My Buy to Let landlords

The property was a miniscule one-bedroomed ‘house’ on a development at the edge of town. 

Let’s call him Mr Get Rich-quick. He told me, as he showed me round, (it didn’t take long), that he worked for a couple of Pakis in the pharmaceutical business. He didn’t like them because they were overpricing drugs which they were selling to the NHS. By this he established his patriotic credentials. I think the idea was that he was on my side, a fellow Brit; not an exploitative landlord. He had principles; he didn’t like the NHS being ripped off. However, he overdid it and, crudely, invented what he presumably thought would be a mutual enemy – Pakis. In trying to sound patriotic he ended up being racist. Perhaps better not to be a buy-to-let landlord in the first place and then the problem wouldn’t arise.

As he left he said in passing that “this kind of house looks after itself”. Being naive it was only later I realised that this in fact meant “if anything breaks don’t expect us to pay for it”. That would have disrupted the business model. Buy to let landlords are not in it to provide a service. They are in it because it pays better revenue than a zero-interest building society account. The property did in fact mostly look after itself. The heater in the bathroom didn’t work from the start and he showed no interest in fixing it. But on the whole there was little to go wrong. I was there in all for about 4 years. In the last year the fences separating my box from the neighbours boxes fell down, on both sides. The one which my landlord was nominally responsible for I fixed with considerable help from my neighbour. I took pity on my neighbour on the other side and replaced it at my expense. She too had a buy-to-let landlord and it didn’t seem to even occur to her that in reality she should ask him to fix it and it was his responsibility. Such is the world of buy-to-let landlords. They are focussed on the return and show little inclination to fulfill their responsibilities.

Mrs Get Rich-quick had arrived for the viewing ostentatiously holding a clipboard out in front of her. I did allow myself to indicate that I wasn’t impressed. Overall I had a soft spot for Mrs Get Rich-quick. But one time, after about three years, I did snap at her. She’d come to discuss a new lease and got on my nerves. I felt very bad as she turned tail and fled through the front door, calling pathetically for her dog to follow her. At any event perhaps I’d simply decided it was time to leave. There was a little bit of friction in the subsequent negotiations; at one point she sent me a letter referring to “an excess of personal belongings”. My meagre possessions were already too much for this tiny space and she had latched onto this. The message, perhaps inadvertent, was that I should cut my cloth to fit into their little box. But, overall, I managed, and they did too, to avoid a row and we parted on something like reasonable terms.

About 5 years later when I was wandering around the British Museum in London I had a message on my phone. Mrs Get Rich-quick had sent me an SMS saying that they had received a demand for money from Scottish Power which partly included a period I was in the property. Could she send it on to me for me to take care of? I was flabbergasted and had to sit down on the nearest chair (near the Sutton Hoo helmet). With hindsight I can understand; you don’t get to be Mrs Get Rich-quick without having a policy of always unloading potential costs onto someone else. Even when the dates for the bill included a period when the tenant wasn’t even in your property. I ponder what to do and am still pondering when a few days later I receive another and this time threatening text. This is followed by a series of texts explaining why I am responsible. In fact as the bill isn’t in my name and includes a period when I had no tenancy for the property this seems rather doubtful. I write to them and suggest that they send it to the electricity company. (Scottish Power had a notorious period in 2015/16 when they were fined by the industry regulator for a range of customer service failings, which included mass incorrect billing. I had had problems with them and this bill, several years after the period for which it apparently applied seems to indicate that the “IT system” problems at Scottish Power persisted). I ask Mr and Mrs Get Rich-quick to stop sending me SMS messages. I receive a final SMS, to make some kind of a point. But they have sent the bill to Scottish Power. Another few years have passed and I haven’t heard anything else from this quarter so, hopefully, that’s it.

There is a serious question here. The question is; what kind of psychology or mentality does it take to base your wealth and success in life on screwing someone else? I’ve been listening to the 1980s Russian rock band Kino, led by the shinning star Victor Tsoi, recently and there is a line about how he doesn’t want victory at any price; he doesn’t want to put his foot on anyone’s chest. Why do some people want to do this? How can people close their hearts to other people – which is what they have to do in order to use them as a source of revenue? How can people simply kick solidarity out of their lives? Attempting to reinstate a sense of ‘solidarity’ based on the idea that we are part of some group of whites as opposed to the Pakis over there is scraping the barrel of humanity. This is age old British racism and home-front imperialism. In 2019.


Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer