Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Green Tenants Are Revolting

This week’s offering isn’t amusing, nor likely to attract much attention from property crash sites, but it says much about how little control we renters have over our lives, so don’t switch off.

Tenants share a problem with Kermit the Frog: it’s not easy being green. For example, the terms of my lease prevent me from installing a water metre. Many newbuild flats have one bedroom and so house a maximum of two people, and yet we are charged the same as a family of five in a rambling house with cars to rinse, muddy children to wash and lawns to water.

I live close to the city, and do not own a car (it’s not like I can afford one) and so by necessity use public transport, taxis or walk everywhere. More of us would cycle, but flats are too small to store a bike, and it would be nicked within seconds if chained outside, so bikes live on the balcony, wheeled daily through the lounge. Consequently, cyclists are rare.

Recycling is impossible. I can’t store tins, bottles and paper: there’s just no room. How would I transport stuff to the bottle bank; the closest facility is miles away, and remember the no-car thing? I once asked Cleaning Man about installing recycling receptacles in the basement. He sympathised, but pointed out that evil tenants would burn the bins, or smash the glass.

We shop locally by necessity owing to that lack of a car. We are seen stumbling home weighed down with carriers (or these days, canvas bags) full of heavy stuff like potatoes as we shop for food on a daily basis, and are quite poor, so we don’t waste much. For those on low wages or benefits, supermarket delivery is a costly treat to be savoured.

Air pollution is a problem, as most developments are close to main roads, so we are choked by other people’s combustion. The dwindling few who cling to cars own little diesel minis: the only people owning spacious gas guzzlers are the landlords and trades people, who then have the gall to whine about a lack of parking.

It’s harder for tenants of older buildings. Ancient, draughty conversions feature unsealed windows, no insulation, and are saddled with greedy storage-heaters which guzzle energy while thumbing their noses at the ozone layer. Landlords are obliged to ensure appliances function, but an inefficient heater is not illegal (yet) so tenants shrug and pay the bills.
And newbuilds? Our boilers are efficient, the heating economical, and our homes so thoroughly double glazed that we are hermetically sealed in and need rudimentary air conditioning or else we’d die. We have small, frugal fan ovens (while most stick to the microwave) and power showers are unknown hereabouts. All choices made on our behalf.

Factoring in our inability to make rational and reasonable energy saving decisions, perhaps our shiny brand new world doesn’t seem so noble. And why do newbuilds never feature solar panels and wind turbines for communal power supplies?

I could go on. I won’t.


myrial said...

thank you for highlighting recycling! i also live in a new city centre flat without any facilities. as i am far too paranoid and guilty to just toss things out i've been hoarding them in the laundry closet/cubby. after lugging cans and bottles across town [and right past another apartment building with locked recycling facilities in the underground car park] to a drop-off site month after month i decided to contact the property management company. they passed me on to manchester city council. the council responded with this:

"I have met with your management company and assessed your building for recycling facilities but at the moment we are carrying out a consultation exercise with Manchester residents to establish what recycling services they would like us to provide so we are not rolling out any further services until the consultation has been completed, which is at the end of this month. The reason behind this is we don't want to continue to roll out services that residents are not happy with."

considering i've been a resident since october i was a bit peeved... i guess they figure no services are better than the basics?? so i still have a closet full of rubbish.

MattW said...

Hmmm...I always thought that it was manitory for all new build properties to have water meters. Very strange. This is very unfair, Renter Girl. Its not like you have an acre of garden that need constant watering. I live alone in a leasehold flat and as soon as I had my meter fitted, my bill went down by a third.

the reaper said...

'nor likely to attract much attention from property crash sites'

um,um,as an avowed hpcer,i take offence.is there more than one.

Good points.can i add that fundamentally council tax is unfair too.in this country we pay benefits to the household and tax the individual.there are a lot of things that dont add up any more,the inflation figures of course being a long term given in this respect.

RenterGirl said...

City centre living (or stacked sheds as I prefer to call them...) have been around, in newbuild form and as conversions in most cities for at least twenty years. Every now and again, most councils have a 'Green' festival, where recycling bins are seen for a whole week. Then they disappear. The water metre situation is a scandal. There are regulations coming in compelling landlords to ensure appliances are energy efficient, but I doubt it will make any difference, as enforcement will be piecemeal and lax. Thanks everyone for reading.

DrGaz said...

Great blog rentergirl!

What drives me utterly crazy about the "luxury" development that I also live on is that the corridor lights are (for the entire development of 100 flats) are on 24 hours a day. I suppose it's like that so the electricians who installed them could save a couple of quid on not fitting sensors or timers. It's completely insane and must cost a fortune to run. We also have an "economy" boiler the size of a wardrobe that is the most useless and expensive peice of crap to run imaginable.

RenterGirl said...

The lack of control, and absence of foresight by developers is astonishing. In Dovecot Towers we have timer switchers on communal lighting, which are all lowe energy, so for that we should be grateful. But with so many flast around, and energy efficiency certificates set to be introduced, new tenants woul dbe wise to ask their potentila landlord about these things. With escalating energy costs, many will. And landlords may have to act. Thanks fro reading; thanks for the praise!

Anonymous said...

The solution I used for heavy shopping is a wheelie basket. It may not look very chic but then if one is a slave to human respect one must pay the consequences. 8-)

Anonymous said...

re: the lack of room for bikes. I agree this is a real problem both for renters and owners even if landlords and architechs are useless about the problem.

Until they pull their fingers out how about folding bikes like the bromptons and the strida 5? As they fold up you can take them easily inside so helps to stop the bicycle nicking scum.

They also save on transport and gym costs what's not to love?

Will Parbury