To be honest, the question seems insane. If you sign a contract and agree to rent a property for a price, then you should pay.
But listening to ‘You & Yours’ on Radio 4 this morning, I’ve learned from a tenant caller, apparently, it appears to some tenants to ask them to pay the contractually agreed rent is unfair.
Tenants, the caller said, should be more looked after. She admitted, she was one of the lucky ones, she had a cash pile and a maintenance agreement from her ex-husband. However, her ability to teach pilates during the lockdown had severely hindered her ability to pay her £2000 per month rent.
The landlord, she said, had refused to reduce her rent by as much as she felt she was entitled to and only gave her only £100 off. That was not good enough, she wanted more, and felt the government should put more pressure on landlords to do more.
Forget the fact she’d signed a legally binding contract, for the minute.
But, what got me about this attitude, was just prior to the tenant caller, two landlords had called in – both of them had invested their money into property to provide for a pension. Both of them were trying to help their tenants, and both had taken a financial hit that had affected their way of life.
For the first landlord, their tenant not paying rent for over one year and the eviction getting caught up in the Covid-19 crisis, meant the property would be sold once it’d been recovered: To pay the debts accrued on account of the tenant.
At this stage, the tenant owes over £9,000 in unpaid rent and the landlord has racked up a legal bill of £7,500.
But apparently, more pressure should be put on landlords to do more.
What more do tenants want?
Obviously, it sounds like free rent.
Which is fine in theory, but what about in practice?
Most landlords are in debt. They weren’t gifted the properties they rent out in some secret prize draw. They worked in their jobs and they invested in their properties for a future, for a pension, for maybe a life that didn’t involve giving free rent to random people just because they feel like they’re entitled to it.
And it may surprise most tenants to learn, but landlords do work. Not only did they have to work to raise the capital to buy the property in the first place, but many still work in their everyday jobs to pay the mortgage and keep the property running. For most, the ownership of a rental property is their pension.
And what I find so frustrating about this situation is the lack of understanding from any side about what it means to be a landlord.
Any other business is not expected to give free anything. Supermarkets during this crisis have removed most of their promotions and food bills have increased substantially. But where are the cries for how unfair it is that supermarkets are charging us money, real actual money for food?
There are none.
We expect to pay for the food we buy.
So then, why is it that tenants expect to live rent free in the property they rent? Don’t they realise their landlord has a mortgage and bills to pay? Don’t they ever think about what they would do if their source of income suddenly got stopped?
Hold on – with 9.4 million furloughed workers, maybe some did?
But the difference for them – they get to claim 80% of their salary from the government, or maybe claim benefits. Landlords get none of that. There is no help from the government. If a tenant stops paying rent, there is no secret source or benefit to claim. Owning another property means you’re ineligible for any benefits.
Stop and think about that for a minute. If you, as a tenant, stop paying your rent – what do you realistically think is going to happen?
Do you think your landlord will go to that magic money tree at the bottom of the garden and pick the mortgage payment from its lustrous leaves?
Your landlord will suffer. Your landlord will experience a level of stress and anxiety only those is serious, financial debt will ever understand.
Don’t pay for a while and your landlord, along with your home, will get repossessed.
Because that’s the circle of life and how this world runs.
As a landlord I’m not asking for your sympathy; I’m asking for your understanding: We’re all in this economic chain together. It’s not us against them, it’s not landlord versus tenant: this is life. This is the world we live in.
Nothing comes for free. And nobody should expect to live for free. These are difficult times, likely set to get worse. And while there’s calls for more tenant protection and demands to clear tenant debts, I wonder who’s going to clear the landlord debts?
Landlords don’t have magic money trees or stress-free lives. When the shit hits the fan – and it will – the banks will step in and take back their properties. Then, we’ll really have a rental crisis, and it will be the tenants not paying to blame.