I am sure it has nothing to do with me, but following a couple of appearances on our local BBC news programme, I did make overtures to the Producers that a programme needed to be made, which gave cameras the opportunity to see how some private tenants lived and what private sector landlords faced in running their businesses. Time moves on and The Housing Enforcers hit our screens. It had a broader remit, but it did what I wanted it to, which was look at some private sector homes.
I rarely get a chance to watch what I consider my brainchild, but for some reason, I found myself sat watching it recently. Unfortunately, the episode screened on Tuesday, 16th February, did show a property where some work was necessary. The tenant felt unable to use the upper storey of the property, for two years living on the ground floor only. The windows were in a poor state and only single glazed; wood was rotting and the glass was loose in the frames. Though the cold was the greater concern to the tenant, the Enforcement Officers from the local authority found other issues they were disturbed about. There was a hole in the wall, which always makes me concerned about vermin entering the property, particularly when the weather is cold. The back door was insecure and the tenant had constructed a barricade outside to try and protect herself. She was also complaining that the landlord was increasing the rent.
The tenant was typical of tenants I have met over many years. She accepted that the property had been in the same state when she moved in, but she had been desperate for somewhere so had accepted it. The property appeared to be unfurnished, but in my experience, unfurnished will usually have floor covering of some kind. She had put an ill-fitting carpet on the stairs, which in itself was a hazard, so clearly not the best of landlords.
The landlord was contacted and agreed to do the necessary works, though said he would not do the windows until the outstanding rent arrears were cleared. Of course, repairs stand entirely separate to rental liability, but it is understandable that a landlord may feel aggrieved that they are expected to maintain properties when their tenants do not give them the income they need to do this. The rent increase was an attempt by the landlord to collect the arrears. Nevertheless, the landlord should have made the property wind and weather proof and the fact Enforcement Officers were involved almost certainly means that there is a black mark against their name with the local authority and the probability of spot-checks on other properties owned by the landlord.
The tenant was gently (perhaps too gently!) asked to try and do something with the rent arrears. Film of the living area of the property showed all too well the calibre of the resident. The property was not well-kept, dirty pots in the kitchen, a general impression of dirt and neglect. Some landlords need to realise that if they want tenants to look after properties, they must provide properties to a decent standard to start with. If the properties are improved, you should attract better prospective tenants. The Housing Enforcers want to work with landlords, but try it the other way round – ask them for advice, don’t wait for them to come knocking on your door.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon