Artillery Row

In defence of landlords

Know your place in my property portfolio

Society changes. On that much, we can agree.

Those middle classes rise, inexorably. Radicalism is followed by Reform. You get the printing press, and suddenly they are reading Books in those Staffordshire potteries. 

“Err, look mate, either you give us the vote, or off with yer head!”

“Oh, crumbs!” the Toffs exclaim. “Right, we’ll get rid of those rotten boroughs, but you’ll have to keep paying for the living expenses of hereditary peers.”

Times change, and we change with them. But no matter how we structure society, the essential facts of nature reassert themselves. The descendants of my ancestor’s house servants now serve me filtered coffee in Pret a Manger. The places change, but the people, and thus the hierarchy, stays the same.

Repetition across History is everywhere. They don’t have to buy themselves commissions any more, but the dimmest offspring of the Aristocratic types still find themselves stumbling into Sandhurst. Their counterparts in the underclass persist also. Highwaymen became Roadmen. From Dick Turpin to Dizzee Rascal; the same lovable rogue pops up in the fabric of our society again, and again. You can never scour him out completely.

Other men of leisure kept the candle burning

Then there were the monks. In beautiful stone monasteries, drinking and eating themselves into oblivion, and obesity, while medieval peasants skipped breakfast and dinner in their piddling hovels so they could scrape together a tithe. Even as religion was crushed by lay education, and the State, other men of leisure kept the candle burning. Found other ways.

Leveraging inter-generational wealth to crowd the undeserving lower middle classes out of the property market, and using the endless leisure time to write tweets attacking the young for their wastefulness. Buying the latest Avocados and chucking their bottles of pop out of the windows of Mummy’s 4×4.

The impulse to exploit the poor, while lecturing them about their moral shortcomings, is ancient. It is a thread that connects this very modern landlord to the very first preacher. For the wages of sin is an eternity of renting.

And so the sermon begins.

You thought you were too clever

Let’s start with a parable. The story of you. You snivelling insect of the Urban Precariat. You thought you were too clever, too important to do a proper degree, with some actual earning potential. “Law sounds boring. I think I’ll go for Politics, Media, perhaps a combination of both?”

Pride cameth, and you fell into paying me two thirds of your diminutive salary to sleep in the living room of a ex-council house in Lambeth. My advice is to avoid brightly coloured clothing — you do not want to stand out as a target. Or, try and figure out a way to go back in time, and convince the younger version of yourself to take life more seriously.

“Oh, I couldn’t live at home after University, what if I wanted to bring a girl back?”. How has that turned out? A bit of romantic advice: women compartmentalise “he rents” alongside “he games”, and “he still has a provisional driving license”. They find it so disgusting that it’s actually physically distressing. I’m told it can even trigger an involuntary gag reflex.

And while it is certainly tragic to be a sexless twenty-something festering in a childhood bedroom, anything can be endured so long as there is an endpoint. So long as there is hope.

Just as Odysseus never forgot Ithaca, the stay-at-home saver never stops dreaming about that first rung on the ladder. Cashing in on their right-to-buy ISA, and emerging from the cloying, familial cocoon. Feeling their sympathy towards planning reform evaporate virtually overnight. Finding the housing crisis secretly thrilling, checking Zoopla obsessively to see how much your asset has earned you that week.


My child. It is time you gave up on your dream of living in London. Be humble. Be realistic. Accept that you are not economically productive enough to justify living in one of the wealthiest, and therefore most competitive, cities on Earth.

Here is your push: rent is doubling. Tripling even. I have no idea what it is, but it’s going up. Off you go, back to the unfashionable semi-rural suburb from whence you came. Back into the endless social winter that is life outside of the M25.

For you are dust.

And to dust you shall return.

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