This article was recently published via Landlord Today and is typical of the bias shown against Landlords by the charity “Shelter”.
A new report from Shelter claims 61 per cent of private sector tenants have suffered a major problem such as damp, mould, leaking roof or windows - and that amateur, rather than intentionally rogue, landlords may be the biggest culprits.
The research, jointly authored with British Gas, says more than a quarter of landlords have no previous experience of letting out a property and 43 per cent do not regard letting as their major business.
The report claims that only one in 20 belongs to an accreditation scheme and Shelter is now calling for a mandatory national register, along the lines of the scheme advocated in the past year by the Labour Party.
The report, basing its findings on a survey of 4,500 private tenants, says “electrical hazards, animal infestations and gas leaks” are common. At least 360,000 people have had a gas leak or suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. More than one in seven has lived with “electrical hazards” such as exposed wiring.
Leaking roofs or windows have affected one in four tenants. About 38 per cent of renters have had damp problems.
There are too many homes in Britain where people don’t feel safe or happy, says Bryan Halliday, director of sustainability at British Gas and “an increasing number of those are in the private rented sector.”
He says the most landlords take their responsibilities to their tenants very seriously but a small minority does not and it is often through ignorance rather than deliberate carelessness that they are unaware of their responsibilities.
Shelter claims that a third of privately rented homes fail the Government’s decent homes standard but “hundreds of thousands of people are evicted every year for complaining about poor conditions.”
In my experience most Landlords take their responsibilities seriously, but have limited budgets for repairs so a planned course of maintenance is required. Tenants do understand this, and although their rent leaves the account every month, few realise that the Landlords have to pay the mortgage first before repairs are considered. Profit these days appears to be a dirty word, and after paying for the mortgage, agency costs, insurances etc.. For some Landlords it can only be a dream. So there’s little money to play with.
“Well that’s what being a Landord is all about!” I hear you say, which is true, but the reality is the above.
Damp is also a major problem and every year I am called out to houses that are considered “damp”, only to discover that the main problem is the way the tenant chooses to live. The look of horror from them is an annual event when I ask them to open windows, or use the trickle vents to ensure that there is sufficient air circulation within the property to stop the build up of moisture occurring. Of course sometimes it’s due to a need of more insulation in the loft, or because of a cold bridge from cavity walls, but invariably its tenants refusing to ventilate properly. We send out a condensation booklet every year, but whenever there is a problem the tenants tend to blame the property and the Landlord.
Evictions do occur, but generally it’s because of a failure to pay the rent, or attitude. There’s no excuse for rudeness and abuse, and if the tenant behaves in that way, then the Landlord doesn’t have to rent his property out to them. Tenants don’t have to live there, and Landlords don’t have to rent it to them. It’s a two way thing.
Problems do occur when the tenant feels out of control about a maintenance issue that isn’t being resolved quickly enough, and at my Estate Agents we feel that sometimes we’re considered the fourth emergency service, which we’re not. We have to gain permission first from the Landlord otherwise the contractors that are sent out won’t get paid, so delays generally do occur. However, the time is minimal and would invariably be exactly the same if the tenant called out a plumber or electrician themselves.
Frustrations occur when maintenance is delayed because of new parts that are required, and I’ve seen tenants threaten to withhold rent and threaten to go to the council. This automatically sours relations with Landlords and agencies. Once the council are involved they are required to follow their Health and Safety rating system and can effectively create more maintenance problems for the Landlord which can be very expensive. Of course the Council are improving the standard of the accommodation, but at what cost?
After relations are soured, and the Landlord is seriously out of pocket, why would he want a rude and troublesome tenant in his property? Therefore notices are served.