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"Landlord" - isn't it time for a rebrand?

Updated: Apr 25

Am I alone in feeling a bit uncomfortable about the term "Landlord"? It's not so much the fact the word is gendered, although that doesn't help, but it's more the historical baggage that comes along with it.

The term goes back to the Middle Ages in England when there were Feudal Lords that owned the land that the tenant farmers and serfs worked on. Over time, the Lord of the Land morphed into Landlord.

Is this how we want to describe ourselves today?

I think the word is old-fashioned, and is steeped in connotations of class, gender and even race. It makes me think of rogue landlords like Mr Rigsby from the 70s sitcom Rising Damp. It also makes me think of Peter Rackman, the slum landlord. He was so notorious for his intimidation and exploitation of tenants in Notting Hill in the 1950s and 60s (long before the area was takes over by bankers and oligarchs), that his name became synonymous with charging extortionate rents for slum properties to poor tenants, especially immigrants.

Wearing my legal hat, the problem is that the word is embedded in legislation such as the Housing Act 1988, which introduced Assured Tenancies, and is defined in s45 in a rather convoluted fashion: 'any person from time to time deriving title under the original landlord and also includes, in relation to a dwelling-house, any person other than a tenant who is, or but for the existence of an assured tenancy would be, entitled to possession of the dwelling-house'.

So I appreciate that in legal documents like Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements, we need to keep the word Landlord, but that does not mean that we need to refer to ourselves landlords in every day life.

Then the challenge comes in finding another word or expression. I see some people use "private housing providers" (see Classhouse Properties), which is definitely better than than Landlord, if a bit wordy. "Lessor" tends to be used in commercial property, but I think that is too legalistic, and is easily confused with "Lessee", which means Tenant.

I also appreciate that we differentiate ourselves from rogue landlords by being responsive and responsible in our provision of rental accommodation, fixing things promptly, and having nice, energy efficient properties where people are happy to live.

But I still don't like the baggage of the word Landlord...

What do you think? How do you describe yourselves? Do you think it's time for a rebrand? Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thank you!


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