Why Do People Hate Landlords?

by Property118.com News Team

9:06 AM, 27th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Why Do People Hate Landlords?

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Why Do People Hate Landlords?

I decided to write this article as a companion piece to Mary Latham’s recent article “I will not say sorry for being a good landlord”.

I originally conceived it as simply a reply but I thought I had too much to say on the matter.

Mary’s concern is a common one that I hear. “What have I ever done to them?”. And it is one that I completely understand. I think I have an insight on it, an insight born through having once been a landlord, currently being a tenant and being a person whose job means I get stuck between landlords and tenants in disputes and allegations, I think this gives me a uniquely rounded perspective.

Mary’s argument was that she is a great landlord and that many landlords go way beyond the job description providing safe housing for people that often even the council won’t touch. One thing Mary said that I thought was brilliant is “Landlords offer homes to human beings not buildings to tenants”. I think that very succinctly marks the difference between great landlords and not so great ones.

When I was a landlord I thought that way. It never really occurred to me that the flat that my 2 tenants were renting was anything other than their home. When I split with my girlfriend at the time (girlfriend number 306) I ended up sleeping for 2 months on my best mate’s settee. Although I owned a property I didn’t want to foist my problems onto my tenants.

Eventually one of them moved out and I moved in with the remaining tenant who not only became one of my closest friends but who also later became my live-in landlord, when I split with girlfriend number 307.

Now I am with girlfriend number 308, the wonderful Frazzy Cox and we rent privately. This is not a lifestyle choice you understand. She owns a house with her mum and can’t get a second mortgage, I can’t get a mortgage on my own because my ex, who ran away with a Rastafarian toy-boy……..(I’m not bitter you understand), is in negative equity so I can’t get my investment money back and so we are stuck renting, and I have to say we both loathe it with a vengeance.

But why? Are our landlords evil villains? Do they harass us? Do they threaten us? No! I’ve never met them. We haven’t so far had a repair that needs to doing so I can’t test their response times. We pay our rent on time every month and they leave us alone.

So why do we hate renting privately?

I think this goes to the heart of the matter, the reason why people so often hate landlords and it has nothing to do with anything a landlord may or may not do. It is entirely in the realm of the perception of landlords as a species.

I have been a bit obsessed with this for some time now. Every day I hear people complain to me about their landlords. Around 25% prove founded and their landlords have done dreadful things but the rest are perfectly OK yet they are still resented by their tenants.

It is a control issue.

When I was a home owner I could do what I liked with my home, I could decorate it with garish colours, I could put up shelves and nobody could take it away from me unless I defaulted on the mortgage. I had control over my environment. If I wanted to put I shelves, I could.

As a tenant, that power isn’t there. Frazzy and I love our flat, we love the area we live in too. We are proud of our home and were made even more proud when the letting agent did a recent visit and said he had never seen the place looking so good. We are old school like that and think it is our responsibility to be clean and neighbourly.  But the thing is, the decision over whether or not we stay isn’t ours.

The control over this most basic element of living is not in our hands, we are only here on somebody else’s whim.

Our 12 month contract is up in March 2012. I would imagine, given the way we occupy the property and the fact that we are never a day late with the rent would make the landlords happy to continue the letting but if the landlord wants to bung £200-£300 a month on the rent, which is what is happening around our manor, then we can’t afford to stay and will have to move.

Frazzy tells me that she feels she is just house sitting someone else’s property all the time. We don’t put up pictures, because we don’t want arguments about damage to walls and we don’t buy any furniture we really like in case we can’t find anywhere to re-home it. We are constantly aware of our March deadline and gearing ourselves up for the next unwanted big move.

I never had that when I was a home owner. It has nothing to do with the actions of our landlords, it is simply the lot of the tenant.

Now here’s the rub, and my response to Mary. Whether it is the result of the job that I do or the fact that as a Buddhist we are really hot on self-responsibility, I can acknowledge how I feel, living the tenuous and temporary life of a tenant, without having to blame my landlord for it.

Most of the tenants I see on a daily basis can’t do this. They feel the same way that I do but they blame their landlord for the insecurity they feel.

This is why I say that landlord hating has nothing to do with the actions of an individual landlord but it resides in the perennial problem that tenants have no control over the most basic element of their lives, their home.

Fine if this were a lifestyle choice, but despite what various government angles take, with their obsession with ‘Mobility’, for most it isn’t.

I don’t pretend to have a definitive solution but I am working on it, in fact this for me is my big calling, the thing I am stumbling towards, the reason why I blog incessantly for no financial benefit. I want to find an answer. The areas that I think contribute to the problem, and therefore the landlord hating situation are:-

  • Assured Shorthold Tenancies – prior to 1989 most tenancies didn’t come with an automatic eviction clause. This has taken away any notion of control over a person’s home and has had a knock on effect to tenant morale.
  • The perception of renting as a poor second – earlier in the 20th century 90% of people rented, nowadays renters are often looked down upon, especially by arrogant and unpleasant letting agents, I speak from experience. One letting agent I door-stepped about his staff’s criminal actions told me that he thought all tenants were scum.
  • The current situation, especially in London, of spiraling rents enhances the stereotype of the greedy landlord. I read a recent article where a landlord claimed he couldn’t understand why everybody kept talking about a housing crisis, saying things for him had never been better.

If things are going to change between landlords and tenants it aint gonna happen at a level of housing law, it aint gonna happen by people like me prosecuting more landlords, it is gonna happen through landlords and tenants finding a common humanity and a way to understand each other’s needs and expectations.

This is why I champion people like Mary and HMO Landlady. People who see what needs to really happen. None of us has a winning political or legal manifesto but I think we are at least looking in the right place, which is more than can be said of most politicians and even campaign groups like Shelter.


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Comments

Mary Latham

17:31 PM, 27th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Yes Ben I totally agree with you. No one is at his best when he feel less than he is and I always tell landlords that it is our job to make tenants "feel" that they are at home. We cannot creat this feeling through AST's or any other type of tenancy agreement we have to behave as though the property is the home of the tenant. These are some of the things that I suggest to all landlords and these are the things that I do myself because I never tell any landlord to do anything that I do not do myself.

1. Never use your key in the door of a tenanted property. Even when you have the tenants consent to go there and you know that they will be out - anyone can have a sick day, forget that the landlord is coming, have a last minute overnight guest etc. Always knock the door or ring the bell and give the tenant time to invite you in. If after a while there is no reply go into the property. If you hear the shower running go back outside, give the person time to dress and telephone to say that you are outside
2. Always take off your shoes when you enter a tenants property
3. Always ask permission to sit down - even if you bought the chair at that time it belongs to the tenants home
4. Never "LOOK" treat the property as you would your mothers home, do not be seen to be looking around unless you are making an agreed inspection visit
5. Respect that people have different life styles and do not comment on the washing up, the clothes on the floor or anything else that will go when the tenants leaves
6. Excuse yourself if there are people watching the TV when you visit, particularly if the kids are watching. I always say that I am sorry and that I will try to keep my voice down - not easy for me but an important acknowledgement that you are in their home
7. Take a little gift - a bottle of wine, a tin of chocies, a few cans ... I never visit a friend without a little gift why would I visit a tenant without one. We are talkiing about £5 and this is the best investment a landlord can make
8. Pay a compliment "Its nice and cosy in here" or "It feels really homely here" or "I like the way you have arranged the furniture" or "the front garden it looking nice"
9. Do whatever you went to do quickly and leave them in peace
10. Thank them for their time, for letting you sort the problem, being patient - anything and wish them a nice day or evening and smile.

There have been times when I have left a property with a smile on my face when I could have cried at the state of the property but I wait until I am down the road before I use naughty words and let off steam. On one occassion I could smell socks/feet from the moment I entered the hall. I smiled and said "I can see that you boys are really at home here" One of them replied "My mum would never let me live like this" I answered "but are you happy" and in a chorus they all said "yes". We all laughed. I plonked a pack of 6 cans on the coffee table and when I asked for the rent (which was well overdue) they all paid up and said sorry. The rent was never late again. When they left the property after a year the "fairies" had been and cleaned it to a good standard a tiddle up and a sprinkle of perfume here and there removed the smell that still lingered. Every woman has a perfume that they bought by mistake - why waste it.

As far as rent increases are concerned I expect to fall below the market rents when I have long term tenants and I think that most landlords realise that the cost of churn/void often outweighs a rent increase. I try to keep rent increases to a minimum and some years I do not increase rents at all.

I would never offer an AST longer than a year but I always show my NLA membership and my accreditation membership to show that I am a long term landlord and tell them that I have no plans to sell the property because it is my main source of income and I hope that they stay forever so long as they meet the terms of the agreement.

I don't think that a landlord can do any more

Ben Reeve-Lewis

19:41 PM, 27th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Mary I'll move to the modlands and you can be my landlord haha.

I read an article in Landlord and Buy to Let magazine about a year ago by a landlord who adopts the same approach. He championed the value of moving in boxes full of cleaning goods, Tea bags and wine in reducing tenant problems in the future.

I am convinced that what this actually does is humanise the landlord for the tenant. I would even say sit down over a cuppa and tell the tenant about your life, your kids, hopes etc as this has the same effect. it is easier for a tenant to rip off a person who they just see as a cypher, a stereotype.

When tenants and landlords fall out they take polarised positions. Each moans to theor freinds and colleagues abiout the other and of course, friends being friends they agree with them which further polarises their positions. That is why I actualy quite enjoy getting landlords and tenants around the kitchen table and I subtly provoke them into talking about their lives. It doesnt take too long to get them going "Ah shucks" and apologising. I join in too until we get 3 friends talking around a table.

It really does work like that.

Of course it isnt all "Walton's moments", sometimes a tenant is intent on ripping off the landlord, thats why god created possession orders, and sometimes the landlord wont listen to reason and embarks on a mad criminal course of action, thats why god created Tenancy Relations Officers haha

Mary Latham

22:37 PM, 27th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Oi! God created neither. God gave man (and woman) free will - that may have been a Friday afternoon job

HMOLandlady

17:27 PM, 28th October 2011
About 9 years ago

308 girlfriends? Yeah right. With that many relationships you understand the need to be hospitable and remain on friendly terms to avoid any awkward moments in the future!

Even in the heat of the moment my tenants and I understand the score and we leave shaking hands as I don't particularly want an unpleasant encounter should I bump into them in the street. As for goodies I used to give each HMO a "party" at Christmas which included wine, beer, shortbread and a tin of sweeties but realised this was somewhat insensitive to the ex-alcoholics and unfair to the rest of the tenants if the alcoholics got to the grog first. Now, it's a box of shortbread for all tenants as it's fairly difficult to scoff the lot in one go without being sick.

Like any client/business relationship it needs to be nutured with mutual respect. They are paying for a service, we are providing that service to the best of our ability...............how people behave during this transaction is up to them and how they wish to be perceived.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

17:53 PM, 28th October 2011
About 9 years ago

When I say 308 girlfriends i dont mean it as a boast, I mean I have been blown out by nearly all of 'em.................................


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