Laurence Olivier stars in Henry V, the 1994 classic about the realities of landlordship

Is being a landlord really ‘like being at war’? A Spinoff investigation

A prominent Auckland property investor has told the NZ Herald that “being a landlord is like being at war”. Hayden Donnell tests his theory.

Every day Peter Lewis wakes up, drives an unconscionable distance and begins scouring people’s houses for meth, dog droppings, and other “contraband”. The Auckland Property Investors Association vice-president made that surprise admission recently, in a Herald story about his daily life.


His story is aimed at countering the idea landlords are “Monopoly men in top hats, driving around in Rolls Royces”. But the picture that emerges of a landlord’s job is, if anything, more unsettling. When Lewis isn’t combing lawns for traces of poo, knives, and mind-altering drugs, his role seems to involve gathering intelligence on tenants by doing regular drive-bys of their houses, like a serial killer stalking prey.


In other cases, it apparently involves not reporting behaviour that should definitely be reported to police, or at least the Tenancy Tribunal.



Lewis paints a discomforting picture.

But by far the strangest claim he makes about the life of a landlord is his first.

“Being a landlord is like being at war: 90 per cent enjoyable and 10 per cent sheer slog.”

I’ve never been to war, and I absolutely hate it when anyone hyperbolically resorts to using the word “war” to describe mundane, everyday work.


Lewis’ assertion seemed particularly inaccurate, mainly because all the reports I’ve seen about war make it seem much less than 90 per cent enjoyable. This article about trench life in World War One is divided into five sections: Mud, Flies, The cold, Rats, and Lack of sleep.

This is the headline:


This is a famous saying about war:



But maybe Lewis is onto something with his analogy. Can we find ways in which being a landlord like literally going to war with an enemy you wish to kill? I put his theory to the test, and came up with some similarities between being a landlord and engaging in the most destructive practice on Earth.

1. You besiege the enemy’s resources and ultimately destroy them

Simply replace the word enemy with “tenant”, and you can employ siege warfare tactics in property investment.

Lewis seems to be employing this strategy when he admits: “Some of my tenants have just $5 left at the end of the week after their rent, their power, their food… they live hand to mouth.”

However, he goes on to say he shows compassion, working out alternative ways of paying rent if tenants are struggling.

Many others don’t receive such mercy.

Laurence Olivier stars in Henry V, the 1994 classic about the realities of landlordship

Laurence Olivier stars in Henry V, the 1994 Shakespeare adaptation for cinema which probes the realities of landlordship in Auckland

2. Young people suffer the most

In war, as in the rental market.

3. Old people extract that suffering while demanding none of themselves

This is a generalisation. There are also roughly 14 young landlords who extract suffering from fellow young people, and all of them have appeared in their own Herald or Stuff article by now.

Speaking of which…

4. There’s lots of propaganda


5. The side with the most money wins

As the saying goes, property investment is won not on the battlefield but in the banks.

6. Um, you have to fill out a lot of forms

7. In no way is being a landlord like being at war

8. What a dumb thing to say

9. Please stop saying things like this

10. Jail all Boomers

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