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.