The British Middle Class and Tenancies

The British middle class seem to give this particular landlord the run around when it comes to time-wasting when we are trying to secure a new tenancy, says David Lawrenson of LettingFocus, but I still try to give them a fair shout at letting one of our properties.

I am getting many calls for a property we are letting right now.

Lots of calls already.

Two examples of calls are as follows:

In one, the man or lady speaks with a heavily accented East European accent. But I can understand them OK.

In the other, the man or lady speaks with a typically nice, clear and well-spoken, very middle-class English accent.

THE BRITISH MIDDLE CLASS AND TENANCIES

From my initial set of ten questions at the phone interview I can see both of these applicants would probably pass muster when we come to check proof of income and references. (These questions are set to rule out the people who cannot afford it, who do not have their own income, the people who have pets (for properties where we don’t allow them), the people whose timescales do not match up with the property becoming available, the people who only want it only for six months).

But which one is more likely to come through and come to a viewing and eventually let the property?

Well, back in the old days, I would have been keener on the posh British-accented second one. Well, why is that? Well, we all have our biases – and I have mine. When you start out you try to be even handed, but one’s unconscious biases still come in. People initially always prefer to do business with people who sound like them.

That said, I try to give everyone a chance at letting.

And the fact is the first person who can pass our affordability and referencing checks will get the property. I do not discriminate against anybody.

But now I know from long experience letting property in SE London and Kent, that the East European is far more likely to actually come to the viewing we have arranged. The Brit is far more likely to cancel it an hour or so before.

Even if the Brit does come to the viewing, they are far less likely to be enthusiastic and move onto the next stage – the checking of documents, proof of income, never mind actually following through and signing a tenancy.

These things I know now.

Why they happen, though, I do not know.

Now I must say this ability to disappoint from my fellow countrymen is limited to a certain category of people. Working class Brits don’t do it. They are reliable and not time-wasting. Also, self-employed people, even if a bit middle-class are also not time-wasting either.

But despite knowing this, I still give everyone a good shake at it.

The middle-class lady or man will have as much chance to let it as the East European applicant, even though I know he or she is far more likely to prove a waste of time.

With the middle-class Brit though, I will make sure that when he or she views, I have other viewings just before or just after, because I know the middle-class Brit is far more likely to not turn up or call me to cancel after I have already left to go to the property. I do not want to waste my evening with a wasted trip, so I always book other viewings in the same hour.

This is just how it is.

We do have some British tenants – many are good, though in general not as practical as people from other countries. Folks from other places never call you about a mouse problem or about a sticky drawer, they tend to be able to fix things themselves. And they will happily fully redecorate and not ask for any financial contribution either, as they are used to doing this from when they rented property back home. British people rarely do this.

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COPYRIGHT: DAVID LAWRENSON

4 comments

  • Enjoyed this post, David. It reflects my own experience. Especially when it comes to repairs. East Europeans sort out every minor issue themselves and do their own decorating; British tenants (working-class) largely helpless. During strict lockdown my Lithuanian tenants replaced the worn stair carpet as it had become a trip hazard (I reimbursed them for the carpet, obviously). Bafflingly, when I posted this on a landlord forum some (British) landlords seemed to think that I shouldn’t have allowed these tenants to take such a bleedin liberty.

  • L&L Residential Ltd

    I am delighted to read that what I have experienced you found out too. Comments could be made of folk of African origin and from India/Pakistan. There are cultural expectations and different competencies (changing the proverbial lightbulb) . As the world comes to us, we have to be careful to adapt. Not to support our prejudices but to tease out which tenant will be good in the long run.

    • We have found also that people from colder climes tend to understand that they need to air/ventilate the property from time to time. People from warmer and temperate climes (including a lot of Brits) do not “get that”. Hence we include in our Tenancy Agreement a load of info about preventing condensation, damp and mould.

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