Bad Landlord or Bad Tenant?

As a landlord of over 20 years I have increasingly questioned the concept of a bad landlord. Should not it be bad tenant for choosing the landlord? Just as I am free to buy a second hand car with declared faults why can not a tenant do the same? I listen to Housing Standard Officers…

As a landlord of over 20 years I have increasingly questioned the concept of a bad landlord. Should not it be bad tenant for choosing the landlord? Just as I am free to buy a second hand car with declared faults why can not a tenant do the same?

I listen to Housing Standard Officers (HSO's) go on about appalling homes but they can never answer two question: Firstly, why did the ten accept the property? And secondly, who is responsible for turning the property into the appalling state? It is the landlord who is always to blame and the tenant who is always to be protected. Tenants are not forced to take a property, they are free to choose where they live.

I am not, I should emphasize, in any way condoning landlords who misrepresent themselves renege on their agreements, are violent towards tenants or in other ways break the law. Nor am I saying because I disagree with a law that you should break it, but you can question the need or value of it. If an owner occupier can buy an unfit house and live in it why can not a tenant? I can find no argument against preventing tenants to negotiate a tenancy with or without reduced rent or a rent free period if they repair an unfit property.

What is the difference between letting an unfurnished property (the law does not require a property to be furnished) and an unfit property, both are uninhabitable. What is the logic with this? The government talks about freedom of choice and responsibility as shown by the reckless policy of paying Housing Benefit direct to tenants in the private sector, yet does not give similar freedom of choice in the social sector or when dealing with other aspects of housing.

Let's turn to what I consider is the pointless and unnecessary legislation surrounding landlord and tenant. When you talk to HSO's about bad landlords they usually go on about unfit housing and the Decent Home Standards. What HSO's consider is fit is questionable. The starting point of all housing standard schemes is that the property has a gas and electric certificate, yet when you analysis the benefit of these on a cost risk or any other rational basis, gas certificates should be immediately abolished and the other is very questionable. The gas safety regime is, I believe, responsible for more deaths than it has saved, why? It is all down to the effect of unintended consequences. On the surface gas safety looks reasonable, to stop deaths and the ill effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Very good, but let's analyze it a bit closer:

1. Due to many landlords now avoiding gas installations or removing them because of gas safety requirements, tenants now have to use much more expensive electric to heat their properties. The result is many tenants that have the choice of freezing or starving to death. The increase in deaths due to landlords not providing cheaper gas central heating is difficult to calculate but I believe outweighs many times the few lives saved, if any, by the gas safety regime.

2. I know any death is tragic but on a cost risk basis the few lives, if any, that are saved by the scheme are not cost effective.

3. Perhaps the most ridiculous part is the need for an annual gas safety inspection. Nearly all new gas heating equipment is of a balance flue type which does not need to be inspected, as there is nothing to inspect providing it is correctly installed. Consequently, I guesstimate over 99% of inspections do not prevent anything.

4. Annual gas safety inspections do not apply to owner occupied properties, yet very few deaths occurring from carbon monoxide poisoning in owner occupied properties. This does raise a serious question over the need or use of the gas safety regime.

This nonsense of gas safety is well known, so why has the government not amended or abolished it? The reason is I believe we live in a society lead by perception rather than truth or fact enhanced by the notification that any cost the landlord has to incur does not matter as they are making loads of money. Gas safety is now a billion pound industry and to abolish it would result in thousands becoming unemployed. The industry itself is not going to highlight its own inadequacy. Most people believe gas safety is a good thing so no votes are to be gained by challenging it. To the contrary lots of votes and unpopularity would result in trying to abolish it.

The decent homes standard which incidentally some of the most expensive properties would not comply with as it includes, among many other things, that bathrooms and kitchens to be less than 10 years old. A very expensive solid wood kitchen if 20 years old would not complain with the decent home standard, but a cheap chipboard kitchen would, if it was less than 10 years old.

Let's turn to fire safety, what is required is again counterproductive see my article 'How Landlords Can Save Lives and Money' available free of charge on my website . I could go on about housing standards, very little that is required stands up to analysis, but I would end up writing a book. We have Assured and Assured Shorthold Tenancies. Why not have Unassured Tenancies as well where the tenant has no security of tenure, similar to a guest house or hotel? Such a move would probably be far more radical than the Housing Act 1988 and provide far more property to let. Hang on a minute, as a landlord do I want more competition? Of course not, so I am just the same as the housing standards industry which I have just be complaining about as landlords benefit from all this pointless and useless legislation as it reduces competition.