Claire Smith: Pernickety property agents really must learn to let live

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THE worst landlord I ever had – to paraphrase Peter Cook and Dudley Moore – was the Edinburgh University Accommodation Service.

Perhaps things have changed since I was a student. I certainly hope so. However, I remember arriving in the city as a young, gormless and not terribly domesticated creature and feeling routinely crushed and intermittently terrified by my landlords.

The university, or its minions, had an obsession with blank magnolia walls and a morbid horror of Blu-Tack. Drawing pins were allowed, but grim-faced inspectors would randomly descend like a branch of the Stasi, whose mission was looking for tell-tale blue stains.

Our flat had cheap, nasty uncomfortable furniture, a hideous colour scheme and tiny narrow beds – but woe betide you if you tried to make it less like a young offenders’ institution by sticking up a postcard.

I thought of this after catching up with a friend who had just moved house.

Like a lot of people, she is renting – trying to build up a deposit for a property – while bringing up a baby. She and her partner both work, and have good jobs. They are paying a small fortune for their home. And yet the letting agents made them feel like second-class citizens.

My friend spent days cleaning her flat to make sure it was clean. She was told her new flat had been professionally cleaned only to find broken fittings and rugs full of holes.

I once came home to a rented flat to find the letting agency had let itself in, without asking, to “test” the electrics. The lamps, the iron and the CD player (mine) were suddenly covered in stickers saying “Passed”.

More people live in rented accommodation. Soaring property prices and a squeezed mortgage market mean renting may become the norm – as it is in many European countries.

It is time landlords and letting agents began treating tenants with more respect. If you pay for a place to live, it is your home. Simple as that.