The top ten myths of UTA: the ninth myth
Myth 9 – It’s all the landlords fault
When I first ventured into Gransmoor Avenue in Manchester, I was ushered up a long, dark staircase and into a smoke filled bedroom, drug paraphernalia and empty special brew cans lay all around. It stank of urine, strong alcohol and weed. My wife and I were given two chairs and we duly sat in the middle of the room surrounded by a dozen men who offered us smokes and Lambrini which we declined.
What tumbled out in that first conversation was a list of toe curling horrors which befell the residents of this street, many of which I’ve discussed in previous articles – the rancid conditions, the bullying and intimidation, the money lending and corruption. In that moment I blamed the landlords, I placed the responsibility for this disgraceful situation squarely at their feet – how could a wealthy landlord be so heartless and cruel to people who are already in deep and complex crisis?
Its taken me a long time to shift my view on this. My disdain for anyone who preys on the vulnerable, exploiting them for profit and lording power over them has not decreased in the slightest, but I’ve learned some things about landlords over the last 10 years and here are some of them:
Not ALL HMO landlords are monsters. We recently hosted our first landlords forum which was attended by 7 landlords who all wanted to talk about how they could improve their service, in the same week I was speaking at the national HMO Landlords conference and there we met some really caring landlords who go out of their way to help their residents – at their own cost. This was so inspiring to see.
Landlords have a really tough job when they take in tenants with multiple & complex needs. At the end of the day they are just landlords, they are not mental health professionals, drugs counsellors, domestic servants, mediators or benefits experts. Our systems expect them to be all of the above and more. When homeless folk are referred to their properties they are sometimes given just a name – imagine that, just a name, no risk assessments, no information about health needs or mental health diagnosis etc. and the person is coming to live in your property….. today.
Landlords are seen as the problem but increasingly I am convinced that landlords are a critical part of the solution to this national scandal. When we first started chairing the Manchester Homelessness Charter Temporary Accommodation Action Group we didn’t have landlords represented and it was the residents who sit on that group who taught us that we NEED the landlords involved to make any difference at all.
We need landlords, good ones, with social conscience who will work with partners to change our systems and provide decent emergency housing for those in crisis. It will take collaboration and some hard work but if you’re a landlord or you know someone who is please contact us.
Supporting Justlife will help us to make real and lasting system change as well as providing frontline service to hundreds of people in need everyday.