Here at Shelter, we often hear from landlords who are making a positive difference in their tenants’ lives and playing a part in addressing the housing emergency. We wanted to celebrate these great landlords, who show that owning houses is about more than making profits – it’s about providing homes.
I became a landlord at the age of 36 when I met my partner and together we bought a two-bed house in south London without selling the flat that I already owned. We only had modest incomes in the charity sector but this was the mid-1990s, before the big rise in London property prices. I realise now how incredibly fortunate we were.
Some years later, selling our London house to move to the South West created w hat we consider an obscene profit, so we discussed how to use the money not only for supplementary income in our old age, but to share the benefits with others. I got involved with a local initiative to welcome Syrian families to the UK. There was a shortage of supportive landlords willing to offer secure tenure at an affordable level, so we bought a two-bed house specifically for the scheme.
We’re now hosting our second refugee family, who have just had a baby here. We also purchased a building in the centre of our new home town that comprises three flats and a shop. The shop has become a pay-it-forward café, and two of the flats are rented out at housing benefit level to people who’ve had housing difficulties, as part of a scheme run by a local charity.
Last year I helped found a local Landlords Association, which among other things has revealed the difficult feelings that many of us have about owning additional properties when others have none. It has also given me confidence in the potential for property ownership to function as a form of ethical investment, at least until the whole economic system is turned on its head. The Landlords Association is part of a wider initiative called Fair Housing for Frome, whose activities include finding ways to support tenants and lodgers, providing emergency shelter for homeless people, setting up a Community Land Trust, and working to establish a community of tiny homes in the town.
I can’t say it’s easy being a landlord – you’re on duty every day of the year – but I try to take my responsibilities to my tenants seriously and see it as a job, not just an investment in bricks and mortar. We’ve had to spend a large amount of money and time on each of the properties, and you never know what’s about to go wrong.
There’s also an increasing amount of legislation to keep up with. Many private landlords have a sense of social responsibility but currently feel isolated and unsupported. That’s why I’m really pleased that Shelter has launched a project looking at how we can all work together better to improve the private rented sector, helping landlords to become a force for good in society.
If you’re a landlord and would like to get more involved with Shelter, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org