Paul Routledge, founder of tenant “lifestyle referencing” site Landlord Referencing, having a little joke here with presenter Vanessa Warwick about “getting the chair leg out” on what we must assume are people he would consider to be bad tenants. The exchange occurs about a minute into the video.
VW: “I’ve heard some entertaining stories; um, I’ve heard a gentleman suggesting that when you have a bad tenant, you get the chair leg out…”
PR: “Aaah… Well no, he ah, ah that was his suggestion, he turned around and he said – I don’t think he was – I think he might have been Russian actually – I don’t – [in heavy accent] “We don’t need that, ah we get the chair leg” ah that was a bit Greek wunnit? Heh, a heh, heh – My Russian’s rubbish… Erm… but he, yeah “get the chair leg out”. I said “I don’t know if we can do that anymore really but you know… [indecipherable] if we could get the chair leg out it would probably solve a lot of problems” but -“
VW: “But seriously though you’re a professional landlord…”
This exchange is obviously referencing a conversation that Vanessa and Paul had off-camera with the “Russian” gentleman in question. I had a similar exchange outside a gay bar in Soho last year, where a Ukranian bouncer was talking about how he has to put up with too much rudeness from some of the male clientele, and how in the Ukraine, bouncers carry weapons and people look the other way if a gay man is beaten up. I asked him whether he actually wanted to beat up gay men who were rude to him in his job, and he said “No, of course not, but I would like respect”. I think he was angry because he knew that gay men would be less likely to be rude to him if he was working in his home country; but the reason why they would be more polite would be the fear of violence, not because they thought he was a good person – so to my mind that is a poor form of respect.
In this very similar exchange that Paul and Vanessa reconstruct between themselves – amidst awkward guffaws and giggles – it seems very apparent that Paul Routledge has issues with being treated respectfully. He seems to be fondly remembering a time when the threat of the “chair leg” – or other such tool of violence – was part of the private landlord’s arsenal when it came to tenant management. Routledge’s lifestyle referencing agency is a “chair leg” that he can get away with wielding, and is entirely to do with the “attitude” and “lifestyle” of the tenant, not their payment record or stewardship of the property.
Paul Routledge was evidently not a well-respected landlord when he couldn’t threaten his “disrespectful” tenants. I believe that this is why he set up his lifestyle referencing agency. He believes that he is the “good guy”, a pillar of morality; a self-made success – looking out for the little fella or lass and weeding out the “problem people” from what he perceives to be his own little community. Unfortunately for him, and for his tenants, his own fragile narcissism requires that every tenant metaphorically ‘doff their cap’ or suffer his wrath, be labelled a “problem person” and thus blacklisted; then subsequently struggle and suffer to get a roof over their heads.
There are already measures in place for landlords with actual problem tenants. We have an entire justice system with police and courts to deal with reported antisocial or illegal activities. Paul Routledge is a landlord, not a vigilante messiah. If they’re paying on time and haven’t wrecked your house, it’s not your job to change their souls, mate – either by the first gentle conversation suggesting some little lifestyle changes, or the final blacklisting and threats of homelessness if people don’t change to ape your own personal morality.