We are in May 2018; business is going extremely well. It was a beautiful morning the birds were singing, and my coffee and breakfast was made. Everything was good until I came to discover that there is an article in The Guardian, called “The Lettings Club Where Tenants are Fined £90 for Leaving Dirty Dishes”. For the first time in my life I was genuinely speechless. In the article, they called this a ‘grey area’, which is accurate, because English legislation never managed to cover the reality of the flatshare industry in London.
But nevertheless, we had a read of the article and to our surprise it was filled with mistakes and false information. For starters, it makes it look like we charge £90 per person and that is absolutely not true. We charge £90 for a group of 10 people that live in the same property, so it’s less than £10 per person which also includes cleaning services, but I guess they conveniently forgot to mention that.
The article mentioned a ‘Mister Paolo Sanchez’ which is most definitely not a real person. I assume due to the name being similar to mine, Gian Paolo Aliatis, they were trying to refer to me in an encrypted type way. Nevertheless, they described this defenceless tenant that is suffering because supposedly he does not have a tenancy agreement which apparently makes such a big difference to his life. Remember, this Paolo Sanchez does not exist, it is someone that they invented specifically for this article.
“The poor Paolo Sanchez has paid £200 for a non-refundable joining fee, oh my God”. What they forgot to mention is that no lettings fee by that time was refundable so if you have rented a property from any estate agency, you would still have to pay an admin fee that is not refundable. But of course, they made sure to highlight the fact that the fee was not refundable. Then they began to explain how horrible our terms and conditions are, the same terms and conditions that are presented on our website, in the document that the member signs which 98% of them never had a problem with any of it. They started defending the poor defenceless tenant that supposedly lived in fear because of our company, staff would access the property without their consent. In reality, no one cares if a cleaner or a property manager has access to a property especially in shared accommodation where common areas are shared by everyone.
Another example the article is used was a time the ‘club’ refused to refund the deposit to a member. Instead the ‘club’ terminated the agreement and used the deposit as the last payment. Who knows if they even exist or not, I have never seen or heard of this, and we still do not know the truth because they talk about an abstract person. Instead they relay the words of this made-up individual as a fact. Nevertheless, they discussed our business model and concluded that it was not clear if the members of the ‘club’ were tenants. In practical terms this makes no difference to their stay in our properties because what we have always offered is flexibility and that was the reason why they are staying in our properties.
Why on earth would an institution dictate to a person and trap them in an inflexible tenancy agreement, if that person has already made an agreement with our company to have a much more flexible and simple relationship, and to use our properties when needed and not when obligated?
Then the article referred to Green Life, which is an estate agency that rented properties with licences instead of tenancy agreements, “what a huge crime, they should go to jail for life.” Well, it seems to me that they tried to use licences instead of tenancy agreements to create more flexibility for them. Perhaps, they could not let the property to those people with a tenancy agreement because of tenants failing credit checks and they gave them the option to let the property with a licence instead of a tenancy agreement. In any case this is not considered in the article therefore exemplifying the extent the article was one-sided.
Finally, the article ends with “many of us are students and losing our home will leave us struggling to survive.” How on earth would a 20+ years old person, living in one of the richest cities in the world, would live in fear that they will struggle to survive?
What the prosecution failed to find is more than three or four people that were not mostly complaining about their door not always locking properly, as per the dismissal application.
For every person, I Paolo Aliatis, invite you to consider who was truly committing heinous acts? If you ask me, trial by media is the real pandemic. One must not get caught up with what other people think or say about you as anybody that defines you by your past mistakes fears your future.