Television has always played a role in influencing its’ viewers opinions; it has been held responsible for lower concentration levels in the young, for making reading from a screen the favoured option, increased violence and sex crime and for normalising what had been seen as unacceptable in previous times.
Whether they can be blamed for all the ills of society or not, sensible television producers take their role as educators seriously. We have fantastically filmed and informative nature programmes that give us the opportunity to see creatures in the wild which otherwise many of us could not see, other than in zoos; historical programmes bring history alive and help us to understand what life was like in bygone days.
In contrast, several programmes over recent years have provided interesting (and cheap) television about every day subjects, such as the work of the Bailiff’s and Debt Recovery in ‘Can’t Pay, We’ll Take It Away’ and, of course, ‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’.
Whilst never happy to see Landlords mentioned in the same breath as slums, the programmes very often show exactly what the pilloried landlords must face with their tenants, with rent arrears and even greater loss in the state in which the properties are left. Damage, filth, theft of furniture and fittings and maximum eviction costs because tenants refuse to leave until the Bailiff’s are at the door.
At least the viewing public have a chance to see, and hopefully sympathise with some – though clearly not all – private sector landlords, all too often seen as the villains of the piece when they have provided decent accommodation for people in desperate need.
What of the tenants, do they learn anything from seeing these types of programmes? Whilst nobody likes to witness evictions and the distress they cause, it is sometimes a slight satisfaction to see the tenant who has screamed ‘you’ll not get me out’, escorted from the property. Landlords will have the correct procedure re-enforced. Tenants should learn from this that provided an eviction has been done correctly, it will result in the landlord gaining possession of the property. This has to be a valuable lesson.
Whilst commending the factual programmes that are shown for the information they convey, it would be naive to think that the message will be accepted and believed with the same force that episodes in ‘Eastenders’ or ‘Coronation Street’ will. An episode of the latter some while ago had Town Councillor Sally visiting her sister in a private rented property in a poor state. ‘The Council won’t re-house me’ was the cry of the hapless sister; ‘Yes they will’, says an irate Sally ‘if you’re homeless’ – with which she throws something heavy at the main lounge window and breaks it.
What it could say to tenants is ‘Break a main window and you can present as homeless’. What Sally should have said is that this should be reported to the local authority as this would not constitute homelessness, the landlord would be expected to affect an immediate, temporary repair but have the window replaced as soon as possible. Of course, being television, the sister is offered a nice flat within weeks, due to her ‘homelessness’ and Sally’s influence.
No local authority would want it to be seen that influence could be brought to bear by a Councillor. Their role may be to investigate, to question, to ascertain the facts, to see if the correct procedures have been followed, but it is not to put pressure on the local authority to give favourable treatment to anyone.
Enjoy the television programmes, learn what you can from the factual and take with a large pinch of salt some of what you may hear in soap – they are meant to entertain, not to accurately represent the issues they purport to demonstrate.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon