Last year, I was looking for a flat to rent. Despite being a mature professional, I was a tenancy virgin: I had no idea how to deal with an agency, what to look for in a flat and more importantly, for my comfort, health and safety. Eventually I found a flat, a big studio near to a beautiful park. I was happy. But…
The flat was unfurnished, huge and tall, as usual in Victorian houses in the UK. The windows were single glazed and froze during the winter. The oven couldn’t be used due to its age, rust, and technical state. I wasn’t even allowed to hang a picture on the walls covered with layers of painted old wallpaper. I wasn’t allowed to change dirty, old, sticky, greasy windows shades. I wasn’t allowed to install a single shelf to keep my clothes on. I wasn’t allowed to change a lamp shade as the agents said it was an electrical issue that required an engineer from the agency to come out and charge me for it. The bathroom had filthy, dirty, mouldy silicon around the bath. The rotten wooden windows looked like they hadn’t been cleaned for years, and never were during my tenancy…… However, I was allowed to have my pooch! (with an extra deposit for a pet). Keeping my pooch was the most important issue for me and I was happy and grateful for that.
I signed a tenancy contract for 6 months. At the end of my agreement, I decided a change of flat was needed, and the agents came to do the so called ‘exit inspection’. I left the flat in the condition I would like to have seen it as a new tenant. I took as many pictures as I could, comparing photographed items to those I was provided with in my ‘moving in tenancy inventory’ document. Regardless of what I did to prove that the flat looked even better and cleaner than when I had moved in, the agency provided me with their own ‘exit inspection pictures’, however – not taken in my flat… Obviously, this was their attempt to keep most or all of my deposit. Despite the agent’s name being so similar to the most famous British private detective, there was no Dr Watson to help them consume my deposit….
I had found a new flat. I rented it with help from a thoughtful estate agent, a flat where my main priority was to treat it like it was my own! What a relief! Although I have never met my current landlord in person, I respect this man very much. Why?
I respect him for his approach to the flat, for taking care of his investment, for understanding that if landlords want to have better quality tenants, they have to use good, not lazy agents and deliver a better standard in their properties. I also respect him for being a very clever businessman. Unlike the majority of landlords, he understands that a property is an expensive investment, therefore it requires care to make its owner benefit as much as possible, to get a good return on his investment, both from a financial perspective and from a social impact perspective as soon as possible.
Due to my work, I have visited a lot of flats and houses recently. It looks like most of them are inhabited by pigs. Sorry for comparing tenants to pigs, but having an opportunity to visit so many properties, I have to admit that they look like pigsties. Yet, I would like to ask:
- do the properties look like pigsties because people who rent them are pigs?
- is it that landlords let their properties look like pigsties and this is why only pigs rent them?
These are tough questions, but only by facing the (unpleasant) truth, can things be improved.
If landlords want to have better quality tenants, they should consider how to be businessmen, not just landlords. If you, as a landlord, don’t invest in your property-for-rent to make it look better, safer, healthier – you cannot expect that anyone will treat it with care, respect, or will be keen on renting it for as long as possible.
Improving the standard of your property will also lower a dramatic frequency of permanently changing tenants. It will allow you to charge a higher rent. It will make tenants feel like they are in their own homes. It also requires agents to be less lazy and to inspect properties more often, let’s say every 3 months, not only on the moving in day and when moving out.
There is a huge need for rented flats and houses in the UK, but does it mean that most properties for rent have to attract only people who don’t care about the property? There is a very intelligent insight into what happens with properties when we treat them as assets rather than homes – you can read it here.
There is something called ‘the law of attraction’ described by Einstein many years ago. It simply says that similarities attract each other. For a careful reader it is clear that I don’t take either the landlords’ or tenants’ side. I simply point out that if you don’t care, you will attract people who don’t care too.
If you don’t act like an intelligent business person, you will not benefit like intelligent businessmen do.
If you have a pigsty for rent, only pigs will rent it.