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Smarter Housing and the Warwick Boar

Okay, I’ll admit it isn’t quite Richard Branson and BA’s ‘Dirty Tricks’ campaign but I have had a run in with the local rag for the University of Warwick, which isn’t ideal given the bulk of our 300 student properties are based in areas intended for Warwick students.

Towards the end of last year I received an e-mail from a student journalist, citing a couple of allegations against Smarter Housing. I was being granted 24 hours to respond, after which time they would proceed regardless.

I managed to get hold of the girl via telephone and established her source was none other than the fraudster whom I am now due to see in court this August, claiming over £5,000 in black and white goods that he failed to pay me for [see my previous rant on this here]. I gave her a brief rundown of the background to the case and emphasised that the other party has spent the last 3 years trash talking my business. Thankfully he has a bit of a history of defaulting on payments so his comments have been taken lightly by most. She agreed that nothing would be printed.

A few weeks later the Warwick Boar journalist is again e-mailing me allegations via e-mail. I agreed to go and meet with her and another ‘reporter’ on campus. I taped the entire 1 hour and 24 minutes of the interview and I’m glad I did, as the preview sent to me a couple of days later was utter nonsense. Despite my suggestions they should carefully consider their wording a front page article emerged early in January – the middle of the house hunting season. I have since found out no fewer than five tenants were questioned and gave positive reviews of Smarter Housing, all of whom were completely ignored, although I never bothered taking any kind of action against the Boar.

What was clearly intended as a damaging article only served to increase exposure of the company, with Warwick’s intelligent students quickly noting the bias of the article. A near miss you might say!

The Boar did eventually print a positive article about Smarter Housing, although it was nestled in with the letters to the editor. I’ve managed to paste the print below as I suspect it may get deleted from the Boar’s servers sooner or later! I’m fairly pleased with Stephen’s comments it has to be said, although I would liked to have seen the full version – which he was told to cut in half upon first submission.

Smarter than you think
Tuesday 6 January, 2009
Stephen Lambert

I am writ­ing in re­sponse to the ar­ti­cle pub­lished on the front page of the Boar, dated the 25th Novem­ber 2008, about Smarter­Hous­ing and Adam Arnold. The ar­ti­cle was an en­ter­tain­ing read, was pos­si­bly li­bel­lous but, in my opin­ion, did in no way give a fair and true view of the ser­vice that Smarter­Hous­ing and Adam Arnold pro­vide.

I have known Adam since I start­ed at War­wick in 2002 and since then we have kept in touch. I at­tend­ed his wed­ding ear­li­er this year and rent­ed from him when I came to War­wick to start my post­grad­u­ate de­gree. I can say with­out reser­va­tion, that Adam is a thor­ough­ly good chap who is try­ing to run an hon­est busi­ness. In my opin­ion, the ar­ti­cle used half truths and poor re­search to paint an un­true pic­ture, es­sen­tial­ly char­ac­ter as­sas­si­nat­ing Adam Arnold.

There was no men­tion of the cam­paign­ing Adam has done on be­half of stu­dents in War­wick­shire to in­crease the pro­hibitive­ly small amount of rub­bish that the coun­cil will take each week, a sim­ple news­pa­per search would have shown this. No men­tion of the fund­ing he won from War­wick Ven­tures for in­no­va­tion to set up Smarter­Hous­ing; no men­tion of the talks he has given to other local busi­ness­es on the chal­lenges of set­ting up your own com­pa­ny; no men­tion of the awards he has been nom­i­nat­ed for as a busi­ness­man, or the fact that he was re­cent­ly in­clud­ed in the Guardian’s top five-​hun­dred en­trepreneurs list. There was also no men­tion of the sup­port he gives to nu­mer­ous Uni­ver­si­ty of War­wick Sports teams (Women’s Net­ball, Amer­i­can Foot­ball, Rugby League and until re­cent­ly, Rugby Union), with­out which the clubs would strug­gle to op­er­ate.

The ar­ti­cle pre­sent­ed the facts of cases in a bi­ased and un­mea­sured way. For ex­am­ple, the woman, who claimed her house was bro­ken into be­fore she moved in, ad­mit­ted to being para­noid for her safe­ty. Sure­ly this is an ad­mis­sion that her grounds for com­plaint were un­jus­ti­fied; per­haps the Boar should in­vest in a dic­tio­nary and look up the mean­ing of para­noid – a sus­pi­cion that is not based on fact? The other res­i­dents of the house were per­fect­ly happy with the state of the prop­er­ty; de­spite this, Miss Mil­ton was given forty-​three lines of text, while the de­fence only four­teen. Did the Au­thor even ask the other res­i­dents their opin­ion, or was it not deemed im­por­tant?

It was also stat­ed in the ar­ti­cle that a num­ber of hous­es were found not to have been cleaned prior to the start of the ten­an­cy agree­ments. Blame was in­ferred to be on Adam for going on hon­ey­moon and not spend­ing that time clean­ing the house. Read­ing the ar­ti­cle care­ful­ly it is ap­par­ent that Adam or­gan­ised for the clean­ing to take place be­fore he went away, only to find that it wasn’t done on his re­turn. The prop­er­ties were then cleaned with­in two weeks. I would chal­lenge any hous­ing agen­cy to do bet­ter and I do not see what more he could have done. The ar­ti­cle how­ev­er por­trays it as if Adam couldn’t be both­ered to do the clean­ing.

The writ­er claims that they were un­able to find any­body who was happy with their ex­pe­ri­ences of Smarter­Hous­ing. The only way I can be­lieve this is if she didn’t both­er look­ing. Sure­ly a good start would be the cap­tain of one of the clubs Smarter­Hous­ing spon­sor (my­self). No doubt this would have turned up the fact that I per­son­al­ly sent an email to the club rec­om­mend­ing the use of Smarter­Hous­ing, cit­ing my own pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences. Come to think of it, any mem­ber of the club would have suf­ficed!

An­oth­er piece of bi­ased re­port­ing of the facts in the ar­ti­cle claims that Adam re­fused to talk to the Boar, as if this was an ad­mis­sion of guilt or shifty be­haviour. The ar­ti­cle doesn’t men­tion that Adam gave a frank and open in­ter­view to the re­porter (pre­sum­ably where his quo­ta­tions came from) and was only when he was given a copy of the draft ar­ti­cle and saw how he had been mis­quot­ed, re­fused to an­swer any­more ques­tions and re­ferred the Boar to his lawyer. Sure­ly this is stan­dard busi­ness prac­tice and I doubt that any other rep­utable busi­ness would have done any dif­fer­ent­ly.

At the end of the day, Adam is run­ning a small busi­ness, try­ing to pro­vide hous­ing to stu­dents in the best way he can. The fact that he is an ami­able and friend­ly per­son, going the extra mile for his ten­ants, can mean that, when some­thing goes wrong, peo­ple tend to take it per­son­al­ly. I am not say­ing that Adam is per­fect, and with the power of hind­sight, maybe some of the prob­lems that have come up could have been avert­ed. How­ev­er, he is learn­ing and chang­ing his busi­ness model ac­cord­ing­ly. At the end of the day, he is act­ing as an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween the ten­ant and the land­lord, hav­ing to take in claims by both sides and make the best judg­ment he can.

This is just my opin­ion and un­der­stand­ing of the facts, which I am not dis­put­ing. My main gripe is with the writ­ing style and the way in which the in­ci­dents were re­port­ed.

— END —

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  • http://www.acecleaningcompany.co.uk Cleaning Coventry

    Journalists!! Sounds like you have grounds for a libel case there… After all, you’re in the best country in the world to bring about a libel case.