Some time ago, I was standing on my tiny balcony which, being apparently made of chicken wire seemed to float above the world, and gazed across at a host of empty newbuilds, pondering the block I called Dovecot Towers. I thought to myself: I got it right.
Quite early on, I spotted the effect that ill-considered, mass buy-to-let property investment would have on the UK’s economy. Despite suspecting that economics is up there with voodoo and homeopathy, I predicted (well, not just me) that the property downturn was a coming in, and was vindicated.
I mention this because the list of keywords (ie the phrases people google to find rentergirl) indicates that many desperate people are seeking help by using variations on phrases like ‘I am afraid of my landlord,’ and ‘I am afraid I will have to move because of benefit cuts.’
I have never seen so many people indicating they are really scared, if not overtly terrified for their security. Those affected by housing benefit cuts have much to fear, and I can’t say anything that will make things better: this policy is stupid, spiteful and misguided. It infantilises adult claimants, placing a huge proportion of the claiming population in an impossible position.
Firstly, flatshares for older people (and that can mean anyone over 30) are often hard to find. Secondly there are not enough house-share suitable homes – and families need them. Thirdly, having claimants for tenants is forbidden under many buy-to-let mortgages – did you know that?
And then there’s the second part of this rising fear: ‘I’m afraid of my landlord.’
Add that to the above situation, where tenants are being expected to ask for cuts in rent, or to tell their hostile overloads that they lied, and are claiming, or have lost their jobs, and you can perhaps see why this might end badly. How, in times of rising unemployment, do tenants approach a landlord they already fear, who is acting like the grand-high-ruler of their destiny, and say please sir, can you lower my rent?
Many landlords have held on to the property they bought when prices were soaring, and are now bracing themselves for an interest rate rise which will mean they must either raise rents, go bankrupt or swallow the loss (and this isn’t sympathy – they shouldn’t have been so stupid, but it’s tenants who will, as ever suffer.)
I must be a genius, but here’s what to do: bring back rent officers to lower/cap rents. Don’t cut the benefit which is paid to landlords in any case. Don’t place the vulnerable ie potentially homeless on the front line of this. Don’t leave it to terrified people to sort this mess out. Housing is not like food: you can’t go freeganing/dumpster diving, the only other option to claiming Housing Benefit is rough sleeping, which will increase.
Tenants are being forced to move when nobody: not landlords, councils, shared houses, people looking for lodgers in two bed newbuilds – accepts benefit claimants for tenants. This policy will end badly: really, really badly, and I really, really hope I’m wrong this time.