Revenge is a sweet dish best eaten cold by a furious woman, or something. Actually, revenge is generally a waste of time. I prefer the following dictum: ‘If you wait long enough by the river - the body of your enemy will float by.’ I mention this as I’ve had a few readers asking me what I think about those ‘shame a landlord’ websites. You might be surprised, but I don’t like them at all.
When faced with a landlord who is unrelentingly, wilfully obstructive, lazy and vile, it’s tempting to detail those faults vividly online. Many landlords resent their tenants and don’t appreciate the enormity of their responsibility, choosing to evict in retaliation rather than paying up or doing the work.
Owners buy property, and cannot/will not let go of two ideas. First that tenant must subsidise business costs in their entirety including many tangential charges. Secondly that tenants should be neither seen nor heard: even reasonable requests for serious repairs are therefore viewed as a nuisance, by which I mean adequate grounds for lofty non-renewal of tenancies.
Landlords need training and advice, after which, if they still don’t comply with the law or reasonable requests, official sanctions should apply, not the potentially libellous bile of a tenant who’s already been thrown out making unsubstantiated comments and naming their overlord.
Tenants might bad-mouth a busy, or distracted landlord who doesn’t mean to be unhelpful but can’t immediately beam himself into their flat to oil a sticky kitchen drawer. It’s true that legal sanctions against landlords are inefficient, and that swift, severe punishment is needed, fast. But I just can’t see how unsubstantiated bleating can improve anything, especially where property is in short supply and landlords will simply blame the tenant (‘it was self-defence, not unprovoked violence.’)
This is a symptom of devastating problems afflicting the private rented sector: parties cannot meet on neutral ground to discuss any problems, and conciliation or conflict resolution services do not seem to exist. Nobody in power has a clear idea of what to do, preferring to print the legend that most tenants are happy.
Criminally bad (see posts below) landlords should face prison. If they don’t know how to run the business of property management, then someone should provide training and issue certificates to show they have undergone this education, so they cannot plead ignorance.
But don’t post venom on a website: it might be intrusive to families, and don’t forget that owners might be equally appalled that what they believed was a nest egg for their retirement is a dilapidated newbuild hell-hole.
But with extremely bad examples, call your council’s Tenancy Relations Officer, the police (if landlords are violent and make threats) or Shelter. Don’t place unsubstantiated comments online: they undermine what is the beginning of a very long struggle to strengthen tenants rights eg by outlawing retaliatory evictions and extending long-term tenancies, allowing for decorating rights etc.
Being nasty anonymously online helps nobody. I believe that a truly bad landlord should face losing their property, just as bad tenants lose their home, with owners forever banned from letting property. Simple. Effective. Let’s do this.