Kamis, 28 Mei 2009

Your ad here!

With heavily mixed feelings, your correspondent from the Brown Couch participated the other day in a story for one of the commercial TV current affairs shows. It goes to air sometime next week. I'll not name the show – not out of any ill-feeling for the show (it's done some good stories on renting, and this one may also turn out to be more or less balanced), but because it doesn't need the free advertising. Which brings me to cause of my mixed feelings.

One of the other participants in the show is a real estate agent, who has become well-known to TV audiences through his appearances on current affairs shows over the years. I'll not name him either – he gets more than enough free advertising from the current affairs shows. His schtick is to confront a tenant in arrears, with cameras rolling, and do his bully-boy, alpha-ape routine; this appeals to a certain type of embittered landlord, and these types then take their business to the agent. It's good business for the agent; I doubt that the bully-boy routine is actually so good for the landlords. You lose good tenants that way, and I've seen enough Tribunal proceedings to know that in most (sure, not all) cases, a landlord's best chance of getting arrears repaid is for the tenancy to continue with a sensible repayment schedule negotiated. The better and cleverer agents know this too.

Anyway, my own participation in the story was to point out that it was in fact a free ad for the agent, and to try to make the point that the larger problems facing tenants were not individual agents like the one depicted/advertised, but were instead problems in our renting laws (in particular, no-grounds terminations) and problems in the economics of housing (in particular, the house-price speculators who have screwed up house prices). We'll see how much of that comes through in the story.

Finally, to any tenants whose lives have been touched by this agent: I'm sorry if your correspondent did not reflect the sort of indignation you might feel – that's because indignation from the Tenants' Union is best advertisement for this agent of all.