I seemed to spend my working life defending the many good landlords I come into contact with. I actually risked dismissal by assisting a landlord make his case when the local authority took action against him. (I am glad to say, he won his case and my intervention was never known).
But much as I am an advocate for the good landlords, some cases astound me and need publicising.
A case in point was reported in the Liverpool Echo. I am not in favour of licensing and whereas there have been areas, in Salford and Bolton, amongst others, where a case was made that this would solve problems of anti-social behaviour and lack of demand in the area; landlord management would have to improve and problem areas would no longer be considered so.
My antipathy to licensing was increased when certain authorities sought to impose licensing city-wide or over the whole authority. Merseyside was one of those places. Any landlord who wanted to rent out a property had to apply for a licence from the authority for which they were expected to pay. Once licensed, they were expected to meet certain safety standards (to include electrical certificates, though not a legal requirement – yet) and keep properties in good repair.
Despite this and 3 years of licences being a necessity in Merseyside, many rogue and unlicensed landlords have been discovered among the good landlords, some of them behaving in a manner that cannot be disguised as anything but mean and vindictive harassment. I may have argued against wide-scale licensing, but results have proved how necessary it was.
A female landlord decided to evict an elderly, disabled tenant. He had lived in the property for 30 years. As often happens, despite the flat being in a poor state, the tenant felt unable to move from the place that was familiar and which he considered ‘Home’.
After the usual methods of persuasion did not work, the landlady allowed the flat to become run-down. The electrical appliances were not inspected or checked for safety; rubbish was allowed to mount up in the property and this, inevitably, led to a rat infestation. This would not have been a suitable home for a fit and healthy person; it was a danger risk for a disabled 79 year-old.
Their final act, which found them in Court, could not be excused by ignorance. The landlord and family moved into the property, taking blow-up mattresses and their belongings in with them. As the tenant was illegally evicted and of such an age, it is to be hoped that he was accommodated elsewhere.
The landlady may have got her property back, but at a cost – she was ordered to pay £500 compensation to the tenant (which seems inadequate after a sustained campaign of harassment) and had a 3 month holiday away – as a Guest of Her Majesty.
A landlord who had properties on the Wirral was fined £32,000 and ordered to pay £13,600 costs for allowing his properties to be health hazards for his tenants, with electrical installations not tested, broken fire-alarms and water running down the walls.
I will always defend the many good and caring landlords I know of, but even I would be hard put to make any kind of defence for these.
Having said that, at what stage do we expect tenants to act in a responsible manner? To say ‘I am worth more than this; there must be someone to help’. Responsible tenants could sort half the problems out – but then, I sit in my modest home without fear of anyone and responsible for my own living situation. So many tenants do not.
The good landlords need respecting and praising for what they do, not included in the anger that cases like this attract.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon
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