The accidental landlord: rental homes are full of flat-pack furniture for a good reason

The accidental landlord agrees tenants must not be ripped off, but says rental homes are full of cheap flat-pack furniture for a good reason.

£695 a week: a three-bedroom maisonette in Chalcot Road, Primrose Hill, NW1, is available to rent through John D Wood & Co

A survey commissioned by the National Landlords Association found that 40 per cent of landlords are barely breaking even, meaning that one missed rent payment or a void period could lead to sleepless nights, high blood pressure and tearful calls to the bank manager.

However, the survey also revealed more than a third of tenants believe their landlords are only in it for the money. 

So while tenants are seething with resentment that we're getting rich on the rent they pay us, in reality many of us are living on beans on toast and praying to the buy-to-let god that interest rates stay low, demand stays high and the boiler doesn't conk out this winter.

Not surprisingly, the association suggests landlords and tenants should talk more and get to know each other better, so that they are aware of each other's personal circumstances. This should, it says, reduce the risk of disputes, missed rent payments and voids.

That makes total sense to me, I always tell my tenants to let me know straight away if they're going to have any difficulty with the rent, while at the same time making it 100 per cent clear to them that if they don't pay, my kids don't get fed. 

But I'm not surprised tenants don't like to feel like cash cows. They are people as well as customers and should be treated by landlords with courtesy.

I do sometimes think, however, that tenants' expectations are unrealistic. An online letting agent recently asked tenants what they wanted from a landlord and most of their responses were exactly what any decent landlord would expect. 

They want us to deal promptly with repairs, let them know when work will be carried out and stay in contact throughout the tenancy.

They don't like landlords who let themselves in without giving them notice, they can't stand it if we moan about the cost of repairs, and they'd prefer it if we didn't try to cut corners to save money. They are also irritated by "accidental" landlords who are too precious about former homes.

So far so predictable, but I was astonished to read in the survey, by Upad, that they don't like landlords to fill properties with "cheap furniture from Ikea".

Excuse me? What is wrong with Ikea? As it happens I've stopped buying its fabulously cheap flat-pack furniture simply because I don't have enough years left on this planet to spend any of them trying to fathom out how to assemble items with a hexagonal-shaped tool. 

But honestly, tenants who are sniffy about Ikea need a reality check. I'm writing this at my kitchen table, which is from Ikea, while sitting on an Ikea chair. Everything in my kitchen is from Ikea and half the furniture in my bedrooms is from there, as is everything in my home office, except the computers.

Tenants, when you buy your own properties, how do you think you're going to furnish them? I'll tell you how. You're going to drive to Croydon, Wembley, Tottenham or Lakeside every weekend and join the millions of people shuffling in a line through the windowless corridors of Ikea until you're no longer sure whether it's Saturday or Sunday.

You're going to fill cars with flat-packed drawers, cabinets, storage units and bookcases and spend the first few months of home ownership trying to fathom out how to assemble it all.

Yes, Ikea furniture is cheap but that's why landlords who are barely breaking even love it — and that's why you'll end up buying it. So you, too, had better learn to love it.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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