As a landlady, I can see what needs to change in our rental market

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.

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9 Comments
  1. A positive article to read, and an important reminder that landlords, like tenants are people. If both sides kept that in sight an improvement would result. Likewise, if Government showed some understanding of this policy may be improved.

    To respond to one part:”I wish there was an association of landlords who didn’t seek to make a huge profit from someone’s need for a home.”

    There are. They are called Councils and Housing Associations, where millions used to gain decent housing at an affordable cost, whilst the State benefited from the asset value, the social stability and the economic growth generated.

    If such a solution is not your cup of tea then there is always the option of forming a housing co-operative of like minded landlords and tenants. There may even be a tax advantage from doing so!

  2. For one hand this article gives a clear portrait of the grim situation that is facing the British housing market. On the other hand it emphasizes the right necessity of business ethics in that market.

  3. Thank you for your post. I’ve rented so many times in my life and it has become worse and worse over the years. I’ve only ever had one landlord like you, who, despite using a letting agent (who again, I couldn’t fault – the only time!) would – and did – do everything for us – fix the TV, returf the lawn, sort the plumbing – if he couldn’t do it himself, he got an expert – and I cried when I left that home because they needed it back – but they genuinely cared about me and my family and I could actually afford the rent because again, it was not the maximum. I had never realised that “As Tony Benn once said – we are not a nation of home owners, we are a nation of debtors.” but it’s something I’ve often said myself. We need more landlords like you and above all, we need to regulate the heinous lettings agency ‘industry’ which just extorts tenants and exacerbates their stress. Thanks again, I will be sharing.

  4. Well said. I am a tenant and have been lucky in that my present landlord is like you BUT my flat is now up for sale after 20 years here and I have been experiencing all the bad things about agents and landlords.There is just no security for tenants and to most landlords it seems renting is a money printing machine with no thought for the humans.

  5. British Quakers have established a new initiative which seeks to promote higher standards among private landlords – The Ethical Landlords Association. Check out this link; https://quakers-production.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/store/8569c6b1b9700095a38df4b4bb6f4043ac29517cfed1f746de5910404252
    A group of volunteers are currently working on the new website and further information will be available shortly. For further information please email contactus@ethicallandlords.org.uk

  6. Hi.What a great article, thank you Maureen. I wish more people had this attitude. The sale of some social housing led to the improvement of the estate that I lived on in the 80’s – an aspect which is normally ignored but made an enormous difference on the ground. The let down was that only 1 house was built for every 17 sold off. Privatisation by selling off of some old stock can make both economic and social sense so long as new housing continues in the appropriate numbers. Mixed housing is a very healthy thing. Regards, Jeremy.

  7. Shame your not the housing minister, take that as your next challenge.

    The whole housing agenda is built on greed and is no longer considered as a way of providing the basic need of warmth and shelter.

  8. Lived in private renting once, the landlord
    Lived next door, he walked in when ever he liked, his dog got in through the cat flap &
    Scattered the rubbish bin all over the kitchen, post for both property’s went in a box at the gate, he was taking my post, one was a very lucrative job offer, which I never received. I contacted a local housing association & they found me a house with in
    Weeks, its a large 3bedroomed house, my home, I have been here 16yrs & feel secure.
    Everyone should be happy in their own home, &
    Not be exploited for wanting a roof over their heads.

  9. I am a normal working class person,over the last 12 yrs,through hard work,become a landlord, which I never really intended to do, believe it or not .
    I look after my properties and the tenants look after my interest,they live there, it’s THEIR home, respect both ways,the relationship is excellent.
    Or course there are a few rogue landlords,but most are decent and would like nothing more than to see them OUT.
    Shelter,good responsible tenants and landlords should be united rather than fighting, it’s not our fault that there’s a housing crisis, Tory and labour governments have consistently failed to build enough.
    We provide homes, Shelter don,t, but how I wish we could work together to help ease the crisis, why not?
    We have a tsunami about to hit this dreadful housing situation even further.

    George Osbourne’s unthought out, stupid Section 24 policy from last years budget is being implemented from next April, it’s a tax on turnover rather than profit, an unfair,punitive tax hike that was previously introduced in Ireland but failed dramatically, so was scrapped, rents rose 50% and there were multiple evictions,crazy.
    Landlords, like me face the choice of raising rents or evicting tenants, sell to offset tax on a fictitious profit.
    Any revenue collected will be gobbled up to rehouse the lot, inc some landlords that have gone BUST!!
    Peterborough council have recently spent £1 million to rehouse the growing homeless in bloody Travel Lodge,s
    I would appeal to all to stand together.

    Check out
    “Axe the Tenant Tax on Facebook
    It’s in all our interests to get behind the growing number of people and professional organisations in a bid to remove this policy.

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