Wednesday, 14 May 2014

An Open Letter to My Landlord

Dear Mrs. Landlord,

When Mr. Letting Agent phoned me in February and asked if we'd like to move out of our house, I was surprised to say the least.

You see, the purpose of a legally binding one year contract is that there is a fixed period of time (ie. one year) that we can feel secure in our home. Unfortunately, over the years, the idea of a truly 'long term let' has disappeared and tenants can often only have a contract for up to one year. We live in hope each year that Mrs. Landlord wants to renew our contract, and if she doesn't then we're forced to move. Again.

Mr. Letting Agent informed us that your son had had some kind of personal crisis and that he needed a home. I was sorry to hear that, but indeed we did not wish to move. We had only moved in the previous June. We were just beginning to feel settled. This was our daughter's first home. Her first room. We had formed friendships with our neighbours. We liked our house. We liked our street. We could not afford to move.

I asked whether this meant you would be likely to renew our contract at the end of June, but Mr. Letting Agent assured me that he was sure your son's crisis would be sorted out by June and that everything would go back to normal.

So when Mr. Letting Agent emailed in April to say that you did not wish to renew our contract we were devastated. We had ten weeks to find a new property. But you see, it costs a lot of money to move, and we had only moved the previous year. We're not like you, you see, we don't have investment properties dotted about the place, piles of money in savings accounts, lots of assets and capital. If we did, we wouldn't be renting a house from you.

We're hardworking people. My husband works full-time in an entry level position and after our daughter was born last year, I gave up work to become self-employed and build a freelance writing career. It's going really well actually, thanks for asking, but it does mean that my income tips us over income thresholds which mean we're not entitled to any benefits. It means that some months we are rich and some months we are poor so really we need to keep our expenditures low so that we're covered in those times of famine.

But you see, the housing market has changed since we moved last year:
  • Rents have shot through the roof so there's nothing really available for the amount that we pay now. We pay you £625 rent, but we'll be paying our new landlord £675.
  • There's less houses around, more competition, so we can't get the same space for the same money.
  • Because the market is less secure, letting agents have upped their deposits so whereas last year we put down £625 deposit which we will hopefully get back, to move we have to pay six week's rent as deposit on our new property - £930.
It was very nice of you to offer a £400 incentive  towards our admin fees if we moved out four weeks early. Thankfully we have found somewhere to live so we will certainly take you up on that offer. But you see, because I'm now self-employed the referencing agencies won't account for my income. So we needed to find a guarantor.

We have some great people in our lives so thankfully this wasn't a problem - but not everyone knows somebody who earns 36 times the rent in a year. It also meant that we had to pay an extra £120 to have a credit check done on our guarantor, so your £400 didn't quite cover our fees, plus you still haven't actually given it to us yet so we still had to find the money from somewhere.

So, for our deposit, our admin fees and our first month's rent on the new property we needed over £2000. Sure, you're giving us £400. Sure, you will hopefully return 100% of our deposit to help cover these costs. But we still need that money upfront and, you see, we're not like you, we didn't have £2000 sitting in the bank, waiting until our landlord decided to kick us out.

But that's not the end of the story, is it? Today I found out that we're not the only family you're turfing out of their home.

Because you let out another property to another family. An apartment. And you actually want to move your son into the apartment rather than our house. So you decided, in your landlord wisdom, that you would move that family into our house.

I found this out today because the mother of that young family phoned Mr. Letting Agent in tears because her life is being turned upside down. He then decided to phone me to find out if we could move even earlier than planned.

Now, for the sake of this young mum, I would love to help. But I can't. It takes time, planning and money to move house. It requires days of packing. Days of cleaning in the hope of getting back our deposit. Hiring a van. Taking time off work. Recruiting the help of friends, family and neighbours. I can not move at the drop of a hat. I also need to move after pay day so that my future rent is taken at the right time in the month - there's lots to consider.

So I realised, we're actually the lucky ones. Sure, it's inconvenient. Sure, it's expensive. But at least we have had the choice of where we move to. This poor family have been turfed out of their home - presumably they haven't lived there that long otherwise you would just not renew their contract - and moved into a house that they've never even viewed!

Where do you get off, just turfing young families out of their homes?

Quite frankly, Mrs. Landlord, your son's personal crisis isn't my problem. It's not this other family's problem. And if he's over the age of 18, it's not your problem either. I understand you want to help him out, but the answer is not to start breaking contracts, playing musical houses and ruining people's lives. If you can't stand his presence in your own home then you are within your rights to evict him and it becomes the council's responsibility. Harsh. But true.

If you want to rent out properties, you have to abide by your contracts, no matter what your personal circumstance. And if you can't do that then you shouldn't be in the rental market at all. It is people like you that give landlords a bad name. Landlords should require to be licensed and they should be blacklisted if they fail to provide good quality housing within the rules of their own contracts.

I am fed up of jumping through hoops for people like you. I am fed up of bringing my family up in an environment that lacks security, where we could be forced to move every single year. But it seems that that is my destiny because our income doesn't allow us to save for a deposit, and even if we had a deposit, the lenders wouldn't lend us enough to buy a cardboard box.

So well done you for getting on the property ladder. Well done for joining the property investment game. But you're not doing anyone any favours. You're not some hero providing affordable housing for the poor, far from it. You're an absolute cowboy who doesn't seem to understand that young families need to put down roots. They need to have security. They need to live in damp free homes, safe homes, secure homes. And the longer landlords like you are in the game, the worse it's going to get for people like us.

So, Mrs. Landlord, if you will insist on continuing to rent out properties let me give you some friendly advice:
  • Contracts are legally binding. You can't just wake up one day and decide to break them.
  • You are obliged to take care of the upkeep of your properties. When I point out damp problems at every single property inspection, it's probably a sign that there is an ongoing issue that needs addressing.
  • You are providing a service that we, as tenants, pay for. Therefore, you should be running your investment properties as a business. We are your customer. If you want good tenants, provide a decent service.
  • Just because we can't afford to buy a house does not mean that we're uneducated, stupid, benefit scrounging individuals living as part of society's underclass. We are educated, we know what we're doing, we know our rights. You fulfil your side of the bargain, and we will fulfil ours.
  • You've bought your property as an investment. If you look after your investment you will gain a bigger return - that's business. So commit to the upkeep of your properties, commit to gaining decent, long term tenants and you will have a property that increases in value with a reliable income. It's not rocket science.
Thanks for your time, thanks for your house. I sincerely hope that you look after the poor family who you have so far treated so badly. And I sincerely hope your son understands the upheaval he has caused. How blessed he is to have a mum who is so willing to ruin other people's lives for the benefit of his own.

But for us, we can be glad we got out when we could, we can be glad that although we might be £2000 poorer, we are moving to a nice house that we like, in the right area and we hope we can stay in it for many years to come.

Yours sincerely,
Emily

I should state that this is in no way a personal attack on our landlord herself - she has been very apologetic of the circumstances we find ourselves in and has been a good landlord who we've had little cause to deal with thus far. This is more a commentary to raise awareness for the issues that faced by private tenants, the continual costs involved with renting and the lack of security left by one year contracts. Ours is by no means the worst renting story you'll find, but I'm sure many can relate and many will agree that private tenants deserve a better deal.

3 comments:

  1. Very well said Emily. I have dealt with many Landlords in my time on both a professional and personal level. There is not enough to protect the tenant if you ask me. I have been very lucky and my personal experience has been great. Professionally, I have seen this side of things and it SUCKS!! If they have that much money then surely they can help their son some other way than disrupting their tenants. I hope your move goes well and that you are very happy xx

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  2. Wow, I can't believe your landlord is doing this to two families, surely this can't be allowed. We've had problems with areas of upkeep in our flat, it's been going on since before we moved in (when our landlord's and his family were here), but now we're the ones running around between the council and the estate agents trying to get it sorted. I'm glad you guys have found somewhere, but it's a shame that you have to pay so much money upfront. Hopefully this new landlord will allow you to live in your new home until you're ready to move.

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  3. Thanks ladies! I think it's time private tenants get a fairer deal and I've written to my MP and the housing minister. Now I can just look forward to moving to our new house. :)

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