For those of you who do not know me, I have a life outside blogging. By day I am a welder and by nights I am a go-go-dancer*, but in my free-time I write (sometimes about housing.)
Recently an article ran concerning the darkest day of my life: the time I was evicted from my home. Just because I blog doesn’t mean that I allow, or am comfortable with random people having access to my entire life, and so I told a brief version of how this came to be: “… ill-health, undelivered letters (or, I suspect, letters never sent) along with a benefits cock-up, which could happen to anyone.”
The reaction was astonishing. Some misguided experts asserted that because this extended nightmare shouldn’t have happened, it couldn’t have happened. I was curious as to why people were so hostile, until I realised that when people believe that a safety net exists for their own protection, they soon forget that safety nets have holes, and that it is easy to fall between them.
Tenants can never be complacent. For example, when you moved into your house, did you check that that your rent falls within the maximum for Local Housing Allowance, in case if you lost work and were compelled to claim benefits? I bet most people didn’t, and if you are jobless for more than six months, you lose the discretionary payment topping up the difference. You will be obliged to move, but the unwaged are not generally considered dream tenants. Then, under new ConDem plans, you will lose 10% of your housing costs just for being the victim of high unemployment.
If you share a house, what would you do if your flatmate or even your partner simply stopped paying their share of rent? I know of people in this position, without the money to make up the shortfall, now living with a suspended possession order dangling ominously over them.
And what if your rent goes up? What if you don’t get your deposit back, or can’t afford to store or move your belongings? I have written previously about how close we all are to homelessness (roughly two months away, to be honest.)
People are incredibly complacent. It’s bizarre that even in the current economic climate, many persist in imagining that anyone who falls on hard times, losing their home through joblessness or illness must in some way be responsible. But then, adopting such a hard-faced philosophy makes it easier to blame an individual for their own problems.
These people are like The Snowman, flying over the earth, looking down on the pristine, happy, snowy scenes on the ground beneath their feet. In their lovely, shiny world, landlords are perfect, flatmates are amazing, payments arrive promptly and ill-health and disability have been eradicated. Such people are too self-righteous, certain and smug to acknowledge that sometimes, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. To acknowledge occasional incidences of rampant unfairness in the world would mean accepting that it could all too easily happen to them. There but for fate go we all.
*FYI - Flashdance reference…