Landlords Dan and Jamie started building their property portfolio at the age of 19. Still in their early 20s, they now have 14 properties that they outsource to letting agents while they live an indulgent lifestyle.
Jamie sums up their attitude to their tenants by saying: “As long as they’re getting looked after and we're getting our money then I'm happy with that.”
However, after a week of living in one of their own properties, surviving on their tenant’s budget of just £70 and struggling with the issues the letting agents haven’t dealt with, such as a door off its hinges and uncollected rubbish, the pair’s eyes are opened.
Following the experience, Jamie now says they will now be “more compassionate and emotional” in their approach to tenants.
This is the second episode of the BBC’s latest reality TV programme, The Week the Landlords Moved In, which pretty much does what it says on the tin.
Landlords’ attitudes towards their properties are often summed up with the phrase “let it and forget it”, but this programme makes them see their properties through their tenants' eyes, complete with dodgy boilers, mouldy walls and broken ovens.
The other landlord featured in this episode is Prab, who built up a £10m property portfolio that he has handed management of to his 18-year-old son.
Prab, his wife Mina and their two youngest children move into one of their properties but soon struggle with their new weekly budget of just £80, a significant drop from their usual weekly spend of more than £1,000.
He says the experience helped him realise his tenants are “real people with real lives”, and that landlords “carry a responsibility where their decisions affect people’s lives”.
There’s no doubt this is entertaining television, though contrived and formulaic, but unfortunately it fails to reveal any great insights into the private rental sector. The programme relies on human drama and emotion, which is understandable, but it misses the chance to back that up with any facts about landlords or letting agents, or even acknowledge the issues they face.
Instead it falls back on the same tired old tropes of so many similar reality shows; privileged, out of touch person lives someone else’s life, has their eyes opened by the experience and vows to change their ways, while leaving the other person a gift or transformative experience, in this case often a box of chocolates, a month’s break from the rent and a new boiler.
While it is a good idea for landlords to gain a real understanding of their tenants’ lives, and I would encourage more of them to do so, the programme starts from the assumption that all landlords are unscrupulous and don’t care about their tenants, which is simply not true.
Like the tenants the programme features, landlords deserve better.
Emily Samuel is letting agency manager for Newport-based Serenliving.