It was pretty late last night when I caught this video on Twitter, and as a property devotee already reeling from the Notre Dame footage, I didn’t properly take it in. I guessed there’d be an online storm when I opened my eyes again this morning though. Boy, is this interview a cracker, in the worst possible way.
For clarity. I’m a landlord, have been since 2001. I left university in Manchester in the early 90’s and was homeless. I had to persuade a rental agency to rent to me for the princely sum of £303 per month when I finally got housing benefit allowance. In 1996, around the same time as getting a Princes Trust grant to start a specialist building company, whilst walking down the street, I saw a sign saying buy a flat for a pound. A pound. One pound. I know. Couldn’t happen now. To me a flat, my own flat (even with a 100% mortgage) meant the world – security, my own space, something no-one else could take away, a place for me and a my stuff to be safe. I went for it.
About 5yrs after that, with the building company having taught me a huge amount about property, I took advantage of the then quite new B2L loans and bought another run down apartment. I decided that what I wanted to do was work as a landlord and give people nice homes to live in. I figured my growing skills in lady buildering & interior design would ensure that my rentals were both well designed and well run, filled with happy Manchester tenants.
And that, that is why I was so appalled to watch the Sky news clip with anchor and during-the-interview-confessed landlord Jayne Secker talking (down) to a young lady quite clearly nervous, anxious and in the middle of her own Section 21 served housing crisis.
The Government, if you don’t know, have just announced they’re banning Sections 21s, which give landlords the right to serve 8 week notice periods on tenants to vacate the occupied property. The tenant doesn’t need to have done anything ‘wrong’ and the issuing of these Sections is actually quite rare because, well, most landlords like having tenants because tenants pay their rent, which means landlords can pay the mortgage. However there is an undercurrent of poor landlords who, when tenants complain about sub-standard or defective properties, use these Section 21’s to evict the tenants and get fresh ones in. Ones who don’t yet know the property’s problems. A growing and vocal pressure group have persuaded the Govt that Section 21s should be banned. For the record I’ve never, ever served a Section 21, even when I sold a property, I arranged for all the tenants to stay so there was a smooth handover and no-one’s life was disrupted. I’m not going to go into all the pro’s and cons on the S21 argument, and there are valid ones on both sides, cause this blog post is all about Jayne’s attitude.
It stank, didn’t it? I was embarrassed on behalf of all good landlords everywhere, and there are many of us in the PRS. Why?
- It was sanctimonious and smug. The girl being interviewed, Kirsty, is clearly distressed and worried about her housing predicament and is horribly patronised by this presenter/landlord, who uses it as a personal platform to air her own gripes.
- “Simply, you’re gonna have to find somewhere else to rent aren’t you” Spoken by a woman who has quite clearly never been evicted and is entirely unconcerned about the life disruption and cost caused by a forced move. Is it ‘simple’ to find affordable property in London, in the area near where your current flat is, at short notice? Is it hell. Imagine that compounded by having a family with children at local schools, close to where you work, and because you complain about the poor condition of the home you pay to live in, you’re told you have to be out in less time than a term. This is what is happening to some tenants.
- Kirsty talks about the cost being around £2000 (though it isn’t entirely clear whether this is rent or fees) and is interrupted with a sharp “But that’s not the landlords fault is it”. Er, well it partly is. All landlords have contributed to this, especially in London, with ever spiralling rents, using agencies who take large percentages (though this is decreasing with fee banning), and general greed.
- Of course, decades of Government policy has seen London’s population explode. Couple that with the wholesale selling off of social housing to either private owners or land buyers / developers – a recipe for rising rents which London landlords have benefitted from and never wanted / needed / tried to change or stop.
- “Yeh, the landlord would have the same issues is you decided to move out in two months”. Crikey, this is callous. I mean, literally callous. The landlord isn’t being forced to move home. In a market where tenants battle over decent property, well kept rentals are snapped up in hours. This is absolute nonsense from this presenter/landlord, and it comes across to be a personal view that it’s somehow annoying for landlords when tenants give notice to move. How very dare they eh? All part of the job love, I’m afraid. I’m sensing this landlord doesn’t really love her tenants.
- “Some would say….tenants don’t really know how to do a great deal in a home”. Sorry, what? You’re judging your tenants based on how home savvy they are? Isn’t this rather the point of renting. That people pay a slight premium (in most of the country, London is another beast) to live in rented, so when something goes wrong, they can call to get it fixed. THAT’S THE DEAL. In fact, decent landlords take pride in maintaining great properties which are healthy, safe and attractive to live in. Of course there are tenants who don’t treat homes well, and landlords should absolutely be able to deal with that issue, but when a good tenant treats their rental with respect and care, the deal is that what breaks, gets fixed by us landlords.
- “I’ve had tenants complaining that lights have popped, cause they don’t know how to change light bulbs”. It’s hard to know where to start with this one. This is an interview about unfair Section 21’s which are forcing people out of rented homes for complaining about issues which should rightly be fixed by landlords. This presenter landlord is whining, in public, about her irritation at tenants who put upon her clearly very valuable time for things she thinks they should bloody well do themselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had tenants call at 6am to say OMG there’s no electric, when a halogen blowing has tripped the consumer unit. I’ve had a new tenant keep dirty water in a bathroom sink for 2 weeks cause they couldn’t work out how to pop up a pop up waste. But you know what, you laugh, you deal with it, and you show your tenant how it’s done. Then they know. For next time. You teach them to be better homeowners. It’s one of the nice things we can do as landlords.
- “If you lived in a home that you owned, nobody would be able to fix these things for you….. they just require a bit of common sense”. Blimey. Way to go, Jayne, in completely failing to understand the fact that there are shocking landlords and management agencies out there who repeatedly fail to fix major things wrong in rental flats and then hoof out tenants making entirely justified complaints. And anyway, of course homeowners pay to have things fixed and don’t do it all themselves, that’s part of being a homeowner. Tenants don’t have that responsibility though, that’s the deal (see above!).
- “Do you think you’ve found amongst your friends perhaps, that you aren’t equipped with all the necessary skills to rent?” This is a peach. Necessary skills to rent? What are they? Seriously. In all my years as a landlord, with all my lovely tenants, I’ve never ever asked them or checked whether they have the necessary skills to rent. Nice people, check. Good references, check. Able to pay the rent, check. Oh Jayne, you really don’t even like being a landlord do you? Are you hands on? Is that why dealing with these impositions in your life is so annoying? Or do you use an agency and then get annoyed when the management bills come in? Either way, this attitude sucks.
Kirsty was bang on in her response. It was clear that Jayne gets ‘pissed off’ with her tenants, it was clear to Kirsty and clear to everyone watching. This young person dealt brilliantly with the smug line of questioning, in my opinion, neither rising to it or lower herself in answering angrily.
Jayne really did us good landlords no favours at all did she? Instead of dealing with the matter sensibly and sensitively, what she did was fuel the same old Them and Us narrative. It’s a narrative which suggests that landlords are all evil, money grabbing people who don’t care about their tenants. It also fuels the idea that working class people can’t be landlords, or that the class divide means middle class people don’t care about social issues. This is Kirsty’s tweet after the interview. It makes me sad, reading the words ‘a landlady’, like one of those terrible people couldn’t possibly understand her predicament.
Good landlords don’t evict tenants without extremely good reason. We value good tenants, we enjoy creating lovely homes for people to live in and it can be a great relationship. Interviews like this car crash on Sky do NOT represent me, or many other landlords, I couldn’t want to make that clearer.
Smug landlords like Jayne make young renters even angrier with a system stacked against them and actually make me as landlord support more legislation stacked against us, which is the way things are currently going. It’s ok when things are going well, and you have great tenants but there are some terrible, truly terrible tenants out there – serial fraudsters, property wreckers and anti-social horrors. Tipping the balance too much one way means those issues can’t be dealt with fairly and effectively, which doesn’t help us landlords or good tenants in the long run either (they live next door to the horror tenants after all).
Fuelling the Them and Us helps no-one Jayne, could you wind it in a *bit for the next interview please? Thanks 🙂