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Buy to Let & Letting

Are Property People Evil?

Being told you sound like a pig-tail wearing schoolgirl* is one thing, being told live on air you’re part of a Satanic cult is another…

evil landlords

Just what is it about the British perception towards landlords and property developers: why are we so reviled?

If I sold strawberries for a living would you accuse me of buying up strawberries to sell while in the course of my business?  I doubt it, not if you want to buy strawberries for tea.

So why is it that people have such a problem with those who choose to make property their business?

Why is it that property is perceived as so damn personal that apparently the usual capitalistic rules should not apply?

It’s a question I am pondering – and one which I tried to rebuke – along with my opinions on Wonga, Starbucks and double yellow lines in my BBC3CR radio appearance on Roberto Perrone’s show.

But, what do you think:  Are property people evil?

Listen to the full programme here:  What Sam Said Today the business and finance feature starts at 3:02.23 it’s one hour long – but there is quite of lot of me…and at least I warm up after a while!

*Description of me from previous live radio appearance

13 comments
  1. Quentin S. Crisp

    I don’t think all property people are evil, but asking why property is perceived as so damned personal seems a naive question.

    To use your own comparison – a person without any strawberries is not called ‘strawberryless’, does not have difficulty in finding work, in finding enough food, in forming relationships and maintaining a place in a social network.

    A person without a home, however, is homeless, will not be able to find work, will, in a wide variety of ways, be extremely socially disadvantaged.

    This is why, as with healthcare, believing you can breezily apply “the usual capitalistic rules” to housing (even if we accept that “the usual capitalistic rules” are okay for other things) can give rise to problems.

    1. Sam

      Evian is not depicted as a water-stealer.

      Supermarkets are not demonised and blamed for why there are starving people in our country.

      Food, shelter and water are essential to life, but business rules still apply.

      1. Quentin S. Crisp

        Evian is not the only source of water. I believe that supermarkets, are, in fact, blamed for many things, including putting local traders out of business.

        People may argue about the merits and demerits of welfare, and there is obviously a spectrum here, but one end of the spectrum (no social welfare) is social Darwinism – survival of the fittest. Nature may not lay any imperative on us to live otherwise (though even this point can be argued), but if we consider humans to be social and moral beings then zero welfare (at least in a complex nation state where most people are strangers to each other) is not an option. The basic needs of all humans within a society must at least be a concern.

        Welfare is therefore given to the poor to enable them not to starve to death, to have somewhere to live, and to be able to participate.

        It’s certainly not a simple issue, but again, that it is personal to people is hardly surprising. I suppose one has to have experienced both sides of this to get a rounded picture – all I’m saying is that to dismiss the concerns of those who are vulnerable in terms of housing is not an option if we have any pretences at all to being a caring society, which I, personally, hope we do.

        1. Sam

          Quentin, I think the welfare questions you raise are significant for society as a whole. However, the question of basic human needs is not a question which should be placed solely in front of private landlords. This is not dismissive. Society’s ills, as I am sure you will agree, goes much further than just the lack of housing provision in this country.

      2. Quentin S. Crisp

        I would add that there are good historical reasons for people being touchy. Please see this link:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom

        Land and property ownership confers a great deal of power.

        This country is returning at present, politically, to the demonisation of the poor that was prevalent in the Victorian Era when the workhouse was considered a just means of treating those in penury. It’s possible that this current mood is a pendulum swing away from the ‘sense of entitlement’ that is often mentioned in relation to those who have grown up in a welfare society. But this sense of entitlement, I would suggest, is itself at least comprehensible as a response to the historical cruelties that poor people have endured. Look up “Andover workhouse scandal” for a sample of such cruelty. People such as Dickens were, at this time, the conscience of the nation; novels such as Oliver Twist contributed greatly to the nation beginning to listen to the angel on one shoulder a tad more than the devil on the other, and partly for this reason, Dickens is remembered as a national treasure. But it seems we are at the point of forgetting the lessons that led to the founding of the welfare state in the first place.

        Incidentally, we’re all talking here as if some form of capitalism is inevitable and wholesome. That, too, may be questioned, and certainly there are people on this planet, in this age and others, who manage very well (and perhaps better than we do), living in other ways. Here’s an article about some of them:

        http://www.beyond-the-pale.co.uk/pygmies.htm

        http://www.beyond-the-pale.co.uk/pygmies.htm

  2. Tony

    We, as a nation, are stuck in this mindset of “must own a house” so when houses become unaffordable we rant against anyone who might be to blame. So far the people to blame are… the government, the banks, the bank of England, baby boomers and property investors… have I missed anyone? If we dropped this need to own a home and, like many other countries, were prepared to rent then property investors would no longer be demons and would just be business people.

    And you’re not alone… I’m an accidental landlord (couldn’t sell our flat when the market dropped so rented it out instead) and I’ve been berated by people who seem to think I have a moral obligation to sell it at a loss rather than rent it. I’m not sure the current tenants, who have no desire to buy a property, would agree.

    1. Sam

      Thanks Tony.

      I can understand why people want to own their own home, however I disagree with the level of blame levied at landlords. Personally, I think it is about priorities. Many of my tenants have got much nicer stuff than me (TVs, furniture, phones, cars) and this is a common theme I have found when speaking to other landlords.

      People have choices in this life.

      You chose not to sell your flat and lose money. You took on the risk of renting to a person who couldn’t/didn’t want to buy and provided them with an accommodation choice. You are the one who has taken all the risk. You should be lauded for your entrepreneurial spirit.

  3. Simon Topple

    I was in my local with another landlord a while ago. He is a great person, and truly a good soul. He was called (by the resident communist (I think – she may be an anarcho-syndicalist)) an “evil landlord”. Could cut the atmosphere with a knife.

    Some portions of the public truly believe this, however some landlords are brilliant and run good businesses.

    1. Sam

      I agree Simon, I just cannot fathom how landlords have become so demonised especially when the Private Rental Sector is so critical. The council sold off huge numbers of their stock and aren’t rebuilding to meet supply so what is the issue if the private sector steps in – the state isn’t.

      I know the other panel member on the radio station said “The Devil look after their own” in jest (I think!) but it got me pondering. This comment along with Roberto’s line of questioning seemed to suggest to me I had done something morally wrong by being a landlord.

      Frankly, I just don’t get it. If I ran a car garage and had more cars than I could drive would that make me a greedy B*stard as well or am I just in the business of selling cars?

      To me being a landlord means I am in the business of providing a quality product and service to my customers.

  4. Ian

    There are several causes of ther shortage of housing which means that some people cannot find homes or cannot afford them. Not all of them are mentioned that often in the press:
    1. Divorce/relationship breakdown which creates the need for two residences where previously there was one. Wife/female partner (usually) stays in family home, husband/male has to find another.
    2. Delays in the age at which couples settle down together. This is the obverse of 1 above.
    3. Nimbyism. It is expensive and time-consuming to get planning consent to build and objectors spring up whenever anyone wants to build in places people want to live. Those wicked evil rapacious blood-sucking parasitical property people would just love to build loads and loads of houses but they are prevented from doing so. At least the bastards aren’t committing the sin of making money from development. Funny how the Left never objects if Councils or Housing Associations build.
    4. Immigration. It is a good thing that we attract talented people and their presence here benefits the economy. However, the influx exacerbates the demand which is not fulfilled.
    5. Second home ownership. This has become more attractive as people get wealthier and want to put their money in a growing asset as well as having a place in town/at the seaside/in the park that they can use at any time. In a free society people should be allowed to own as many properties as they wish. (This will stick in the craw of Guardianistas, but see 3 above.)
    6. Failure to build high quality tower blocks for people to live in. This is starting to be fixed and it is not a panacea but if land is scarce, build upwards.

    There are undoubtedly other contributing factors but the morality of landlords is not the problem. Even a wicked landlord is providing accommodation for his tenants!

  5. Richard Watters

    There are plenty of people who are either ambivalent or supportive of landlords. As the providers of much of our social housing (can’t blame the landlords for the council house sell offs) and a place to rent when it suits people to rent (rather than buy) many recognise their value.

    Those who perceive landlords to be evil mostly believe two things:

    1. They are exploiting people – this ignores the fact that, London excepted, there is rarely a shortage of property to rent and that people do have choices. If not happy with the landord/state of the property/rent, they can move. If affordable property to rent in London isn’t available, they have the option to move somewhere affordable, like people who can’t afford to buy there do.

    2. The property a landlord owns is effectively stolen from someone more deserving. This ignores the fact that the landlord had to work/save to get the money to buy it. So doesn’t he deserve it more?

    1. Sam

      Thanks for commenting Richard.

      I agree with your points and believe people do have a choice. We have become very London centric in much our views with regards rentals and for most of the country there is a huge choice on offer. In fact, there are lots of places in this country where you can rent properties for less than LHA rates – but then that’s not newsworthy…

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