We all know that buy-to-let landlords have a bad reputation, which is largely undeserved, but a growing anti-landlord movement would have people believe otherwise.
The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show yesterday spoke with housing activists actively encouraging tenants to take ‘direct action against bad landlords’ by encouraging them to somewhat worryingly ‘take the law into their own hands’.
The show featured disgruntled tenants who were living in appalling conditions in a one-bedroom flat in Bristol that is covered in black mould, has no lockable main front door, boiler problems and no electricity in the bedroom.
The tenants, Callum Hay and his partner Zena, have stopped paying their £510-a-month rent - including electricity and water - because, they say, they are not getting even the basics, which at one point included no electricity after it had been cut off because the landlord had not paid the bill.
“My partner then snapped at him, [saying] if he didn't get it put back on there's going to be hell to pay.
“He [the landlord] turned round and said ‘I hope you die in here’,” Callum told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
The unnamed landlord denied the claim, adding that he has been trying to do work to fix the flat but contractors have said it is too dirty to work in there.
He also claims he offered to put Callum in a bed and breakfast for a week so he can carry out work, but Callum will not agree to this.
Callum sought the help of Acorn, the tenants union and anti-poverty organising group, which has about 15,000 members.
After Bristol City Council gave the landlord 28 days to pay his electricity bill, an activist from Acorn went round to the landlord's house to demand he did it sooner.
“We said we would keep coming round until it was resolved. That was on a Friday, and on the Monday the electricity was turned back on,” said Nick Ballard, one of the union’s full-time employees.
Aside from help Callum restore electricity in his home, Acorn’s main concerns are increasing rents, poor conditions and evictions.
It organises protests, goes to landlords’ homes with demands and publicly shames them by telling the landlords’ friends and neighbours about the conditions in which their tenants live.
The Department for Communities and Local Government added to yesterday’s BBC report by trying reassure viewers that it is planning reforms to the private rented sector to ensure everyone has a safe place to live, thus giving the impression that the majority of landlords provide substandard living conditions, when in actual fact it is the minority.
A spokesman said: “This government is also cracking down on rogue landlords - either forcing them to improve and raise their standards or to leave the sector entirely.”
Let’s face it – nobody expects the BBC to be pro-landlord, but the mainstream media appears to be going too far in vilifying all buy-to-let landlords, including those who provide much needed, good quality and affordable properties to millions of people across the country.