Reprinted from the ABC’s the Drum Opinion, by David M Green. Read this story, along with readers’ comments, directly from the ABC website here.
Who hasn’t had to deal with a bad landlord at some point? From sparking heaters to pen-operated doors, David M Green shares his own experiences with a less-than ideal landlord.
Being a landlord is like being a parent. No qualifications are necessary. Anyone can become one, no matter what your level of complete incompetence.
And unfortunately if you’re the tenant, you’re the child in this relationship. If your landlord says you can’t dig in the backyard or hang that poster of your favourite band on the wall, those are the rules.
When we think of landlords, it conjures images of Victorian era dandy fops with stovepipe hats, grumbling about the price of coal. But the modern reality is landlords are just regular people. Regular people who own property.
What attracts someone to the wondrous world of landlordism? It’s surely the envisioned simplicity of the arrangement – You buy a house or an apartment. Someone else lives in it. They pay it off for you. And you don’t have to do anything. Besides watching the rent money roll in, of course.
And even better – after a few years of doing absolutely nothing, your property is worth even more! Sure beats working for a living.
If you are considering becoming a landlord, here’s a helpful video the New South Wales Government recently put together. My compliments on their choice of English voice actor.
We usually hear horror stories about the tenants from hell. But I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t had to deal with a bad landlord at some point.
Maybe landlords should have to go through the same scrutiny that tenants have to go through before they can enter the rental market?
Bad landlords come in a number of forms. Category one is the “Extreme Lord”. Extreme landlords are all over you. They’re constantly round at the house, checking things, asking invasive questions, sticking their nose in your business and nitpicking every out-of-place carpet fibre at your all-too-frequent inspections.
One of the worst living arrangements has to be living right next door to your landlord. You’re effectively under constant supervision. They know when you’re sleeping. They know when you’re awake. They know when you’re practicing the drums. And if you live next door to your “Extreme” landlord, God help you.
The opposite to the Extreme Lord is the “Shadow Lord”. You can never get in contact with the Shadow Lord. They may as well not exist.
If you’ve got the unfortunate combination of living in a self-managed property under a Shadow Lord, you have my sympathy. There’s no real estate agent to help you either. Unless it’s to remind you, “You’ll have to call the landlord about that.” Good luck.
Then there’s the “Tight Lord”. If they’re not avoiding repairs, they’re DIY-ing it themselves to save money, or deducting it out of your bond.
I reckon when it comes to tight landlords, my landlord is tighter than a vice made from Chinese finger traps.
When my built-in electric heater started sparking, I immediately called my landlord. His reaction: “Oh, no, you shouldn’t be using that. Didn’t anyone tell ya?” He then reassured me by promising to “put a sign on it” next time he come round.
No need to replace the heater. Just put a sign on it. I can only assume the sign will say “out of order”, though “I need to fix this” would also be acceptable. Eight months later, I’m still waiting for a sign.
When the handle on my screen door broke, effectively locking the door, I was locked outside. Fortunately I had a pen with me, which I used to jimmy open the door. But then I was locked INside. I immediately called the landlord. He reassured me with some sound advice: “Just keep that pen on ya. And keep a screwdriver in your car.”
No need to replace the screen door that could potentially seal me inside my apartment in the event of a fire. Just keep a screwdriver in my car. I used the screwdriver to remove the screen door.
But by far the most entertaining encounter with my landlord came when I finally met him. I’d been living there for 10 months – no inspection, no sign on the heater – when I saw some more sparks. This time they were coming from my circa 1968 fuse box, which proposed a serious fire hazard.
I immediately called the landlord. I suggested a qualified electrician take a look at it. My unqualified landlord insisted he look instead. He came over and literally almost electrocuted himself when he attempted to install a fuse while the main power was still switched on. An electrician was organised within the hour.
So from my ordeal, I can only conclude the way to turn your bad landlord into a good one is through a mild electric shock or near death experience.
David M. Green is a 25-year-old comedian, freelance writer, voice-actor and presenter – originally from Adelaide, now based in Melbourne. View his full profile here.