Last Wednesday I shared with you some ghoulish reading ideas to send shivers down your timbers if you’re relocating to London this time of year and want to immerse in its gothic side.

Now I thought I would I share some further scary tales with you—Landlord Horror Stories! BOO!

Boo to landlords, indeed.  I’ve mentioned in my guest interview with Lotus Events that London tends to be a landlord-dominated market.  Unlike a relocation agent, lettings agents receive their commissions from the landlord, not the tenant, so when it comes down to it, whose side do you suppose they’ll be on?  That’s right, the landlord’s.

Now, my husband and I have been raving over how lucky we are to have the landlord that we do.  We are just about to sign onto our third year in this London property—that’s how happy we’ve been in the space itself, the neighborhood, and with the flat owner.  Though newly refurbished in recent years, these London flats are still pretty old, so it’s inevitable maintenance issues will arise.  The rope attached to the counterweights inside the frame of our Victorian sash window snapped, and the frame of the other window had gotten so wonky with the building settling, that it practically slanted into a parallelogram that prevented the window from closing all the way (and for what you pay in energy bills in the UK, trust me, you do NOT want any heat escaping through the slightest of cracks).  And then there’s the usual apartment stuff—a malfunctioning boiler, broken washer/dryer door handle, etc.  In our case, our boiler went out during literally the coldest winter night of the year (and it was a record-cold UK winter as it was), but our landlord had our backs so loyally that he spent almost an hour on hold with British Gas (this same issue was occurring all over the city—boilers here are teeny tiny and not always up to the job), and when he finally got through, rather than leave us to freeze in our beds all night in waiting for a next-day appointment, he, well, might have told a wee white lie…something about me having, um, asthma?  Yeah, well, they showed up promptly that night ;).

The point is, we’ve been lucky.  Our rent wasn’t raised a single pence for our second year (even though we were already paying £45/week below the asking price), and even this year it’s only increasing 4% to coincide with the property index.  Fair enough.

Other landlords, on the flip-side, might not be so generous.  It can be most problematic when they’re not even living in the city or the country, for that matter.  The lettings agency representing the property would act as property managers in that case, but the landlord still needs to give the okay in certain circumstances, so it’s not pleasant if they’re difficult to reach or apathetic with the property out-of-sight, out-of-mind.  I have heard a story of a particularly uncooperative landlord living in Australia who positively terrorized my friend, her tenant, in response to his request for the plumbing to be fixed in the bathroom.  He didn’t have any water!  So he couldn’t even shower there, going to his girlfriend’s or gym instead.  You would’ve thought he was asking if he could put skylights in and grow marijuana there; her correspondence was rude, foul-mouthed, and he ultimately decided to move out altogether, which of course creates a whole new battle when it comes to revisiting a lease’s fine print.

Another person I know had mice scaling her walls and scratching about overhead and all around.  She also had a toilet that flushed piping hot water.  Her recourse?  None.  Her landlord was reluctant to address the pest issue, and when she requested to move out, she was denied.  Figuring she would suck it up and ride out her 6-month break clause, the plumbing issue arose, and the landlord wouldn’t do a single thing about it because it would involve ripping up some of the tiling to correct the pipes.  Again, in this instance, the communication was hostile.

There are also many cases of landlords pulling out of deals at the last minute to accept a higher offer—even if they’ve already accepted your offer and the lettings agent has drafted up the paperwork.  They follow the money, folks.

In other instances, tenants may be asked to pay their deposit and first month’s rent upfront in cash, which is obscene, and if that deposit isn’t promptly registered with a third party deposit scheme like DPS, the tenant has no recourse if the landlord decides to come up with a lame excuse for why it shouldn’t be returned.  They may claim damaged furniture or filthy upkeep.  They may also promise furnishings that they don’t ultimately deliver.  That’s why, in addition to a lease that documents such promises, having a thorough inventory taken of the property prior to moving in and after moving out is so critical—get it in writing!  Other tenants’ damages shouldn’t carry over to you, and a lying landlord shouldn’t win in a nonsense case of he-said/she-said.  Any respectable lettings agency and landlord will arrange for this, and any respectable relocation agency will ensure that side follows through on their promises.  Remember, a business like London Relocation Ltd. is compensated by our clients, the tenants, so that’s who we’re looking out for.