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Better tenants mean better landlords

Alan Ward - Chairman of the RLAI am delighted to introduce a special guest post from Alan Ward, who is Chairman of the Residential Landlord Association.

The bad landlord problem

There’s a new pejorative term being attached to landlords – amateur is now added to rogue.

Meanwhile Phil Wilson MP recently launched a ten minute Bill to regulate landlords. Using Shelter’s statistics to justify it was like using figures from Alcoholics Anonymous to ban alcohol.

Tenants with problems will of course go to organisations like Shelter.

Most tenants are happy with their landlord

Most tenants in the private sector are happy with their rental – more than in social housing, according to the English Housing Condition report. So the problem lies with a minority.

And the evidence from licensing HMOs has shown that however much regulation is applied it will be the compliant majority who pay the cost, while those who seek to avoid regulation will continue to drag down the reputation of the majority.

The educated tenant

The answer lies with empowering and educating tenants to know what they are renting. They take more trouble buying a car than they do checking the quality of a property or landlords’ credentials.

Finding a home to rent is about more than location, beds, pay the rent and move in.

Things that a tenant should check are …

If tenants knew about landlord accreditation schemes, deposits, ASTs, gas and electrical certificates, furniture safety, ventilation and condensation, not to mention HHSRS and all the rest of the regulations, good landlords would have good tenants queuing up.

Whenever did a tenant ask for more than a gas safety certificate – and then only the parent of a student? Has any tenant ever appreciated the value of an EPC or asked to see the recent bills if it’s a lower band house when heating could be more expensive?

Do they twiddle the taps or the knobs on appliances to see they work – or know a Gas-Safe certificate is needed for each appliance? Would they recognise an RCD if it hit them in the face? Better not as you would be liable for compensation of course. And are there any signs of damp patches or leaks from gutters or rainwater pipes?

Personal security amounts to more than locks on doors and windows – and smoke/heat alarms, blankets and extinguishers are vital as are furniture fire labels. But are they checked?

Why should a landlord bother if tenants don’t?

Landlords reading this and seeing it as a statement of the obvious should ask themselves why they have invested their time and money on presenting a safe and decent home, when tenants don’t appreciate it?

The opposite logic says that in today’s market, bad landlords can get away with poor property or even with criminal negligence and tenants are either ignorant or gullible.

But I’ll be the first to accept there are tenants who need a hazard sign on them too: responsibility applies to both landlord and tenant.

Amateur tenants?

This litany sounds like an inventory clerk’s job – but their role is to represent the landlord and although a tenant is supposed to be present, too often impatience and dislike of paperwork reduces the tenant to indifference and leaves them to regret their loss later.

Some schools provide social education and financial management but none as far as I can find, offer anything on choosing and renting property.

RLAIt is I suggest, not landlords who are amateur, it is the vast majority of tenants.

Alan Ward
Chairman, Residential Landlord Association

About the author

Tessa Shepperson Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is also a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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11 Responses to Better tenants mean better landlords

  1. I think tenant education is a good idea. Most tenants only start looking into things which there are problems, by which time it is generally too late.

    I would be happy to go along to local schools for example.

    There is quite a lot of help for tenants on this site, for example if they look at all the posts in the tips for tenants category http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/category/tips-tenants/

    Also my Landlord Law site has an extensive tenants section which can be read about here: http://www.landlordlaw.co.uk/how-landlord-law-can-help-tenants

  2. I can certainly see the merits of a more informed tenant, but if the number of landlords that belong to membership organisations such as the RLA are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of numbers in operation, how can anyone say that rogue landlords are in the minority?

    Take my block of 22 private flats in Walthan Forest, one of the poorest boroughs in London.

    4 owner-ocupiers and the rest rented, with just one of those a really decent leaaseholder/landlord.

    I do not dispute that there are some great landlords out there but as a former PRS tenant myself (before becoming a leaseholder in 2003), I had more than my fair share of rogue landlords over a number of years. It was only the last 7 years of renting that I had a great landlord/tenant relationship.

    I would also like to note that whilst many tenants may undoubtedly go to Shelter for advice, there will be a considerable number of foreign tenants that will not have a clue where to go. Firstly they don’t know who their landlord actually is, and secondly that same landlord is likely to hide behind a useless letting agent.

    Mr Ward, there is a whole other world outside that of the RLA and and I am just one example of someone living in it!

    Kind Regards

    Miss Sharon Crossland AIRPM

    Leasehold Life

    • Alan Ward says:

      Because Sharon, (sadly) it’s a hard game getting landlords to spend a measly £75 to belong to the RLA, but that doesn’t mean they are not a good landlord just because they don’t belong to an association or accreditation scheme. Empowered tenants will drive up standards reducing the market for poor landlords. Council resources are barely adequate to pursue the worst cases. It is precisely because I am a realist that I know the consumer can make a difference if they can be bothered to do their homework before renting. Equally realistic to know things are going to change quickly. Thanks for reading and responding. Alan

  3. @linniR says:

    An interesting post from Alan, thanks.

    As an ‘amateur’ landlord who is also a Domestic Energy Assessor (I produce those pesky EPCs that tenants apparently ignore) I was pleased to see the EPC included in Alan’s list of items that tenants should know about.

    Letting agents justify not showing prospective tenants the EPC on the grounds that they don’t ask to see it, but really, is that a valid excuse for ignoring the law?

  4. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    Alan, I’m a tenant myself and also a TRO who gets involved with disputes between landlords and tenants.

    I heartily agree that tenants should know more but I dont think that will change the way letings run much. 99% of the cases I deal with of harassment and illegal evictions are carried out by amateur (I didnt invent that phrase by the way) Landlords who committ criminal offences because they honestly havent got a clue what the law requires.

    The professional portfolio landlords do know and run professional businesses. I cant remember the lats time I got involved with allegations against one.

    Now speaking as a tenant who has recently had to move I think you are wide of the mark about prospective tenants being nmore discerning in the current claimate. Depending on whose figures you read there are between 5 and 9 tenanst chasing evey property at the moment. My partner and I had to sign up to the first avaiable property just to make sure we were out of the old property on time. Our agent, a Major national one were an absolute joke. They did nothing we asked them to do once they got our money. Discernment and choice didnt enter into it and dont for many new tenants.

    Love the idea of hazard sign on tenants though….I’ll go with that one :)

  5. JS says:

    Well, my point of view is that just because the tenants don’t ask doesn’t mean the landlord shouldn’t care.

    For instance, I am well aware of deposit protection and HMO licensing requirements, but when looking at places to rent I conveniently forget to mention these things to prospective landlords. This is so I can pull it out and batter them with it if they try to Section 21 me for whatever reason. My position is that these things have been around for ages, and if they don’t deal with it, they’ve only themselves to blame.

  6. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    Haha I wouldnt go that far JS but I think the problem is, when it is very much a landlord’s market, as it is now you would be ill advised to start making waves about these things before you move in as they will simply let to someobody who they deem to be less trouble. Gas safe? Deposit protection? No thanks.

    As a tenant I have been lucky in having landlords who have had everything properly and professionally in place, but as a TRO people would be gob smacked to learn of the amount of feckless, shifty and downright dishonest landlords there still are in operation. It shouldnt be happening in this day and age but it is. The spirit of Peter Rachman is very much alive and wellnI’m afraid.

    Everyone knows there is a shortgage of properties out there in many areas, particularly London. Carefully choosing a landlord or a property is a bit of a luxury. At the moment tenants just have to do it with their fingers crossed, they have no influence in the market

  7. Alan Ward says:

    Ben/JS – I accept London is rather different from the rest of the country and property is desperately short supply. But why would you jeopardise yourselves by taking the first thing you can get?
    And I have been warning about the housing supply crisis for a year – which is why tenants have to defend themselves against the against the less-than-honest types who infect the business. But sadly that’s true of almost any business these days, it’s certainly not exclusive to property and landlords. We are not educated to discriminate on quality, only price.
    Take care and stay safe.
    Alan

  8. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    HI Alan. As a housing professional who sees the worst landlords going I have even more cause to not want to take the first thing I could get but I had no choice.

    My section 21 was up, I didnt want to force my old landlord to go to court, partly on moral grounds but also because it can knacker your references further down the line and make it even harder to rent if you look like a difficut tenant.

    Plus there are just so many tenants chasing properties. A year ago when we first moved in together, Frazzy and I were viewing maybe 8 or 10 properties in a weekend. 3 months ago when we had to look again we were lucky if we found 2 on the market so when something halfway decent and affordable came up we literally had to run back to the agents to get our deposit down before the other couple who were viewing did the same thing.

    In that kind of market a tenant has little power or control and once signed up through our agents, the godawful Haarts, when we kept asking them to clarify contractual points with the landlords they signally failed to do anything we requested at all so we meekly and mutely took up residence with the usual bad taste in our mouths and sense of having been stuffed yet again. If a Tenancy Relations Officer like myself, who earns his living fighting for better deals within landlord/tenant law cant get a better deal himself, what chance do others have?

    Which takes us back to your article, in a market like this is at the moment a tenant just has to take what they can get and the lanldord has all the control

  9. A somewhat simplistic response, Alan.

    Of course just because a landlord doesn’t have accreditation that doesn’t make him a bad landlord. This argument can however, just as easily work the other way round!

    And how do you suggest that foreign tenants empower themselves?

    I personally can’t afford an interpreter!

    Sharon




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