My friend texted me last night about another friend who’d contacted her. Her friend is a landlord of a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) and is on her knees, literally. The tenants are not paying the rent and she has to pay the mortgage and all of the utility bills for the property – but with no rent coming in. She’s also been furloughed and is struggling to make ends meet. Trying to pay for this property – where the tenants are not paying – is putting her entire life on a knife-edge, losing her sleep and causing huge arguments with her husband from the financial and emotional stress.
‘What can she do?’ She asked me.
‘Wait’, was my reply. ‘Talk to her bank, her suppliers and explain the situation, and then she has to wait.’
I found my reply to be laughable, ridiculous. How can it be that this landlord is so powerless to do anything?
But that’s what the government did when they slapped a ban on all eviction notices for landlords during coronavirus.
And yes, I get there are some rogue landlords out there, but the vast majority are not. The vast majority of landlords are everyday people trying to make a bit extra, trying to save for a pension, trying to build a future.
The majority of landlords are not big corporations, they are not rich people with money trees at the end of the garden: They are normal people, holding down normal jobs, trying to live normal lives.
The situation makes me so angry and sad because people hate landlords so much. I mean, really fucking detest landlords. And they hate me so much because what?
I didn’t murder anybody.
I’ve never committed a crime.
I’ve never been to jail.
I’ve never even squashed a spider.
But you know why I reckon so many people and the government (clearly) hate me as a landlord: because I rented a property to a tenant and asked them to pay rent for it.
Well, bugger me sideways and piss all over me. I know you want to.
But the thing is, if I owned a shop selling thimbles and a customer came in and wanted one of my thimbles, I’d ask them to pay for it. If they didn’t, the law would protect me. I’m not a free thimble shop, the same way I’m not a free property shop.
But the government don’t understand this. They don’t give two hoots, let alone one flying fig, that the majority of landlords are your everyday Joe’s, normal people who have normal jobs and normal lives. The government, the media and the public have done a grand job demonising landlords and making them into the scapegoat of why the UK has such high property prices.
And it’s not just residential tenants who’re refusing to pay rent – even big blue chip companies are refusing to pay. Much like those big companies who also refuse to pay tax. But the thing that gets me, is some of those commercial places, your local hairdressers or corner shop for example, may be owned by a retired person who invested believing it was good for their pension. They believed the hype. Heck, the government even encourage commercial property investment for your pension via SIPPS. But at the last quarter, only 48% of commercial tenants had paid rent in time and in full. This quarter, it’s set to be even lower.
Again, the government have banned landlords from taking any action.
Now, I’m all for forbearance, showing leniency, understanding and everything else that makes me a human being who’s running a business. But, there has to come a point at which the responsibility shifts. People need to understand actions have consequences – even if you don’t act. If you don’t pay rent, that has consequences.
And maybe for those tenants who haven’t paid rent right now they can breathe easily knowing they can’t be evicted. But what about the landlords who haven’t got any rent coming in? What about the banks who won’t have their loan payments coming in? What about the utility companies? The council tax departments?
This is not just a trickle down. The consequences of this will be trickle up. Then it will be trickle down and down. And when all the hated landlords have gone bust and there’s a lack of property to rent because social housing can’t provide for everyone, maybe then people might remember that old-fashioned thing called a landlord.