Friday, 21 August 2009

What Next?

So here I am again, flat hunting once more, encountering my own bad news. Letting agents really have taken over a massive wedge of the rental sector. There really are too many newbuilds. Yes, prices are falling, but tenants are heading en-masse for the best places, and I am at the end of the queue (I don’t exaggerate, as some readers imagine, and I hate being right.)

Last time, I was lucky: I found Nice Heights and a fair-minded landlord online, miraculously avoiding all the many weirdoes. But as far as my housing timeline goes, it’s been nasty-nice, nasty-nice, alternating between great places with decent owners, before veering off into psychopathic part-time landlords, amateur and incompetent buy-to-letters and harrowing dovecots. What’s next?

Because of this, and despite myself, I am wistful about the idea of owning a home (not property – a home.) But then, if I did I would have found it harder to take advantage of my recent opportunity (and reason for my move.) Even so, I’d like to buy a home when I get there. In my mind, there is no mortgage, no deposit, no chain, no disreputable, tricky estate-agents, no gazumping, no gazundering, no surveys, no being stuck forever with nightmare neighbours. In my reverie, buying is smooth and easy, slippery like a dream.

First up, I’ll paint my home or pay for an interior designer, as years of magnolia have blunted my senses, and to compensate I want lurid emerald walls and vivid, warm colours so it’ll be sunny all the time.

As for furniture, I’ve even been reading up on sofas, and tables, and four-poster beds. It’s so unlike me. Contrast that with some of the stained, lumpy mattresses and cabinets with the doors hanging off I’ve witnessed when renting. There will of course, be insulation (sleeping in woolly socks and a balaclava helmet deflates the spirit) and I’ve been planning a garden (even though I want to live in a flat.)

Dealing with removal companies, and insurance, and being responsible for repairs won’t put me off. But I want to do this in luxury; there are removal firms who actually pack your belongings for you. I expect there’s a firm to float your goods away, and unpack and re-arrange at the other end.

I do appreciate my freedom. I can move at will. But I still want some security, without landlords who wilfully encourage a grim sense of despondency in tenants, who are left wondering: will they renew the tenancy, please let them renew. It’s like trying to sleep on a the edge of a cliff; you can’t rest because of worrying you’ll roll over and fall off.

I try and make the best of renting, but I really need some security and a semblance of control. I want to chose my surroundings, not endure the whims and notions of an owner, some of whom are prone to selling up capriciously, for revenge or just because they can.

So that’s settled, then. All I need is to be resolute and conjure up a hulking great deposit. That’s all.


Benjamin Judge said...

Is this the end for Renter Girl?

Owner Girl just hasn't got the same ring to it. Plus you would get even weirder visitors to your site misunderstanding the title.

Hmm. I think for the sake of your art you may have to rent forever.

RenterGirl said...

I will have to rent forever Ben. I just wish renting was better - more secure, that we could decorate our rented homes, and all the things I bang on about here. I won't be buying unless I find the deposit. So that's a no.

Paul said...

Come to New Zealand. We have a Residential Tenancies Act which protects tenants from ugly landlords. We have a government body which helps tenants resolve disputes with landlords. We have a tenancy tribunal to which tenants can take disputes for judgement.

RenterGirl said...

Paul I need to know more about how renting is organsised in New Zealand. Clearly, you've got it sorted over there - and we always look to continental Europe as the best place for renting. I should probably move there. Be afraid!

Paul said...


Start here:

We still have bad landlords, but at least we can stick it to them. One really good idea practised here is the holding of bond money in trust: the landlord has to send the bond to Tenancy Services. So the landlord cannot refuse to repay bond without a very good reason.

RenterGirl said...

We've just started to do that over here, but initially it seems that the courts, if things get that far, often side with the landlord. And landlords will have to be registered, but there are few sanctions for any misbehaviour - as they'll just just give notice to tenants who complain. Good that you have it sorted over there; we have to do better over here, what with retaliatory evictions, and the deliberate undermining of security. Thanks for reading!

Sheila said...

Thanks for your column in the Guardian, I'm really glad someone has highlighted all these issues. I'm not a private renter any more but work with many who are, and I don't think the instability of the sector and frustrations for tenants are taken anywhere near seriously enough by either housing agencies or policy makers.