Landlord Watch: Landlords Are Boycotting B&Q and M&S Because They Donate to Homeless Charity Shelter


by Joel Golby
22 November 2018, 10:00am

Someone moving house. Photo: VICE

Landlords are good, aren't they? [Whole entire crowd boos except one lad in boots he bought from a hardware store, a bumbag with three phones in it and a Jaguar] Ah, no, apologies, sorry: I've just checked my notes and landlords are terrible, awful, they are rancid, acrid beasts that barely qualify as human, so-much-so that killing them is more like hunting than murder.

I know what you are thinking: is this not an evergreen sentiment, Joel? Do you not always feel like this? And the answer is: yes it is, and yes I do. But it is particularly evergreen this week, with the news that some UK landlords are threatening to boycott chains such as Marks & Spencer and B&Q for – and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this – donating some of their Christmas profits to homelessness charity Shelter.

Homeless charity. Shelter. A homeless charity.

I'll let Property Industry Eye take the rest of this one:

Disaffected landlords are to try and launch a mass boycott of the businesses that support Shelter, starting with B&Q and moving on to Marks & Spencer, with others to come.

Last night Shelter paid tribute to the two named businesses, while B&Q said that Shelter was the right organisation for it to work with.

The National Landlords Alliance is starting its protest with DIY chain B&Q, but will be targeting other stores in due course, including Marks & Spencer, which has contributed millions towards Shelter.

B&Q has helped fund Shelter since last year, and this Christmas plans to raise £25,000 through sales of dolls where at least £2 [from every toy sold] will go towards Shelter.

Some landlords have already written to B&Q to warn them that they will no longer be making any purchases there.

There follows an excerpted letter from landlord Dr Ros Beck, who wrote to B&Q, among other things: "I am a private landlord who has known for some time that B&Q has been helping to fund Shelter. So far, I have chosen to ignore this unpalatable fact"; "the only way [Shelter can help people get housing] is by persuading private landlords to take the risk of housing homeless people"; "In addition to allegedly helping people into housing we have also heard how they and others 'help' tenants remain in their housing by informing them that they can wait for the bailiffs in cases of eviction – a process which is ruinous and devastating for landlords"; "they push a relentless anti private landlord agenda"; and, as if proof were needed that landlords are lizards or aliens or smooth warm stones with phone holsters stapled to them, this particular piece of anti-banter: "I have asked that they rename themselves, as they provide no shelter, whilst demonising those of us who do."

I don’t know if you’ve ever boycotted a company before, but every time I have it’s because they’ve done something, like, bad. Starbucks, for example, with their tax thing. Byron saw a deep downturn in courgette fry sales (the joke here is I consumed so many courgette fries that Byron would notice my withdrawn custom in their end-of-year spreadsheets) after they shopped their own staff to immigration. I’ve had some difficult conversations with myself about continuing to use Amazon (is me being too lazy to go to the shops really worth someone making barely living wage while not being allowed to really piss? The unfortunate answer is no). L’Oreal, Picturehouse, Canada Goose. That real dickhead coffee shop in east London. There are some brands, shops and chains that are just morally untenable to support. If you want to be a good person – to go into whatever bleak dark aftermathic abyss or heaven or hell you can imagine when you die with some small semblance of "good" attached to your name – you will have had some of these conversations with yourself, too.

I’m sort of impressed, then, that the UK’s landlords have taken this concept – boycotting shops and chains for bad behaviour – and turned it wholly on its head. "Hmm," the National Landlords Alliance, which plans already to support a B&Q boycott, seems to be saying. "Hmm, yes: this trade discount on the same fucking grey-white kitchen we install in every property in the UK is good… but they really are supporting homelessness charities just a bit too much for my tastes."

For reasons of balance, I should vaguely summarise landlords' beef with Shelter that I’ve gleaned from the Property Industry Eye comments section: they allege the charity does not actually provide shelter to homeless people, instead leaning on private landlords to do so; that small businesses in the UK (every landlord considers themselves a small business, it’s cute) should not be expected to plug the gap that a lack of infrastructure from the government should be fulfilling; that Shelter CEOs take a too-handsome wage from their jobs (landlords thinking other people are overpaid for not doing enough is… I mean. that concept is so hypocritical it’s making my throat choke up); that a company like B&Q supporting a charity that undermines private landlords is, in a roundabout way, cutting a revenue stream from out of itself.

But then on the other hand: wouldn’t it be good to murder all landlords? Is this a balanced argument? It feels very strongly like it is: nail a landlord’s feet to the laminate flooring they charged you £200 for because of a single scuff; force-feed them radiator keys until they agree to fix the frozen boiler. A landlord, floating eerie and quiet in a bath that leaks into the flat below (fixing the leak requires you to pay next month’s rent a month in advance); landlords, creaking and hanging in the old IKEA wardrobe they refused to replace. The slats on your bed collapsed six weeks ago and, when the uprising comes, you replace them with the long thin handsome bones from the inside of your landlord’s limbs: the thighs, the forearms, the splintered shins. Every landlord who has ever phoned you at 8AM while you're getting ready for work asking you very urgently if they can let themselves in: we will nail their bodies to the trees. Every landlord who has signed the lease, not answered an email for 11-and-a-half straight months, then turned up a week before renewal telling you rent is up £100 a month despite zero notable improvements: their bodies will be consumed by the sea. Every landlord whose flat you've been cosily living in for three years, before a Zoopla update pings into your inbox to tell you your newly cleaned and deposit-withheld property is available to rent at £400 per month more than you were renting it: you will be able to tear their skulls out at the brows, starting your fingers just above the eyes and pulling backwards, the screaming starting, until you're just tearing at scalp, scraping on skull.

"I never knew about B&Q and Screwfix donating to the immoral charity called Shelter," one comment said. "Yes I have called Shelter immoral because they tell tenants to screw the private landlord over EVEN WHEN THE TENANT IS IN THE WRONG!"

I know it’s not a balanced argument, but: I surely will enjoy watching their bodies burn.

You can donate to Shelter here.


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