Thursday, 2 September 2010

Burning down the house.

Anna Raccoon spotted the terrible news that 90% of smokers are banned from renting, and dissects the ridiculous headline into the real story. Which is nowhere near as nasty, but fairly unpleasant.

Longrider echoes my own thoughts on this. If a private landlord doesn't want smokers, he is entitled to advertise as such. If he doesn't want dogs or cats, he can advertise that too. If he doesn't want children in his property, painting the walls yellow and coating the place in third-hand childhood, he can say that. If he doesn't want Wayne and Waynetta moving in, he can insist that prospective tenants are employed and earning enough to pay the rent. That's fair. It's no good him signing a six-month lease only to find he's landed with a tenant who is permanently 'temporarily financially embarrassed'.

Longrider is renting a house. He was asked if he would allow pets and said yes. Providingthe tenants keep the place tidy and replace that 13th-century carved bedhead their cat sharpened its claws on, no problem.

I have no problem at all with landlords saying 'no smokers'. They are private businesses and can set any rules they like. My problem arises when that other type of landlord, the publican, is not similarly enabled.

I would have no problem with pub landlords saying 'No smoking', as some did before the ban. As with renting, should I ever again do so, I would deal only with those who are tolerant enough to want my custom. Pub landlords do not have that choice. They can be fined heavily if they allow smoking on their private premises because under Red(ish) Socialism, it became a public place. Under Blue and Yellow Socialism, it remains a public place.

(Interesting to note what you get when you mix blue and yellow paint, by the way).

It can only be a matter of time before those renting landlords, like the pub landlords, are instructed to ensure that no smoking takes place on their premises. If they allow it to happen, they will be fined.

In the comments under Anna's article is the usual 'Mummy! Mummy! The nasty man made a bad smell!' justification for hating all smokers but there is something a little more sinister too. One commenter seems certain that the homes of smokers already sell for a lower price than the same home occupied by non-smokers, to reflect the 'damage' that smoking has caused.

The damage includes reduced incidence of insect infestation including no bed bugs (I have never experienced bed bugs and I have lived in some really crappy places), reduced bacterial load overall and perhaps a little need for a new coat of paint. I would be delighted to install wasps, silverfish, cockroaches and Salmonella for the antismokers' comfort and safety, and apologise for eradicating them in the first place. I'm afraid you'll have to BYOBB though. They don't like smokers either.

The bees in my compost have all died too. They lasted long enough to pollinate all my fruit, and different bees are now visiting. The compost bin is where I put caffeine and nicotine residues so it's full of natural insecticides. There are no insect pests in the garden but I'm sure I can repair that damage too.

When I bought this house (from a non-smoker) I repainted all of it. I've re-repainted parts of it since because a) I changed my mind about the colours and b) I insist on painting kitchens white. Yes, it shows the dirt. That's the point. There shouldn't be any. If I paint it so I can't see the dirt then I won't know when it needs cleaning. The downside is that white needs to be repainted every few years because eventually, it gets stained with something that won't come out, like red wine or coffee.

It never occurred to me to demand a lower asking price because I didn't like the decor. When you buy a house, that's surely a given? Your tastes are unlikely to be identical to the previous owners' so you're going to redecorate anyway.

If you buy it from a nonsmoker, you would do that at your own expense. Now, if you buy it from a smoker, you can charge them for doing the same thing. Antismokers will see that as fair, and regard it as evidence that smokers are selfish.

When the time comes to sell my house, if it ever does (I have no current plans to move), the asking price will be the price. If an antismoker visits and says they want to buy it but at a lower price, they won't get it. If it offends them that much then they really can't want the place and if they are going to call me offensive in my own home then they are not people I want to deal with.

Antismokers will now curl their lips and sneer 'Well, you won't sell it, will you?'

Not to you, no.

However, there aren't as many rabid antismokers as they like to think. Reasonable nonsmokers would think 'A coat of paint, an open window, and all evidence of him is gone'. Smokers won't even consider it an issue. I'd sell it all right, at the asking price, because this place has direct bus and rail links into the city, it is linked to the city by dual carriageway and although it's of no use to me, there are primary and secondary schools within easy walking distance and all along non-busy, well lit streets. I can get to the town centre in ten minutes and I'm not fast. From here, you wouldn't even know there was a town centre. Morrisons and Tesco are both within easy reach as are the remaining pubs. So, antismokers, still think I'd never sell?

If you're going to make smoking the primary concern in your househunting, there are some lovely non-smoking cottages a little way out of town. Just turn left at the dead cow and follow the dirt track for five miles.

Sadly, estate agents are likely to join in the hysteria and insist on putting a lower value on smokers' homes. Ask them if smoking has affected their valuation. If it has, ask them what the price would be if you were a nonsmoker. Then insist on that price. Most viewers won't care and those that do are not people you want to sell your house to anyway. Your ex-neighbours would hunt you down for revenge.

In the first instance, the landlord issue won't be a problem. If a landlord allows smoking the antismokers won't want the place anyway, in case a previous smoking tenant booby-trapped it with tobacco behind the radiators or nicotine on the toilet seat. So there won't be any antismoking competition. Landlords will eventually realise that cutting out 20% of the population from their potential customer base wasn't as great an idea as it first seemed.

However, there is still the threat of legislation. Already, old people's homes around here have 80-year-olds on Zimmer frames standing out in the cold to smoke, in case they do 'long term damage' to the 90-year-old in the room next door. That place is their home and they can't smoke in it. Banning smoking in the home is not a threat. It has already begun.

I'd die on the street before I went into so-called 'sheltered accommodation'. It looks horrible. There is nothing to do in there but follow rules. No gardening. No drinking. No smoking. No canoodling with Edna, the surprisingly fit seventy-eight year old nympho with a large jar of Vaseline and some little blue pills. Sit in front of the idiot box and let your brain rot until your body dies. There is no way out other than in a box. That is not an honourable death in any culture. That is simply wasting away.

I'd rather my corpse was discovered one cold morning surrounded by a few empty bottles of good malt whisky, a four-foot pile of dog-ends and a stack of weeds I'd pulled from the neglected Council flowerbeds. A shorter life, but at least I won't start rotting before I'd died. I would also have annoyed the council by 'interfering with neglected public property' which would be a bonus. Wait till they see what I'd planted.

Perhaps it would be more fun to be discovered in a graveyard, having partly dug a hole in front of a stick with my hat on top. That tape 'Bury me in a nameless grave' from House of 1000 Corpses playing over and over, and not a trace of ID anywhere on me. That should scare a few impressionable souls.

Anyway, it's too early to speculate on that last great jape.

Already then, we have old people's homes in which people at no possible risk of long term harm are protected from the possible risk (not definite, not by a long stretch) of long term harm. For the cheeldren? How many cheeldren live in those places? For the staff? They don't share rooms with the inmates. They just dole out drugs to keep them under control. The staff are not, and have never been, in any danger. It's simple spite.

Therefore the taboo on banning smoking in the home has already been broken. I hear (unconfirmed) that some council accommodation already imposes no-smoking rules. Private landlords will soon find that their private property is not theirs, just as pub landlords have, and that they are unpaid policemen enforcing rules whether they agree with them or not.

From there, the only step left is the ban in private homes. We are closer than you think.

Antismokers already bleat about smokers in the street - where they sent us - so wait until they find us outside on every street in the land. Outside our own homes.

Because I am not going to hide in the back garden. Run the gauntlet, antismokers. You created it.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Like you, I suspect that market forces will always remain the deciding factor in house purchases and decent houses in good areas will always get a better price than wrecks in lousy districts. But even if it happened, as the anti-smokers no doubt believe it will, then surely that means that should smokers feel obliged to accept a lower valuation on the house, and thus a lower price, their houses will sell much more quickly than an identical property in the next street which has been owned by a bunch of puritan non-smokers. And over time, if this became a trend, the puritans would have to voluntarily lower their own house prices to match the smokers’ bargain properties, or else they’ll find they can never shift their properties at all.

Anonymous said...

Given the age of Britain's housing stock and the fact that a generation ago most people smoked it is going to be tough to find a house that has never had a smoker in it. Perhaps the happy result of this attempt to cheat smokers out of their own property will result in antis sleeping in the streets. One can only dream.

Johnnyrvf said...

You know as a landlord both back in the U.K. and now in France, smoking really is not an issue as it is normal practice to redecorate after 5 years anyway. A long term smoker requires that the carpets and curtains have to be proffesionally cleaned and this usually comes out of the deposit, so it does not cost me anything if I have a smoker as a tenant, simply because people rarely read the small print in the contract about leaving the place as they found it. I have yet to have a bad tenant in France, in the U.K. about 30% of tenants caused problems, funnily enough I never had any cigarette burns on the carpets, I did once however have the carpets vandalized with an iron, but that's another story, as to France, no one over here would rent out a property with carpets, unfurnished means that, I am only obliged to supply a sink, a shower and a toilet, the tenants supply the rest, much easier way of doing things!

Andres Pasilan Jr said...

I guess as a landlord you can lay down all your conditions either verbally or better yet it should be written into writing on an agreement between the tenants. Landlords has the right to value their property and has the right to choose tenants that can live by the rules and agreements.

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