We recently received the following guest blog from a Shelter supporter, Maureen, and we thought we’d share it:
I have been a landlord/lady on and off for some time, and I cannot believe the ‘market’ value of my studio flat in Camden Town. Originally, when I first started letting it out, I could not bring myself to ask the going rate for it – it’s an attractive place but it’s only one room, though with a separate kitchen, and its own entrance and a garden.
I always felt that the onus was on me to offer something which was good value – I didn’t want it to have that ‘Oh that’ll do for them’ look that I’ve seen so often in rented accommodation.
For me, it’s always been more important and worthwhile to me to have a good relationship with my tenants than to feel I was squeezing the maximum profit from the situation.
Another way of ensuring that relations with tenants is good, rather than mutually hostile, is to give them the feeling that they are secure, that in 6 months or a year they won’t have to pack up their stuff and start the whole soul destroying process of searching and moving all over again, or that there’ll be another costly ‘contract’ which will again line the pockets of letting agents.
The flat will become their home, they will make it look nice, they’ll look after it, they will care if there’s mould around the bath and they’ll want the floor to be clean. Tenants deserve to be treated with respect and consideration.
I had lived in the flat myself before, and I’m not just grabbing as much money as I can get without caring about what I’m offering in return. I’ve never asked the full going rate or increased the rent while someone was living there, and consequently I’ve enjoyed excellent relationships with my tenants, and I’ve even remained friends with some of them after they moved on.
However, I am currently in a situation where I am both a landlord and a tenant, and I’m being forced to ask the maximum rent, solely because I’m having to pay the maximum rent myself.
I wish there was an association of landlords who didn’t seek to make a huge profit from someone’s need for a home. A home is like food – a necessity, and should be a right, not a means of making huge financial gains. Social housing should be a priority, and I don’t think it should ever have been sold off. As Tony Benn once said – we are not a nation of home owners, we are a nation of debtors. Now, we are also a nation of stressed tenants living in inadequate or unsuitable flats.
The worst case of exploitation I’ve witnessed was in a multi-occupied flat where one of the 12 occupants rented a bed under the stairs. Not even a curtain, and in full view of the front door. Only £75 a week though. I expect it’s more expensive than that now. If this isn’t a sign that our rental market is in desperate need of fixing, I don’t know what is. Too many renters are faced with putting up with dreadful homes.
And then there are letting agents. Charging tenants a fee at all is shocking enough; charging them for keys, and contracts and anything else they can think of is immoral and actually should be illegal. Landlords are making money, but tenants are exploited twice over.
The sheer lack of intelligence with which this terrible housing crisis is being handled – or rather not handled – is a scandal, which is why I’m proud to be a landlady who is supporting Shelter’s campaign to fix private renting.