The Most Evil Tricks Landlords Have Pulled on Renters

“She let us know that she was an ‘accidental landlord’ and ‘not like the others...”
A man in a suit holding a pint and smiling
Stock photo: Britt Erlanson

Renting in the UK has long been a hellscape, but over the past year, it’s reached new levels of chaos. By now, you’ve probably heard the horror stories of rent hikes, cutthroat bidding wars and snaking queues for flat viewings of leaky, mouldy, damp-riddled homes.

The right thing for the government to do would be to legislate to protect renters and commit to building truly affordable social homes, but – surprise! – the Tories are more interested in helping out their landlord mates. In April, the government handed them more powers to evict so-called anti-social tenants with two-weeks notice – a measure that could not come at a worse time. 


“What is concerning is the cutting of eviction notice periods to just two weeks for people falling into rent arrears,” says Amy Cullen, the policy and research officer at ACORN, a community-based, housing-focused union. “We’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis, with some people forced to choose between heating their homes, and this will only exacerbate the housing crisis and push more people into homelessness."

Competition is getting fiercer between tenants as the number of homes available to rent in the UK fell by a third over the past 18 months. It’s a crisis landlords are exploiting by subjecting prospective tenants to job-style interviews, dodgy contracts, demands for rent upfront or by making them agree to regular rent increases. “There’s always a lot of talk of consumer choice, but for too many people the choice is between homelessness and a landlord saying how high to jump,” says Cullen. “We can't rely on the housing market to regulate itself, because it doesn’t!”

Below, we spoke to nine people about all the horrible tricks landlords have pulled to make renting a place even more hellish than it was before. If you need more proof that landlords are scum, then look no further. 

‘We were made to do an X Factor-style video application’

“After months of looking, we found a place we liked. The estate agent let us know that the landlord was pregnant and living in Japan, and that she’d bought the place for her future baby. So our actual landlord was going to be an unborn child.

We were told that the landlord wanted us to submit a video application for the property. So, four of us [the prospective tenants] huddled around a phone camera in the corner of the pub taking turns to say what we did, what we earned and why we’d be good tenants. It felt like an X Factor audition – it was so awkward. We submitted it, and were rejected by the landlord in the end.” — Jake Khan, 24, London 


‘My landlord cancelled the rental agreement an hour before I was supposed to move in’

“I went to view a property and everything was great – but there was a big hole and some scratches on the wall. I asked the landlord if it was going to be fixed before I moved in; he assured me it would be. I put down a £850 deposit to secure the place. 

“Two weeks later, on move in day, he sent me the contract at 9AM. There were a few things I asked if we could amend, nothing major, just the correction of my name, a guarantee of a cleaner, a query about my parking space (that I was paying extra for), and how long it would take for him to repair things that broke in the house. 

“At this point, I’m all packed up and in an Uber on the way to pick up the move-in van I’d rented, and he texts me: ‘Hey, it sounds like you’re not happy with the property anymore, so I’m going to send you your deposit back.’ This was at 2PM. I was supposed to be moving in at 3PM. 

I asked him if we could have a call to talk about it but he flat out refused. As I was moving out of a house and downsizing, I had donated 20 bags worth of stuff – including my washing machine, fridge, microwave. I’m yet to find a new place and I’m still using a laundrette.” – Gracey Mae, 31,  London 


‘The landlord tried to rent me half of her living room’

“The worst trick a landlord pulled was when I went to view a room in a flat share. The pictures looked great: It was massive and advertised as a private space. When I got there, the ‘room’ was actually half the living room of the flat partitioned by homemade chipboard panels on wheels with a four-inch gap off the floor. 

“The live-in landlord told me not to worry, she loves using the living room for watching movies, but if I needed privacy I’d be able to tell her. It was essentially a wooden curtain across half the room for £750 a month. 

She had over 30 viewings that day and the person after me took the ‘room’.” – Tiegan, 22, London

‘The landlord wanted to charge me for having friends over’

“There was one live-in landlord that wanted me to fill out a spreadsheet to point out days where I had a guest over. If it was over a certain number I'd have to pay more rent. His reasoning was that a third person would increase the monthly bills.” – Fillipe, 29, London

‘We were left homeless after our landlord messed up our move-in day’ 

“After around two months of looking, me and two other housemates put down an offer on a place after upping our budget for it – we were desperate at this point. The landlord made us sign a three-year contract with a rent increase of £50 every year.

“We went round to the house before our official move-in day to get some measurements, and saw the current tenants there. They let us know that they had another month remaining there; it turned out our move-in day was legally before they had to move out. We had to move all of our stuff out of our previous house and put it into storage – which the landlord refused to pay for – and spend the next month sofa surfing at friends’ houses until we could move it.” – Billie, 28, London


‘The landlord tried to sell me a mouldy, damp death trap’ 

“What made it such a nightmare was trying to rent as a freelancer and on my own. Even when I tried to offer six months of rent upfront, this wasn’t enough. One agency wanted me to pay a year’s upfront and have a guarantor – so £15,000. There was no way. 

“I saw some filthy, damp, small, not even painted places. It’d be advertised as a one bedroom flat but would be a bed in front of a kitchen stove, for around £900 without bills. 

“One landlord was showing me around and I said, ‘It smells of damp here’, and they would say, ‘No, no, no, it’s fine’. I had a tool to measure humidity; a safe level is around 50 to 55 percent – this place was 85 percent. I also asked them about the mould, and the landlord said to ‘just spray it with bleach’ – you don’t get rid of mould with bleach!” – Marti, 34, Bristol

‘Asking for minor repairs cost us the property’

“In one property we were looking round, I asked whether the walls would be repainted – [it had] scratches and filthy stair runner. The estate agent said if someone puts an offer in without any requests then they will probably take that offer. So the landlord would willingly let out a property for £3,000 without doing anything to update it since the last tenants. 

We even offered six months upfront and we didn’t get it. Maybe because I asked for the house to be deep-cleaned and holes to be filled.” – Ollie, 29, London


‘The landlord dropped us over a month after accepting our offer’

“We had our offer accepted on a place under the condition that the landlord met every single tenant. Two of us had met the landlord at the viewing, where she’d let us know that she was an ‘accidental landlord’ and ‘not like the others’. The other flatmate, Rosie, who lived in Leeds, hadn’t met her. Rosie had to drive up to London and sofa surf to meet the landlord and [take] unpaid leave, because the landlord could only meet her during such a small window of time. She let Rosie know that we ‘weren’t her first choice’ – a great start to the relationship!

“About two weeks passed, and the landlord hadn’t got the contract over to us. I would chase her every now and then, letting her know our tenancy was ending soon. She’d tell me that ‘we need to work on mutual trust! I’m trusting you not to find somewhere else, and you’re trusting me not to give the property away’. Of course it didn’t work like that; she’d had around 30 other viewings for the property. 

“After over a month of back and forth tirelessly trying to get a contract signed, she then asked us to send a holding deposit of £1,500. I said we’d need a few days to move the money around from savings, and she gave us till Friday close of play. On Friday, at 7AM, she let us know that she was dropping us and that the flat was back on the market. Her reason? ‘You've been pestering me and now you're dragging your feet’.” – Ben Bloom, 29, London


‘An ex-landlord sabotaged me’

“I was looking to rent a place as a student with my two friends, who are in full-time employment. We managed to find a three-bed after a month and a half of looking, which wasn’t a great location, but we were really desperate. 

“The landlord was sceptical because I was a student, and asked for a reference from my previous landlord. My landlord gave me such a bad reference, which was really shocking, because me and my housemates thought we had a good relationship with him. 

“But he had withheld some of our deposit saying we were messy. The flat had a rat problem, the dishwasher was broken – which he was supposed to fix – and there was mould from before we moved in. That’s why I think he kept the deposit. And I think he needed to give me a bad reference to prove the reason as to why he wasn’t giving me our money back.

“I literally thought I was gonna have to defer my third year because I had nowhere to live. The only reason I was able to secure my current place is because it was a pigsty and I had agreed to pay six months rent upfront.” – Kadie Howard, 25, Manchester