Monday, 22 March 2010

Just A Simple Country Tenant

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.


Shoe said...

A lot of the problem I saw in my 2 short years of rural living was that most of the tenants were on welfare and subsidised by the state. Therefore paying your own rent made you the most wanted tenant in town, even though the landlord still had no intention of properly maintaining the place.

In myself and my ex partners experience, we suddenly found ourselves mysteriously deflected away from places we liked to one place a little more expensive. It being a country town we soon discovered why (walls have ears) - the "landlady" was in fact the letting agents wife.

And they weren't paying tax either. How interesting and useful this turned out to be later on.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. And renting in a town or city is any different? Renting is brutally expensive wherever you are in the UK, it seems. Frankly private renting is the new feudalism with a bunch of deeply unpleasant nasty people running a system that makes other peoples' lives hell, and that's just the letting agents.

Please please may we have a budget in which the new slumlords are rewarded for their parasitic greed with the smack of proper taxation.


RenterGirl said...

Shoe - that's priceless!
And Anonymous,
Both urban living and country living are bad in their own way. I agree that we need a major shake-up in legal rights and in renting culture. It is feudal, simply because country people suffer from such a tiny pool of available properties, which landlords prefer to rent to holiday makers, rather than long-term occupants.

Anonymous said...

More and more it seems that capitalism in Britain is just communism in disguise. Just with different people with the money and power.

The problem with housing at the moment, whether bought or rented is just another illustration of the greedy nature of the population at large!

Never mind, eh?!

Michelle said...

know which one makes me laugh hysterically? The eco adverts on TV where they happily suggest you "ASK YOUR LANDLORD" about adding more insulation or installing some other highly expensive green technology.

Ummm... are they kidding???

Michelle said...

Renter Girl

A friend of mine has a site up that had a link to empty houses being reported in Scotland, but I can't find the link bow!

Anyway... Andy has some stuff that still might interest you. He and his wife by-passed the system by moving into... a bus.

There are days I envy them. Our landlords of the moment are nice people, but they're nice people who have their home to rent for three years and our time will be up in Nov this year. What then...? Who knows! :-( Back to Russian Roulette.

RenterGirl said...

I know! Imagine asking landlords to do anything. Although - I have met some nice landlords - my last one in Nice Heights was a star. Letting agents though....

Michelle said...

We've had mixed. One set of letting agents were actually way nicer than the landlords. THis time around we're with agents we've had big "issues" with in the past, but have a reluctant truce with as they're the only ones who had a house we could rent. Our problem is my parents live with us and my mom has health issues and can't manage stairs, baths, etc. So we need a very specific kind of house with two bathrooms (one disabled friendly) and two big bedrooms. It makes renting way trickier.