Bad people do bad things. How’s that for a Wednesday morning tautology?
A few months ago, London was blighted by bad people on mopeds spraying acid into people’s faces and stealing their vehicles.
The United States seems to have such a problem with bank robbers that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d travelled back in time to the 1920s.
And landlords in the UK stole almost £1,000,000 from their tenants in the first seven months of 2018.
We found the headline in that bastion of British journalism, The Mirror, and we have no reason to doubt its veracity.
What we have issue with is the way it’s presented to the great Mirror reading public, who may or may not bother to read below the fold.
It’s not fake news. Landlords and their agents did make off with a huge amount of their tenants money earlier this year, and they’ve been convicted for it. But you have to make your way down to the fourth paragraph before you realise that these thefts, totalling around £900,000 is down to seven individuals.
We understand the way newspapers are written. They know that most people will lose interest in an article very quickly, and that’s why the most important information is prioritised near the top. It’s called the Inverted Pyramid structure, and every journalist learns this on day one.
So we need to scroll further before we find out what’s actually going on. That these were deposits paid directly to the landlord’s bank account, rather than into a deposit protection scheme. That there were seven people convicted for this.
Out of 2.5 million landlords in the UK, seven have been convicted of theft this year.
What’s shocking is that there aren’t more.
Our speedy mental maths puts that figure at just below three ten thousandths of a single percent.
Can you think of a single other profession where the rate of malfeasance is so low?
Every time a landlord lets a substandard property or fakes a gas certificate, it ends up as headline news. Every time a landlord accepts ‘favours’ instead of rent, or stuffs illegal immigrants 10 to a room in an illegal HMO, they’re guaranteed coverage in at least the regionals.
But still, the overall crime rate against tenants is low.
Banks, as institutions and individual employees are continually stealing from customers, both legally and illegally. But, apart from the wholesale Wells Fargo debacle in America, we don’t hear nearly as much about that.
Banks are still viewed as stalwarts of the economy and bankers as respectable.
Do you know why your credit card is delivered in a disguised envelope? It’s because there’s a fairly decent chance it will be stolen by your friendly local postmen and postwomen (postpeople?) en route to your front door.
In 2016, there were more than 11,000 cases of fraud where bank cards went ‘missing’ in transit, and around 340 Royal Mail workers are convicted of theft every single year. The postal giant has 161,000 employees giving us a probability of 0.2% that our local postie isn’t taking the straightest route.
So why the constant hate?
Bad people do bad things regardless of what industry they’re in, and beside those kinds of figures landlords are practically saints.