Ken writes:

Despite being a fairly middle of the road sort of person politically speaking, I sometimes get a bee in my bonnet about things. I’m tagging this post ‘Red Ken’.

My views have hardened on the subject of renting and letting property. While I agree that people should be able to use their property to make a profit, in certain cases that fundamental right needs to be balanced against other people’s rights. I would like to see a massive rebalancing of the legal framework of renting in favour of the tenants. Landlords shouldn’t be able to do whatever they like with property they let to tenants. Changes I would bring in include:- having the rental deposit held in a separate bank account controlled by a third party, so that the landlord must apply to retain the deposit at the end of the tenancy; security of tenure (rental contracts would be by default on a permanent and ongoing basis, with the tenant having the freedom to leave on a month’s notice, and the tenancy being protected under a change of ownership of the property); the tenant would be allowed to decorate the property; rent would not be allowed to increase at more than the rate of inflation during the tenancy and so on.

Property rights are very important in our society, but the right to a home is even more important. Everybody, including people who rent, needs to be able to put down roots in a place. It is profoundly unsettling and detrimental to health to have to move from place to place every couple of years. So establishing secure tenancy is a social good and landlords rights will have to be subordinated to it. (I am talking about residential tenancies not commercial tenancies).

You might say that if we made letting property unattractive by introducing all these restrictions and safeguards there would be fewer houses. I think it would drive the part-time landlords out and usher in the professionals. Restrictions on rent increases would flatten out the potential return on investment in property so more capital would be directed into actual investment in the real economy, which would be good for business. Restrictions on returns would also discourage speculators so the housing market would mostly be about people buying houses to live in and that would take the heat out of the property market and reduce the chance of bubbles.

So says Red Ken.

6 thoughts on “Landlordism

  1. Dot gets a one-year sabbatical in London and you line up a really interesting secondment. You are going to have to rent in or near London. Would you like to be able to rent out your Dublin property?

  2. Mairi Jay

    Very thoughtful comments, Red Ken. I very much agree with the basic point that tenants should be allowed to make a rental property feel like home, but I would qualify it by making for a distinction between short-term and long-term tenancies.

  3. It is important to have good laws that protect the tenant. The laws are really good here in British Columbia and have helped us a couple of times. My husband and I managed to score double our deposit back once because our landlord was late sending it back to us and it caused problems with our new landlord. We complained to the appropriate government body, used the mailing date on the envelope as proof that it was mailed out the day AFTER the legal deadline, and our landlord had to send us a second, identical cheque in penalty. The next landlord tried to keep our pet deposit, which is separate from the general damage deposit, because of a stain on the carpet caused by a spillage of vegetable oil (unfortunate grocery incident). They can’t legally keep a pet deposit for damages not committed by the pet, and so we complained and he was ordered to refund out money.

    Good laws can exist and protect the tenant without it discouraging renters. Practically everyone in Vancouver pays their mortgage by renting out a “nanny” suite in the basement of their house.

    1. I was going to say “I lived in one of those!” but now I remember more precisely. Actually it was the landlady who lived in the nanny/granny suite; the rest of the house was divided into 3 flats. All in deepest Kitsilano.

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