Better Buildings Partnership members

On tenants, landlords and big pink hearts

Well the big pink heart’s out of the bag. It’s our latest beautiful e-book. The first chapter went out on Wednesday and the rest will be released over the coming months.

It’s a guide to best practice and green leasing that we’ve developed in collaboration with the Better Buildings Partnership.

We’ve called it The Tenants & Landlords Guide to Happiness. Could there be a better name?

After all, this industry we work in is not actually about buildings, it’s about us – people, relationships. Buildings are just the tools we use to get where we’re going. And the ultimate aim of most people is to get to somewhere better – greater happiness.

But for now, our tenancy and lease sectors probably qualify as the most passionately maintained adversarial boxing ring in the economy.

From day one, it’s lawyers at 10 paces.

There is long and convoluted legalese designed to obfuscate and confuse. The sector has given birth to a thriving industry of tenant representatives who offer to look after the relatively inexperienced tenants against the knowing landlords.

Landlords for their part sheepishly confess they would prefer not to speak to tenants at all – let alone try to get collaborative retrofit programs up, such as environmental upgrade agreements.

A tenant who pays the rent on time is a brilliant tenant, Sustainable Melbourne Fund’s Scott Bocskay said recently.

Tenants are required by law to rip out their tenancy fitouts when they depart and restore the space back to the original state, whether it makes sense or not.

Landlords often then rip them out again to make way for the next tenant.

Then there is the matter of the airconditioning. Some leases specify the range of temperatures that need to be maintained. This might conflict with a program to conserve energy. The lease-writers won’t care.

None of these things produce sustainable outcomes.

Instead of the two sides getting to know each other better, the yawning gap grows larger.

It could be time for some relationship guidance counselling – a time to get the warring parties together to realise that to prosper you often need to collaborate.

The aristocracy got it. Divorce was rare: bad for the family; bad for the property empire. What you need is a good set of shared agendas, a collaborative pre-nup if you like, and a way to achieve shared goals. The goals might be quite different. (Separate apartments were quite the norm for ruling classes; what’s important, they reasoned, was to keep the structure going, make it work.)

Of all the things you need to achieve a better relationship – the thing that will last long after the lawyers have departed to find their next treasure chest –  is a bit of heart. Some genuine respect and feeling will go a long way.

That’s the theme and the mood behind The Tenants & Landlords Guide to Happiness.

For chapter 1, our principal author Lynne Blundell has laid out the big picture. But just like Charles Dickens’ serialised novels, you, dear readers won’t quite know exactly what’s coming next, nor how it will end up.

What we hope for of course is that we end up with a roadmap to something better – smarter, greener, more rewarding for all.

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