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Times have changed for us all

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There was a time when private landlords were thought of as fair and reasonable people, writes Sharon Betton. They knew how to treat tenants and the tenants seemed, for the most part, reasonable people who acted with courtesy to the landlord.

It seems that this state of affairs no longer prevails.  Media and government have vilified landlords and treat tenants like victims. Some are, but by no means all. And too often the true position is the reverse, with landlords victims of tenants who are more aware of the law than they are.

But of course there are very good landlords and very good tenants, and very many tenant/landlord relationships that are workable and business-like, with no real complaints on either side.

In those earlier times mentioned above, many landlords provided ‘furnished’ properties. The law then made it to their advantage to do so.

These days this hardly if ever happens – except in the case of holiday lets. White goods may be provided, but if so, the landlord must maintain them in working order.

Even so, wise landlords may consider providing one or two inexpensive but essential items that otherwise might not be on hand when needed. I am talking here of things such as ironing boards – people have been known to iron on the floor and leave scorch marks – buckets and mops, possibly even steps.

Such ‘gifts’ send a message – that the landlord is understanding of needs – and drop hints – that ironing should not take place on the floor, but that mops should sometimes be applied to said surfaces.

Some landlords will feel they provide enough already, which they probably do. But the few pounds required to provide the sort of things I am suggesting, might be money well spent; expenditure that saves money in the long run.

It’s just an idea, but I have seen it work on practice.

The basic idea is that it pays both tenant and landlord not to treat each other as enemies. If the current Coronavirus Crisis has done anything, it has surely brought home how dependent we all are on each other.

Discuss the property with your tenants, and try and be sympathetic to their needs.  If you are happy for the tenant to decorate, by all means give permission – but ensure you know what is being done.  A wall painted in chocolate brown with an uneven finish line because not everything could be reached (this is where the steps come in) is going to be an eyesore.  Ask the tenant whether he or she has the equipment needed, including protective sheeting, for example. Providing some equipment, even on a very short-term basis, so that the tenants can keep the property in better shape, is a more acceptable than having to look at something which irritates.

Private renting has changed.  Some landlords would feel that the increased legislation they have to deal with makes it more of a hassle than it used to be; some of the good ones have left the sector, never to return, finding easier ways to get a return on their investment.  This is to the detriment of tenants; but in some cases is down to them.

A couple of generations back, living in a private rented property was considered a privilege and a mark of status. Though I would never want to step back to a time when tenants had few rights and very insecure status, there is something to be said for a time when properties were kept spotless, front steps donkey-stoned and everyone said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, landlords and tenants alike.

But then again, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.