‘Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord‘
Get ready to learn what really happens behind closed doors.
Landlords have become one of the most hated groups in society. Parasites, they’re often called. And there’s a lot of them. The Treasury estimates there are almost 2.6 million landlords in the UK with around 5.45 million rental properties.
But the real life of a professional landlord is very different to what most people think. From burglaries and break-ins to drug raids, police warrants, crazy tenant antics, bailiffs, squatters, lawsuits, wrecked properties, interfering council officers, game-playing freeholders to moments of heartfelt joy and happiness, the life of a landlord is never dull. Especially when the government keeps moving the goalposts.
This explosive front line exposé blows the lid off what it’s really like to be a landlord and the shocking reality of renting out a property. Hovering close to a nervous breakdown and likely suffering PTSD, The Secret Landlord exposes truths rarely shared. Stories that will grip you, move you and smack you in the face.
This is the truth, the other side of the door.
This is as difficult a book to review as I’m sure it was to write. And, in all honesty, I think a reader’s degree of satisfaction with their purchase is going to be directly linked to their politics and their experiences (isn’t everything?)
There’s a lot to like
The good things – the Secret Landlord is clearly a well-intentioned landlord. She writes fluidly and is as engaging a guide through the trials and tribulations of this lifestyle that you could wish for. Material which could be very dry is handled with aplomb.
So, it is clearly well written and its diary format allows these dispatches from capitalisms front line to romp along.
I think it is fair to say that this is a landlord who’s heart in the right place and is well intentioned. She wants to make a living – fair enough – and her ethos is clearly well meaning.
She says, ““My tenants tend to stay with me for years – I like that. I like the fact we can have a long relationship and get to know each other. Truth is, I don’t really like change. I really like it when people come to stay and they don’t leave. I like them growing and changing and hearing about their lives.”
That’s positively heart warming. As is how responsible this attitude is:
“I don’t understand, I truly don’t, the landlords who don’t do repairs. I have no understanding, morally or commercially, why you wouldn’t fix a problem.”
Here’s the thing though: the system is awful.
And, frankly, her justifications for her role within it are very poor. Take a scenario from early on in the book when she needs to sell two properties to ensure she has enough capital on hand to survive.
“My phone rings and I see it’s the long-term tenant at the flat where I’ve just sent his eviction notice. I brace myself.
‘I’ve just got this notice, what’s going on? What have I done?’ ‘I’m so sorry, you haven’t done anything, but the problem is the government has made lots of tax changes and so I have no choice but to sell.’
‘But, this is my home!’
‘I know and I’m really sorry, I don’t want it to be like this, but I hope you can understand I have to sell because I need to raise some money.’ ‘So how long have I got?’
‘The date’s there on the notice, you have over two months. I’m really sorry about this.’
Right, so a tenant who has done nothing wrong is to be made homeless because you over extended yourself?
By the way, in Scotland the tenant would get 6 months notice which would help a little bit, but what makes this galling is the weakness of the arguments in need to make herself feel better.
At various points she asks, “Is it my fault?” and, later when the tenant about to bounced out in the street is not pleased we get this reported exchange:
“He’s still majorly unimpressed as the rental market has risen loads and he’s unhappy about how much more he’s going to have to shell out to rent somewhere else. I bite my tongue. I’d like to point out he could’ve been saving some money from his reduced rent with me.”
Yeah, except that’s not how it works is it? We aren’t given this particular tenant’s occupation but there is every chance that his wages won’t have kept pace with rent levels so he almost certainly won’t have been pocketing the difference, oh-so-financially-prudent Secret Landlord.
“Is it my fault?” she asks?
“No,” unsurprisingly answers friend who is also a landlord.
“Yes,” say everyone else. You are literally part of the problem.
This particular paradox is writ large when she outlines how the system has changed since the financial crash. She has repeatedly said that she is a responsible landlord.
“The hoops you have to jump through and the paperwork you have to complete is something else nowadays. But, back in the day, and obviously that was before the financial crash, getting a mortgage, a re-mortgage or any sort of money was easy. Hell, you could even do same-day re-mortgages back then!… I should have borrowed more!”
No! No, you shouldn’t. People investing in sub-prime mortgages is the literal – literal – reason the world’s financial system had a cardiac arrest which nearly sent us back to the Dark Ages. This is not an exactly reflective guide.
“The thing that gets me about all of this is the way the government has created these housing problems and blamed landlords for everything. The government sold off the council housing and hasn’t built enough since. Private individuals then bought properties to rent out to fill the housing need. Then everybody and his dead grandmother went crazy about landlords owning property and renting them out and making a profit.”
Now, in her defence, it is also clear that the tax system is a mess, tenants are – well, arseholes – and this is not an easy profession. Actually it sounds like a dreadful profession and this is a lady doing the best she can. Maybe calling landlords parasites is harsh.
But, if you lay with pigs, you end up bacon and I’m afraid that this well-written, slick journey through the dark lowlands of the realities of capitalism’s foothills does not make me feel sorry for the choices this category of people have made.
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parasite-Secret-Diary-Landlord-ebook/dp/B08DTPYVFZ/
US – https://www.amazon.com/Parasite-Secret-Diary-Landlord-ebook/dp/B08DTPYVFZ/
Author Bio –
The Secret Landlord has been renting, refurbishing and selling properties across the UK for almost two decades. An award-winning landlord, as judged by the National Landlords Association, The Secret Landlord has provided accommodation for hundreds of tenants from all walks of life.
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