We simply have to write in response to yet another “landlord hate” article from the Guardian. Written by Penny Anderson, this article is about the Governments proposed minimum three year tenancy period and goes a long way to show that Ms Anderson has little or no understanding of the Private Rental Sector, or even the larger world.
To read the article, click here
The article starts with Ms. Anderson’s nostalgia of the private rental sector;
“In the good old days, when knights were bold and children were happy with an orange for Christmas (that is, about 20 years ago) life for flat-hunters was simple. Find a flat; view it; decide you like it; maybe grab a quick landlord reference; pay one month rent in advance then another month as a deposit; and hey presto, in you move”
What she conveniently forgets is that industries and sectors mature, lessons are learnt (many at great expense) and those lessons are acted upon, normally by those at greatest risk, and in this regard, landords are no different. Twenty years ago, landords may have been trusting, even naive, but with experience of tenants and how the system and the courts work against them, landlords are no longer quickly and easily going to hand over their highly valued asset to someone they have never met before, before at least doing some due-diligence!
Her complaint appears to be that landlords are simply becoming too cautious, that pre-occupancy checks are too complex and she’s even complaining that many housing associations are now insisting that prospective tenants demonstrate their benefit to the community! Well, what a great idea, and exactly what is wrong with that? I have no doubt that Ms. Anderson will live in some leafy suburb where the only noise she will experience will be the barking of a Pug dog as the post man delivers the post, or the cooing of the Doves as they wake in the early dawn, but to those living in Social Housing, knowing that your neighbour is not a raving nut-case who is going to hold all night parties and stink the landings out with the smell of Wacky-Backy can only be of great relief, and it smacks of hypocrisy that this policy is criticised by those crying out for landlords to be more responsible.
And her criticism of landlords does not stop there, she goes on to write;
“Tenants get no assurances from mysterious landlords, who could be dangerous criminals or serial bankrupts about to lose the property. Must landlords provide proof that they, too, have never paid a utility bill late? Of course not”.
It’s hard to believe that such a naive statement could be written by a professional journalist! Didn’t it cross her mind that tenants too could well be criminals and indeed bankrupts or may have been evicted for not paying rent? If it didn’t, let me tell her that bad tenants do exist, tenants do try to hide bad debt and evictions and there are far more cases of landords being attacked, and even murdered, than there are of tenants being attacked. Landlords, especially those dealing with “vulnerable tenants” run huge risk to themselves and their properties and nobody blinks an eye-lid. Landlords do not have access to the criminal register to check if tenants could be dangerous criminals, murderers or pedophiles, but is seems in Ms. Anderson’s world, that it is only landlords who have the potential to be dangerous criminals, with everyone else being the victim?
Landlords face huge costs when a tenancy goes wrong and when tenants stop paying rent, any landlord who has experienced the process of possession or eviction will know what it entails; the cost is huge and the time is extreme. Landlords should be entitled to take what ever references they need to satisfy themselves of the risk they are taking. In other industries, it’s called a Risk Assessment and is pretty normal across the board. Would you expect to get a mortgage or a loan without providing proof that you can afford it or proof that you have a good credit rating? Would you walk on scaffolding without knowing it wasn’t going to collapse,? So why can’t a Landlord employ a “risk assessment”? And wouldn’t it be irresponsible of a Landlord to allow a person to take on a property that they could’t afford, no doubt Ms. Anderson and her chums would quickly blame the landlord for being irresponsible when the tenancy goes wrong.
I absolutely refute that all landlords require a pristine credit rating, but where there is evidence of a bad debt, such as a Money Order (CCJ) or bankruptcy, the landlord has every right to know about the circumstances so that they can make an assessment and if necessary, they are within their rights to ask that that tenancy is supported by a Guarantor, there is nothing wrong or onerous in that. And to imply that Landlords are now asking for CV’s before granting a tenancy is simply rubbish and is really scraping the sensationalism barrel.
Where exactly is the balance in this article and why does Ms. Anderson write sweeping generalisations about landlords? Ms. Anderson may be or may have once been a tenant, we don’t know that, and she may have friends who are or were once tenants, again we don’t know that either. But what we do know is that being a tenant does not make her an expert in this field, walking a mile in a landlords shoes may go someway to helping her understand her subject matter before writing such hateful statements in future.
The solution we are told by Ms. Anderson is affordable social housing;
“The solution is a mass programme of genuinely affordable social housing, with rents at roughly one quarter of average incomes, as in the olden days. This would mean tenants could afford their rent, unlike the current situation where they struggle to pay, not because they buy avocados for all their friends but because rents are stratospheric”.
From what we can make out, Ms. Anderson is suggestion that the Private Rental Sector is abandoned and that everyone currently living in PRS property moves en-mass to Social Housing when it is built (when!). Can you imagine a situation where people don’t have a choice, are housed in purpose built, in-expensive (because with the level of building proposed, it will have to be cheap), badly designed property (because it always is), living next to tenants who have not been vetted (because that will be outlawed in Ms. Anderson’s solution)? What a great idea, let’s make everyone equal and put them all in Social Housing, just like the Soviets did!
The vast majority of landlords are good people who simply wish to rent their property and get paid, that’s all they ask. They don’t seek to run it as their full time business and they don’t seek to become rich. All landlords know that as with any walk of life, there are some bad people amongst them and landords will readily acknowledge this, unfortunately, it hard to get some people to acknowledge that there are are also bad tenants.
Some tenants may want three year tenancies, but the overall majority do not. In the 20 or so years that I have been a landlord, I cannot remember once being asked for a three year tenancy, in fact, I’m certain that this would have scared plenty off! I have no doubt that in the interest of chasing votes (which by the way, they will not get), this government will not listen to landords and will push this policy through.
We have no doubt that Tenants will be able to sign up to a three year tenancy and leave when they want to leave. Landlords will be forced to grant three year tenancies but will not be allowed to get their property back when they want, that is pretty much the experience of landords anyway, so not much will change except the problems become bigger and more expensive for landlords. So may we suggest that whilst they are re-writing the tenancy laws, and to help avoid any further confusion for landlords, the Tories should rename the Landlord and Tenant Act theTenant and Tenant Act!