Boris Johnson is renting out his cottage — but can he cut it as a landlord? My tips for the PM

Phoebe Luckhurst
·3-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

When did you realise (many) landlords were sadists? My awakening happened several flats ago when my landlord responded to requests to fix the flush on our loo with a directive to “use a bucket” indefinitely. The same bloke once stood in my bedroom and yelled at me until I cried because I asked him if he fancied installing wi-fi. The answer, I learned, as a stream of his spit arced through the air towards my face, was no.

Obviously, you don’t have to be a tyrant to be a landlord — but it helps! And so I, along with, I presume, many other members of Generation Rent, was interested to discover this weekend that the Prime Minister will soon be joining the landlord cabal: he is renting out his four-bed, Grade-II listed Oxfordshire cottage (£4,250 a month; 12 month contract). Imagine trying to get Boris Johnson to install wi-fi.

I exaggerate, of course, the tyrant isn’t the only landlord archetype. There’s also the pedant (“hi, spotted a scuff mark on the third stair from the bottom on my last inspection — please confirm”); the ghost (has literally never responded to a single text); and the “I’m a cool landlord” (read: will drink your beer; won’t sort the broken boiler, no matter how many times you ask). I’ve endured all three at some point. Indeed, if you’re in your early twenties to late thirties, it’s hard to avoid the rite of passage that is renting, I find that picking a favourite type becomes increasingly like being asked to pick your favourite invasive medical procedure .

It’s just a hunch, but the PM doesn’t seem “details-oriented” — so he’s unlikely to go full pedant — and he’s plenty of things, but doesn’t skew tyrannical (necessarily). I’d back him to be a ghost or “cool” landlord (or, obviously, to outsource the whole thing to someone else). But in the name of his tenants’ happiness, I have a few lessons, collected from my own experience in the rental trenches (by the way, huge shout out to the generation of politicians who made London home ownership near impossible for ours!).

It might sound obvious, but don’t ghost your tenants when they email to tell you water is pouring through the ceiling. I can tell you from personal experience that they will get upset. Another basic one: don’t let yourself into the house without warning them (a friend once came downstairs to find her landlord eating a bowl of her cereal). Do deal with a slug problem (see also: rodents, ants, moths); do not write into the contract that you expect your tenants to mop the artificial lawn with a cloth every week (spoiler alert: we didn’t). Ditto, wiping down the kitchen surfaces with tung oil every week. I can tell you they will not.

Who am I describing? A man of “service, honour and great humour” but also a “master of the barbecue, legend of banter and cheeky right ‘til the end”. Given up? It’s Prince Philip of course, according to Prince Harry who made the tribute yesterday after arriving back in the UK from America ahead of his grandfather’s funeral.

His (vocal, endless) critics think the Duke of Sussex has gone full Silicon Valley spiritual. I’d say this warm tribute makes his grandfather sound a bit like the lead in a Lynx Africa advert or a supermarket ad sandwiched between two halves of a Sunday night football match on BT Sport. He’s not gone California dreamer yet — I don’t think they’ve got banter in Montecito.

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