The Burnett Law

Here,  on the other side of the fence where truth and kindness are our daily actions, where the war for love blasts our lives relentlessly, Scotland’s housing crisis is robbing me of my previously patient and forgiving stores. Up here in the Highlands, basic housing needs are not being met, and, when challenged, tenants are being regularly punished for attempting to bring their homes up to reasonable standard.

I wish to propose a new law. It will make it illegal for a landlady to punish a tenant for reporting repairs. I want to call it The Burnett Law.

The Burnett Papers is a growing document of emails, reports and witness statements, which I will carry to the first-tier tribunal next week. There is new legislation which has some leverage against absentee negligent landladies and I am making full use of it. When I moved to this house, a previous tenant whispered in my ear. “Document everything” she said. And so I did.

Here in the cheap seats we hold tight to the bits of love we find. We gather close to those with hope still in their eyes. We know the world is turning harder, more full of the love of money as the root of all evil and we do our best to choose love in everything we do. The most loving, the kindest thing I can think to do is to take my landlady to tribunal and document the experience in the hope it gives another woman strength to say no to the never ending intimidation and abuse of landlords towards their tenants.

You are not alone. There are thousands of us every week, bullied out of our homes for asking for repairs. We are not begging for carpets to replace the ten year old bare worn ones. We are not wanting prettier paint for the kitchen. We want warmth. We want clean air to breathe. We want to be safe in our homes, to raise our children.

There are slugs travelling through the wall in the bathroom where the tile fell off. The wall is blackened and fetid. Last year it was re-tiled, in places, to cover the damp. This year, as the house dries out, the tiles are falling off again. My daughter stepped in a slug, in her bare feet, in the middle of the night as she went for a pee.

Sometimes, in the war for love, we have to shout loud and clear. We have to demand better, even when we know the consequences.

I asked my landlady two years ago about the black mould. I asked her again last winter. She did nothing about it. Instead, she began to insult, abuse, disrespect and threaten me. When I showed her the rising damp in the kitchen she yelled and screamed at me that I was a liar. When I directed her to the cupboards where our belongings were destroyed by black mould, she yelled that I was crazy, that no one liked me and that I was just a liar. She reminded me of my mother when I told her the old man was abusing me. She immediately threatened to evict me and has done everything in her power to make life as uncomfortable for me as possible.

Single mothers like me usually stay quiet, for fear of eviction.It is time to stop. It is time for change. it is time the homeless and the landless asked for equality, demanded the love and kindness needed to be able to remain in one home to raise children. Single mothers are a fairly downtrodden sub-class of society, permanently tired, with self esteem issues, just getting by, doing the best we can, for our children. We try not to make a fuss because we are kicked out, moved on, shifted from scheme to estate to village on the whim of the powerful.

There is no insulation in this house I rent and love and call my home. Zero insulation. All heat escapes through the walls or the roof. I am in fuel poverty because of my heating costs. My landlady knows this. She has known about the mould for years. Even with the stoves burning, the radiators running from big orange propane bottles which cost a fortune, plug in heater on full and a dehumidifier, we were still cold all last winter.

I am not alone. This is common practise across the Highlands of Scotland.

This is not a blog for the greedy or the hate filled. This is not a blog for minds poisoned by the need to bully. This is a blog to remind you that you deserve love, kindness and decency in every area of your life, even from your landlady.


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