I am not for one moment suggesting that private landlords require Gordon Ramsey cooking skills – it is not generally a condition of the tenancy that tenants are fed to a 5-star standard by the landlord! No, this thought was prompted by the television programme, ‘Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares’.
Gordon Ramsey is asked by struggling restaurants to visit them and point out where improvements can be made – and he has amazing results. This kind of assistance would be useful for some landlords, but does not come until a complaint has been made to the local authority and often results in fines, poor reputation and a lot of stress.
Whilst not saying my experience is the equivalent of Gordon Ramsey’s, in a previous existence I was able to offer this kind of advice to landlords and as Gordon is able to give obvious advice, like cook food fresh and taste it, I saw equally obvious things which had not occurred to the landlords concerned.
I visited one property in the company of the landlord. To say it was poor is to vastly over-rate it – it was appalling. Wallpaper was hanging off the wall, it clearly had not seen a paintbrush for many years and the furniture was old, dirty and uncomfortable.
It was not fit for habitation on those grounds alone, but then I went into the kitchen! I have never seen a refrigerator in such a state, unless it had been left on the rubbish tip for a considerable period. It was covered in dents, all of which had gone rusty. The tenant was expected to store his food in that and respect the property. How much respect was the landlord showing his tenant?
I asked the landlord whether his own fridge was in such a state at his home? He proudly answered no; he had a very fine fridge. Yes, I bet he did!
No landlord is expected to provide £800 American refrigerators with integrated ice crushers, but they should expect to provide a clean fridge that a tenant would feel happy to use and at a cost of £150, there is no excuse for letting a property with a fridge in that state!
Did the landlord take my point? Unfortunately, he seemed to have taken his management practice from Rachman, so probably not and as his client group will have been amongst the most vulnerable, they were unlikely to make a formal complaint.
Another landlord was well-meaning but equally short-sighted. He had a tiny bed-sit. I could touch the walls on either side of the room – and I am not made like an orangutan by the way! The kitchen facilities posed a health and safety hazard as there was so little room. The landlord provided his tenant with a bed beloved by pre-teens, with a small wardrobe built under a bunk bed. He let this to an adult with epilepsy.
Clearly this was unsuitable for anyone and more so for the person I saw in residence. A room that size would have been better either converted to a further compact bathroom or left vacant for storage for the use of the tenants.
Where tenants do not have the confidence to make their own complaints, landlords may not be sensitive to the conditions that exist. There’s no housing-equivalent of Gordon Ramsey, so be your own guide; try and see things through a stranger’s, or potential tenants’ eyes. Respect for tenants, which you would expect to be reciprocated, does not mean luxury; but it does mean a basic minimum standard.