I have always believed that cities were invented to save us all from the horror of living in the countryside, but others disagree with my sentiments that ‘the land’ is sticky, smelly, and steep. They dream of that elusive bucolic idyll, and choose to rent homes in our green and pleasant pastures, in amongst the tractors, thatched roofs, and feral cows (a childhood spent being frogmarched up the Brecon Beacons has clearly scarred my soul.)
I am convinced that on every village green, there sits a man with six fingers playing the banjo. I also know that the idea of the countryside being carefree, with little lambsies skittering about, and rosy cheeked, respectful children who sing traditional nursery rhymes whilst playing cricket and drinking warm beer, or something like that, equates with a substance country-folk risk treading in with alarming frequency.
The reality is like Trainspotting, only bleaker, more nihilistic, and more desperate. But still people dream of living ‘on the land’ (as opposed to the sea?) which causes the following problem: a lack of supply of affordable rented housing.
This doesn’t just blight the lives of people who want “…to get away from the city and live an organic lifestyle” but ordinary mortals who simply want to…well live. Unfortunately, in ‘the countryside,’ letting-agents and landlords are not kindly, holistic and natural - they are mean, mean, mean. Country tenants/peasants/serfs are forced to kowtow to landlords, under the real and present danger of being ordered to get “…ahff moi land!” or more accurately out of the house they pay extortionate rent for the dubious privilege of living in.
The fact that local people are priced out of buying or rented property is common knowledge in rural areas. Perhaps less known is the power this situation bestows upon those rare and elusive creatures – landlords who choose to rent not to holidaymakers, but to real, permanent residents.
I know of families who live and work in rural beauty-spots, where housing is sparse. Perhaps as a result, their landlord thumbs his nose and ignores any requests for repairs, even if the quality and value of his property is damaged. If renters do assert their rights, retribution inevitably follows in the from of punitive rent rises to cover the costs of “improvements” (that is – the essential repairs.)
If they don’t like it, or can’t pay, they are told to “…go elsewhere.” Except they can’t: it’s that nasty circle again – rent too expensive-saving up for a deposit impossible-houses too dear in any case-so it’s back to renting then. There is no escape from that infernal treadmill, and some rural tenants have taken to paying for such repairs and improvements required to bring them into the twenty-first century, like showers and double-glazing.
A lack of decent, affordable, available homes to rent in the country has created a fresh and cruel, modern droit de seigneur: landlords can screw tenants over whenever and however they want, and boy do they make the most of it.