Our Landlords for Good project is about working together with landlords who want to help us address the problems in the housing system. We aim to amplify the voices of good landlords, and to build a network of landlords who campaign with us to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help.
In this guest blog, Helen explains her motivations for getting involved in the project.
I became a landlord about six or seven years ago. I was made redundant and bought my first property with my redundancy money. Renting the place worked out better than any return I could get on a deposit account and I was wary of the stock market.
Later on, I downsized my own house and bought three more properties.
I recently signed up to join Shelter’s Landlords for Good project to help make positive changes to the rental sector. I have seen the effects that bad landlords can have on the lives of tenants – most of whom are on low incomes and, as a result, have limited control over their housing options.
I used to volunteer for Citizen’s Advice where I’d see this a lot. Once, a woman came in – she had three children and, due to two being under five, she couldn’t work. But, she always paid her rent.
Her landlord tried to evict her, but the notice was wrong and had to be withdrawn. So, instead, he increased her rent from £800 to £1,200 per month, which took her above the benefit ceiling. She couldn’t pay it and was evicted. She was put into shared accommodation with her children. There are landlords who will say things like, ‘Well, it’s my property, so I’ll do what I want with it.’ But, for me, once I’ve rented my property out to someone, it becomes their home.
I think all tenants should have the right to a long-term tenancy. Insecurity of tenure is very stressful for tenants and disruptive to families.
On the other hand, there are lots of good landlords. They get upset when they’ve done everything right and they have tenants who don’t pay their rent, or who damage the property. They get upset because, in those instances, using a Section 8 eviction notice can take up a lot of time and money, and cause a great deal of stress to the landlord, who just wants to find good tenants.
The highs of being a landlord
For me, the best thing about being a landlord is being able to provide homes for people. I don’t use a letting agency, so I know all my tenants. When repairs are needed, we can have honest discussions about what can be done and the timescales.
I had one tenant who was in arrears for a long time because they lost their job. I didn’t take any action because we discussed their situation and I was confident that they would pay the rent eventually. I also felt that it was a very unfair system and was out of the tenant’s control.
Most things run smoothly for me. I manage the properties myself from 400 miles away and find I can do most things remotely. You can phone a plumber from wherever you are.
Normally, I visit twice a year and think I have a good relationship with my tenants. I contacted them all at the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to see if there were any issues. A couple of delayed rents were agreed. On the whole, I found that those already on benefits were able to continue to pay the rent as usual.
There are, of course, also lows to being a landlord
One example was a family who moved into one of my properties. The woman was from Africa, and her husband was a local man.
Unfortunately, in the first week of the tenancy she was subject to racial harassment from a neighbour. It was all reported to the police, but her husband told me that he did not feel safe living there any longer because he was a carer and worked mostly nights.
He was worried about his wife and two very young children being there alone. He wanted to give up the tenancy and look for somewhere else.
We agreed that he could move out as soon as he found somewhere and that I would not hold them to the tenancy agreement. They moved out at the end of the first month and I let the property again within 10 days.
I felt very sorry that the family had been forced to move, as they had really liked the flat and the garden. One good thing that did come out of the situation was the lovely letter they sent to me when they left – thanking me for my support. I was glad that I had been able to help them in a way, and that they hadn’t felt alone.
The benefits of working with Shelter’s Landlords for Good project
I’m hoping that, through the Landlords for Good project, people can get a better insight into what it is like to be a landlord.
Those considering it as an investment option can better understand that it is not like putting your money in the bank. You can’t just turn up and ask for it back at a moment’s notice. But, on the other side, you do get a much better return on your investment.
It would also be positive if the project could help to break down the prejudice and discrimination against people claiming benefits. Most people on benefits are working and they just need a safe place to call home so they can get on with their lives.