You’re young, you don’t know anything about law and you’ve nowhere else to go – the person renting you the place knows all this
My friend and I once had a landlord that also doubled as the owner of the estate agents. We found this out after he started coming around the house pretending to be a handyman. When we questioned him, he admitted it and laughed it off as a joke. Of course he was laughing: he was an extremely wealthy conman profiting from young people desperate to live in London. When we moved in it was absolutely filthy, but with nowhere else to go, we just moved in. They wouldn’t pay for a cleaner or fix the things that were broken. The landlord would refuse to fix anything. We had mould on the walls and one housemate had to move home as it made her ill.
I’d like to think it was a one-off horror story, but it’s anything but. The housing charity Shelter has just revealed that thousands of private tenants have suffered abuse at the hands of landlords, including harassment, threats and assaults. In the last year alone, almost 17,000 people have called its helpline about problems with their landlord.
The charity claims that many more may be suffering at the hands of rogue landlords. Based on the results of a survey of about 3,800 adults, it estimates that 125,000 tenants in England have experienced abuse, and that many more have been on the receiving end of an act that could have resulted in legal action.
Nothing in that surprises me. But it should. We’re Generation Rent – most of us will never own a house. This makes it all the more worrying knowing how much landlords can get away with. We asked Dazed readers for your landlord horror stories – this is what you came back with.
NEEDY CREEPY LANDLORD
"I’ve recently moved out of a house share and I've since reported the landlord to Hackney Council. He’s now undergoing investigation. As well as having a whole host of problems with the flat, the landlord, who lived downstairs, thought nothing of just walking into people's rooms whether they were in or not, to do God knows what. Things were always moving about in my room of their own accord.
My boyfriend and I were also in bed one evening and in he walked in without knocking to accuse me of being £280 behind with my rent (I wasn't, as he realised and apologised profusely, before staying for a 'chat' for about 15 minutes while we sat under the covers awkwardly). He was also renting a room to a brother and sister illegally, cramming far too many people into the house. Not to mention the time he tried to get in on our girls night out (yes, this 50 year old man only rented to fairly attractive girls in their 20s and then tried to hang out with them all the time) and threw a big tantrum when we said he couldn’t come, before turning up where we were going (Dalston Victoria). And to top it all off, he is now refusing to give me my deposit back for absolutely no reason." Emma Davidson
CONTINUOUSLY COLLAPSING ROOF
“I lived in a house of eight while I was at university in Brighton. My landlord was a lady who also owned a 'children's farm' somewhere in rural Sussex. As in, when you called her and got her answering machine (which was 90 per cent of the time), it redirected you to the voicemail of her farm in which you were instructed to; 'press one for children's play area, press two for petting zoo'. Very odd.
In the middle of the night, I felt a random drip on my head. My roof was in fact leaking. In a blind/half sleep panic, I fashioned a hammock out of a bin bag and taped it to my celling in order to catch the 'drips'. In the morning however, I had vastly underestimated said drip. A fucking avalanche had exploded in my bin-bag sack-tent complete with flies, rubble and a shit load of mould on the adjacent wall.
I called the landlady straight away. It took her roughly two weeks to answer the phone (four of my other housemates tried to call her during this time too and she ignored the calls). When she finally called me, she said it was my fault for not having the window open. One month later, 25 million binbags and four bouts of flu later she finally sent a man called Gary to fix it. A week later, it rained and once again, I woke up buried in sodden MDF and PVA glue. Thanks Gary. Fuck everything." Eve Simmons
THE DELL BOY OF LANDLORDS
“When I was at uni our landlord was literally the Dell Boy of landlords. We lived above a cafe/restaurant. We had a rat in our kitchen and he tried to tell us 'No, no, no, it's definitely not a rat, the lady downstairs had a guinea pig, that went missing it's probably that'. It wasn’t.
On the morning of my birthday I woke up to our crazy neighbour shouting ‘FIRE’ down the intercom. They’d left the deep fat fryer or something on. I didn't think anything of it. I thought it was the postman (it was six in the morning) so I buzzed them in. They kept buzzing so I got up again and at this point I noticed our whole flat was full of smoke! We had to move out but even then he tried to make us pay rent even though we couldn’t live there! My parents threatened him with legal action and we managed to get out of paying whilst it was renovated." - Rosie Gates
THE MEDDLER WHO MOVED IN
"The landlady was a frail but firm old woman. She regularly came around the flat without any notice at all. The problems really began when the weather turned a little colder. Each of our rooms also had little electrical heaters, but they ran on a meter – a meter which only accepted old 50p pieces. We responded the only way 19 year olds know – cranked up the heating.
This shouldn’t have been a problem, seeing as we were paying all the bills, but our landlady started letting herself in solely to turn down the thermostat. When that didn’t work she began having furious rows with us all. 'But we’re paying the bills,' we would say. 'But it’s my house!' she’d scream back. Then a small metal cash tin was fitted over the thermostat – literally one of those little lockable metal cash tins.
She was no longer content to just check up on the communal areas of the flat, and began letting herself into our rooms when we weren’t in, leaving post-it notes on things she wasn’t happy with. One housemate moved out after a row over this.
For a short time it was just us and our regular unwelcome visitor, until one day we came home to find a man in his fifties was now living with us. He seemed very friendly but only lasted two days before moving out himself – our landlady hadn’t told him that there were teenage girls living in the house, and as teenage girls had been a source of legal trouble for him previously, he felt it was best for him to move elsewhere. We complained to our university’s housing department, only to find that she had already complained to them about us. This appeared to be the last straw for my remaining housemates, who both moved back to their parents very soon after that.
This left me. This was the point that she moved herself in. It was an uncomfortable few months." James Coppard
THE ESCAPE ARTIST
"Me and eight other girls lived in a mammoth Victorian house in Manchester. Our landlord was a proper 'Manc businessman'. One day I went into our lounge in the basement and it was flooded with about six inches of rainwater. This had come in from the room next door which had outside access. I contacted our landlord and he came over straight away. Stuff got damaged, like our sofa and TV. We wanted money back from our deposit for it. His first words to us were: 'Well I can’t give you cash but I can give you Selfridges vouchers. Buy yourself something pretty.' I was not amused. After we moved out he tried to do us for the ‘water damage’. He changed his number and we all lost £50 (that's £450 he made for fuck all).” Sophie Draper
A STONED BUILDER AND AN ETERNALLY UNFINISHED HOUSE
"We signed for what the estate agent called a 'charming do-er upper' in Brixton – more like a horrendous hellhole. It’s remained a building site for an entire year, with holes in the walls and roof, allowing cohabitation with rodents. The landlady strung us along for two months after signing before we could move in, claiming that there were delays to the building works because it rained really badly last year and so the walls were still damp. Also, building work was carried out by her stoned cousin, who when we asked whether or not the works would be completed in time just shrugged 'I wouldn’t count on it'.
After using friends and relatives’ sofas for far too long, we eventually bit the bullet and moved into an unfinished house, with no discount. Weird stoned builder hung around for weeks, literally doing nothing in the garden, to the point that we wondered if he lived with us." Helena Smith