that the tenancy is only granted on the basis that if now or at any time in future the tenant needs to claim benefits to help to pay all or part of the rent that rent is paid directly to the landlord. Under new Government guidance issued this year, local authorities should pay the rent directly to the landlord who only grant tenancies based on direct payment, as part of their safeguarding policy. Local authorities were given discretion on this, unfortunately, and it is up to the PRS to ensure that this discretion is exercised in our favour. Landlords should attend all local authorities landlords fora and landlord meetings and be very vocal about the fact that we will not be become part of the welfare state, we will not pay into a system that gives people financial support without protecting our tax pounds by ensuring that the money given is used to keep a roof over the claimants head. We will be taking legal eviction action and pursuing our rent arrears and we will refuse to house those who we fear will not pay for the service that we provide. All these authorities are only too well aware that without the PRS they are in BIG trouble, the day has arrived when they need us more than we need them and it is time that we set out clearly our terms of business.

You will often hear the term “financial inclusion”, what does that mean? It means that no one should be excluded from society because they have a lack of money and I absolutely agree with that. But there are accepted norms in our society and among them is the implicit understanding that goods and services must be paid for. Most of us arrange our finances so that the bills are paid before we spend on other, less important things. Most people use a system of standing orders and direct debits to avoid the temptation to put our desires before our obligations. Financial inclusion in our society means helping those who do not have the skills to manage their finances to follow these “norms”. Many people have poor financial histories and cannot gain access to the high street banks but Credit Unions will take these customers and most will “ring fence” their rent payments if landlords work with them. They will also send a landlord written notification if the tenant exercises his right to stop a standing order and, because they require one months notice to do this, the landlord has time to take appropriate action. The landlord will also get written notification if a tenant tell the Credit Union to change his rent payments from you to another landlord and again this is early warning that a tenant may have abandoned the property. Abandonment is fraught with potholes for unsuspecting landlords. Some landlords use what are known as “abandonment notices” on the door of the property but these notices have no legal status and will not protect a landlord against accusations of illegal eviction and the horrifying penalties that may follow a successful conviction. A tenant who has given a Credit Union the required written notification to change the recipient of their rent payments has committed himself in writing to the fact that he has changed his prime residence and the written notification that the Credit Union will send to the landlord may be just the document you need to cover your back.

The PRS must survive because without us we will have “cardboard Cities” all over this country. I believe that the Universal Credit will bring us closer to the day when Government have to face the fact that

Landlords are running a business, a business which is vital to the future of this country and the well being of those who live here. Landlords need to be paid for their services just like any other business. Without homes, people will sink into further dependence and put pressure on the Health Service, the Legal System and society in general. The UK will not be a place where people want to make a life and bring up their children. We will not hang onto the many talented young people who are the future of this country. We will become a country of lawlessness, worklessness and hopelessness.

This article was first published on 15th December 2011 and has been re-published on 30th December 2012 following recent media reports of a survey carried out by Housing Charity “Crisis” which indicates that only 1.5% of Private Landlords now rent to tenants claiming benefits.



Comments

11:55 AM, 19th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Not quite sure why Maslow was tacked on the end there. A pretty simplistic and bleak view of society. Yes the private rental sector is filling the gap where there is no longer public housing provision. Yes there are grave concerns about Universal Payments in many areas where vulnerable children and adults are concerned. And yes housing is a basic need for society. But how does Maslow fit into your argument? How are you going to influence the young people you seek to educate if their fundamental needs have not first been met? The resources for children who slip outside of societies norms, those who do not have the basic foundations in their lives, who have no self-esteem, those who will be the most vulnerable young adults, are woefully lacking. In Norfolk alone huge funding cuts this year have put the success of Youth Offending Teams at risk. A political decision which was short sighted and will put the county backwards in terms of crime prevention and integration of these young people into society.
Sitting children through Financial Management classes is unlikely to alter that. And at the end of the day they go home to their primary role models. Perhaps the parents could do the course with their children.

Mary Latham

14:18 PM, 19th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Kichenspink. My point is that we can address the symptoms but if we do not cure the disease nothing will change. The disease, in my opinion, is lack of motivation, hence the reference to Maslow. Before we expect people to change we need to address their needs. While a person is worrying about finding a safe, comfortable home that person is focused because, as Maslow said, this is a basic human need. It would be pointless talking about the cost of shoes with a man who has no feet. Yes my view is very simplistic, I make no claims to the original concept of human needs, but when searching for solutions I try to consider first where the problem sits. In my opinion there are many problems that are symptoms and calls for new legislation and regulation is the equivalent of giving aspirin to cure a brain tumor, you may no longer feel the pain but the tumor is still damaging your brain.
The universal credit will reduce the overall amount of money people on benefits receive. We all understand that the soaring costs of benefits is unsustainable but, by reducing the spend on benefits, we may well increase the cost of other public services because many people will not have the skills to manage their finances so that their essential needs are covered. My concerns are not only for the cost of their homes, as I said, this may also impact on a persons ability to pay for the utilities that they need. When people are under financial pressure it often affects their health and general wellbeing and this will undoubtedly have an effect on the Health Services. People in this situation may turn to crime and this will affect the legal system.
I am suggesting that the cost of essential services are first paid for by benefits and that the money which a person receives in their hand is then theirs to spend as they choose, just as it would be if they were receiving a wage. I am not suggesting that we marginalise those in need, on the contrary, I want them to be financially included.
Once society has taken care of their essential needs people will gradually move into “higher” level of need and will automatically be motivated towards different goals. My experience of the last changes to the benefits system, in 2007, is that many people struggled to priorities their spending and, with £300M in UK rent arrears last year, landlords are becoming increasingly cautious when taking people who may not pay their rents. We are in a vicious cycle and this cycle needs to broken before society can move forward.
Motivating the young is a whole other discussion and one which must be addressed. I believe that it is only through education, both formal and informal, that changes can be made and hence the Education Project. I share your concerns about “children who slip outside of societies norms, those who do not have the basic foundations in their lives, who have no self-esteem, those who will be the most vulnerable young adults”. You are right when you say that they have no basic foundations in their lives and this is exactly my point. I want to live in a country that recognises that all men are not created equal and that some people need more support and encouragement than others. This is not only about money but unfortunately we cannot ignore that fact that money is needed to pay for essentials and it is only when those essentials are provided that these young people can dream new dreams. Once young people feel secure they will be open to a new way of living and it is at this point that they must be shown a model for a realistic new life.
When I was a Councilor for ChildLine I spoke to many of the children you are talking about and I am only too well aware where the problems begin. Working with St. Basils recently I came in to close contact with people in their early twenties, many of whom had never known the security of a real home. I could not drive home one night , my eyes filled with tears, after being humbled by the gratitude of one of these young people when he told me “I don’t care which room I get, I will sleep under the stairs because I have never lived in a house as nice as this before.” He made me cry again when he called me a few weeks later to tell me that he had found a job. I provided the safe home and he was motivated to find a job for the first time in his life at the age of 22. This young person has a history of substance misuse and lawlessness, he is now proud to be self reliant and is talking about his plans for the future. He was so animated when he showed me his business plan for a very creative project. In a very short space of time his has climbed from the bottom of Maslows triangle and is now at the top.
I am not putting forward a theory, I am using well documents facts and personal experiences of human nature and suggesting alternative solutions based on real needs and motivation.

Mark Alexander

15:22 PM, 19th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Hi Mary

Excellent article and follow up. I couldn't agree more.

I also think the work you do with NLA and other organisations is amazing. I think it's a pity that NLA is one of the best kept secrets amongst landlords. There are around 1.5 million UK landlords and yet I understand the NLA has only got circa 20,000 members. I also find it astonishing that NLA only have 4 Testimonials on their Gold Member Profile in the Property118 Directory.

Regards

Mark

Ben Reeve-Lewis

15:42 PM, 19th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Interesting debate. I wrote on landlord law blog recently about the need for financial education and agree with you Mary. Also, having worked in various jobs as part of homelessness I also have seen that dependant culture and what it does to people. One thing that I admit winds me up is when people call me and tell me they are council tenants and then give me their landlords name. When I point out that this means they are private tenants not council, they disagree, saying the council pays their rent, which displays a major misunderstanding about how life works.

Problems start when for one reason or another housing benefit get's stopped and instead of making efforts to sort the problem out they shrug their shoulders, figuring it to be the council's problem not theirs. They are usually the most angry when HB gets stopped and we often have to call police to remove people from our office as a result.

Having said that, and getting back to Maslow, my particular area of concern at the moment is the level of rents, particularly in London, where they are crippplingly high for many people. This may keep landlords happy but the rents keep the tenants stuck firmly in levels 1 and 2 just trying to get by so quality of life suffers. Maslow is a great model and clearly shows where ludicrously high rents contributes to broken relationships, debt, anxiety and a wealth of other social problems.(of course not the only factor)

Of course landlrods need to reimbursed for their services and as Mary points out we (councils) need them more than they need us but rents are going into overdrive and it cant be sustained. This week figures were published showing the average rent has risen 6.4% in the past few mnths and how during the same timeframe late payments and rent arrears have risen 10.7%.

While these rent levels cram tenants into the lower levels of Maslow they are also putting landlord's incomes at risk of the bubble bursting and as Mary says landlords are also 1 redundancy away from that position themselves.

18:39 PM, 19th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Thanks for the response Mary. It seems there are many discussions muddling into one here. My comments related to your comments about education. We will differ on the definition of the disease. I think lack of motivation is simply another symptom of a disparate society where a large number of adults, youths and children feel disengaged and consequently take little or no personal responsibility for their actions or their futures. I'm not sure if that's the same as you mean? The systems in place, whilst seeking to help, are also suffering from funding cuts and streamlining which in turn further alienates the least literate, the least educated. I have supported adults who have to join online housing lists even though they have not the ability to read let alone have the knowledge or confidence to use a library computer. Probably they could go to an office and ask for help but they have pride and a sense of dignity and shame just like the rest of us. Conversely they are often the ones most keen to see their children work hard and get the most from school. I am also conscious that for every one we see move on and turn their life around, there are hundreds more who simply find the journey too difficult, time and time again. The voluntary work I have been involved in is a matter of optimism and the dripping tap.
More and more everything is being rationalised without a consideration for the most vulnerable groups we should be supporting. Less face to face contact is all very well for short term financial savings but call centres and online systems leave many adrift.
Universal Payments are perhaps an attempt to hand responsibility back to the individual and by taking all essentials and simply handing over 'pocket money' that in itself would seem to defeat the object? What is needed is adult education about financial planning. Ultimately schools can teach and many already offer excellent pastoral care involving the whole family, but children learn their life values in the home. I do not think a curriculum change will alter generations of damage and in the meantime the most vulnerable will continue to slip through the net.
I think landlords should absolutely select their tenants carefully and always have the option to turn down or exclude LHA tenants. And there is the option to request direct payments. But there is certainly a grey area where the landlord/tenant relationship is funded by a third party. Perhaps accepting that councils and landlords need each other to both get the maximum benefit without anyone falling by the wayside would be a better approach.
Teena (kitschenpink)

Mary Latham

23:15 PM, 19th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Ben I know from your posts on PT that you have a very clear understanding of the PRS. You are right of course high rents drain a persons income and leave less for them to invest in happier, if less essential, items. You are also right when you draw the comparison between rent increases and rent arrears. In my opinion we are in a state of flux at the moment but it will settle down, when landlords do their end of year accounts and realise that a good rent paying tenant is worth more than a few pounds extra rent and a possible void or rent arrears. I know many landlords who have decreased their rents for good tenants who have had a loss of income or benefits. I do not know the London market but in Birmingham many landlords work hard to keep their tenants happy and avoid the void, this is not because of lack of tenant because we too are experiencing a big increase in damand in most areas. Brumies may be more pragmatic than London landlords but I think that those darn sarf may see the sense in our methods before to long. Lets see what happens in the aftermath of the Olympics.

The points you make about the "dependance" on local authorities illustrates my point about education. Like good parents society needs to ween people off the stabiliser wheels and give them the condifence to pedal their own bikes. It will not happen over night but we must begin, little by little and it must be soon before the stabilisers wear out.

Mary Latham

23:49 PM, 19th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Teena, What then is the disease? We must identify it before it can be treated. Why do people feel disengaged?

I do agree that we need to use all of our resources and energy helping those who are in genuine need but first we must separate the needy from the greedy. By greedy I mean those who drain societies rescources, not just money, when they are actually capable of supporting themselves. Actually I do not blame those people the blame is shared by all of us because we have allowed the safety net to become a cage. People have lost confidence in their own ability to survive because for so long they have not needed to. We must now hold their hands for a while until they find their feet and also their dignity. It is not dignified to give people public funding and expect them to prioritise their spending when they are well aware that the legal system will enable them to use the services of landlords and utility companies without paying for those services for many, many months. When eventually they run out of time they know that the local authority will not allow them to remain homeless - where is the motivation to take control of their lives? So many Landlords tell me about tenants who say they cannot afford to work because they would loose too much money - their benefits being much more than they could earn. This is a crazy situation how can society allow elderly dignified people, who have worked for many years and contributed to the "system" to just scrape by, to rely on kindness of neighbours and friends or live in lonliness and solitude while others, who are able to support themselves, are demotivated by the same "system".

I am a twin and I sat in the classroom beside my sister while she stared blankly at those pages that spoke to me. Even now she cannot complete a form or read a complicated communication but she has lived most of her life in another country where she learned the language and taught children English. She is a wonderful, sought after, teacher because she knows, more than anyone, that we all need to develope a strategy to deal with our short suit while playing to our long suit. We all do that in some form or another, we are not all created equal but we are all programmed to survive - its the prime objective, the motivator with which we are all born.

My proposition is simply this. Give people back the motivation. Give those who need our help all the help that they need. First find out which is which. I didn't know that I could swim until I got into the water and tried.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

6:39 AM, 20th September 2011
About 8 years ago

I was very pleased to hear about you teaching financial education to youngsters, That is the kind of thing that is sorely needed. I used to be Head of Homelessness for West Wiltshire District Council (London boy amongst all those trees????? You know it didnt last long) And I used to go into local secondary schools and do 40 minutes on how homelessness works, which I always began with open questions on what they thought would happen, The answers were always shockingly naive, the old cliche of 'If I've been born and brought up in the area I'll get a council house' was still the norm.

I htink your estimation of the difference between Brum and London is accurate, in that London rents have risen so far they will be difficult for landlords to turn down. In my immediate area rents have gone up between £200 and £300 a month this year alone. For a literal example me and me missus, Frazzy moved into our 1 bedroom flat in March paying £1,175 a month, the flat above, which doesnt even have our small garden is currently back on the market @ £1,400.

Our big question is what will happen come March 2012? Will our landlords take into account that they have a middle aged professional couple who pay the rent on time, clean the gutters and keep everything ship shape and limit an increase or go for the extra £4,000 a year? There are 7 tenants chasing evey single property in London, my bet is the latter. Which means although we love the place we havent bothered investing in it as a home because we dont expect to be here long, the maths are against us.

So even though me and Frazzles both work, me in housing and her as a self employed travel consultant we are also down in the lower depths of Maslow too, struggling to get by because there is a gold rush mentality going on among so many landlords. One of the benefits of being older is having seen things come in cycles. I have seen a variety of boom and bust situations before and it always ends in tears. Tenants are suffering at the moment but when the market bursts landlords will get hit too.

In Brum I would imagine that even though rents are still high the rent increases might not be so much of a temptation.

Mary Latham

9:21 AM, 20th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Ben Before we started to develope the module we surveyed young people aged 14-16 across the West Midlands to find out what they thought.

The average age that they aspired to live independantly was 21years

69% said that they would fund this from benefits

58% thought the local authority would house them.

We were shocked and we knew then that they needed a reality check.

I hope that your landlord realises the value of a good tenant Ben. Landlords need to take your comment on board.

"Which means although we love the place we havent bothered investing in it as a home because we dont expect to be here long, the maths are against us"

Sensible Landlords want tenants who stay in their properties for a long time, make a home and feel that they "belong". People who feel like that treat the property, the neighbours and the Landlord with more respect and it is up to all Landlords to inspire that sense of belonging because then everyone wins. The first thing that I tell a new tenant is that I want them to be happy and to stay with me forever. I show them my membership of NLA and Accrediation as evidence that I am a serious Landlord and I will not be selling up and distrupting their lives. This issue comes up now more than ever because so many accidental Landlords are asking tenants to leave so that they can sell the property. My aim, as a Landlord, is to help my tenants to get past the first two levels of Maslows triangle by giving them a firm foundation upon which they can rely. They will then provide me with the firm foundation upon which I can rely.

9:39 AM, 20th September 2011
About 8 years ago

Hello Mary. I think we are fundamentally different in our viewpoint. I do not consider our society to be diseased. I do not segregate people into 'needy or greedy'. As opposed to what? Normal? I have a great deal of optimism and trust in the quality of our country and our society. Whilst I may often be accused of naivety I have sufficient life experience of the highs and lows life can throw at us, and I have worked with some of the most hard to help groups in our society and seen exactly the kind of judgement and prejudice they come up against on a daily basis which pigeon holes them into whatever group seems to fit the prejudice.
We can all cite examples of people who have overcome adversity to make a great success of their endeavours. There are many more who have been crushed by their experiences and I see no shame in that. This may be character, upbringing, circumstance - just life's rich variety.
It is my belief that the only way to teach is by example. As a society we need to be less judgemental, more inclusive, more accepting of human failings. We need to trust that given a ladder to climb, the vast majority would choose self-esteem and dignity over reliance on handouts. As to the rest they will always be a minority and I see no need to formulate policies around them which takes resource away from the main target which is to support everyone else. Ultimately, I am proud to live in a country that will not see families and children go homeless. I do, however, think this should come at whatever cost a person can afford rather than be a given. So personal time, community volunteering, which in turn would contribute to self-esteem and employability, is an option.
A tenant who can work out the benefits system is capable of financial management. If you live on the edge of solvency, every penny counts and work is by no means secure for many. Not taking that step away from the security of having everything paid for you could be seen as good financial sense. It could be seen as weakness, it could be seen as many things but actually I think staying in a place where you know what is coming and you feel secure is just human nature.
I am more comfortable applying judgements like 'greedy', to organisations - our large employers who set wages at an un-liveable level knowing tax payers will subsidise their profits by paying their employees Tax Credits. How on earth did successive governments allow that to happen? People who work full-time and still have to claim who had never claimed before that system was in place. Mums who work part-time but cannot work out how to increase their hours without losing essential money or receiving a large claw-back bill out of the blue in the new tax year.
If we want people to take responsibility for themselves we need to stop treating citizens like problems who need to be sorted and start to give back responsibility; to individuals, to parents, to children, to schools, to employers, to communities. As a society we need to re-learn that actions have consequences, and that's OK. Because it means if you do something good, you get the rewards.
Allow heads to run their schools, parents to be responsible for their children. Keep the safety net and see what shakes out.
You seem to be involved at a high level in solutions. I see no solution with a political system of career politicians making short-term policies aimed at renewing their mandate every 3-5 years. We move forwards. We move backwards. And in every city across the country there are people who volunteer many more hours than me who just keep plugging away at trying to give individuals a sense of worth in the face of a society which seems to endlessly judge. t

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