Monday, 27 February 2012

Cashing In On Places To Crash

Finding somewhere to stay for a while used to be so random. When looking for a place, we would casually ask acquaintances via that old renting telegraph called word of mouth, and people with a spare room might let you stay for a while, payment being arranged (if at all) by negotiation. Guests would stay and then move on - no big deal. Now it’s a full on proper business.

I suppose this could improve safeguards by regulating a situation with huge potential for being tricky for both parties; tenants could be vile as might temporary landlords. The bad side is people ripping other people off. A friend was recently charged by a former landlady the exorbitant cost of £100 per week for crashing in a cramped room, crushed between stacked boxes and piles of other personal effects.

The perils are obvious: to begin with, these rooms are often found via Gumtree, which in my experience is an internet holding pen/meeting zone for all the oddballs in the world, and so caution is advisable.

I have heard of one woman attempting to rent out her own bedroom to begin sleeping in the lounge because she needed to make some extra money, which would be extremely awkward. Others are just trying to make money and do not wish for long term tenants, others are testing the water to see how they get on with potential long term renters.

There are now many websites which organise this for both parties, and might allow for some security at least (you can rate hosts and guests online.) However: I’ve noticed flats in desirable parts of popular cities which are kitted out with bunk beds, so this is hardly casual renting made safe, but a commercial venture (or a stealth hostel). That’s an extreme of course, but it won’t be long until there’s a fire escape issue, or some other safety peril.

I have stayed in temporary places which have ranged from extremes of diligent kindness, to narrowly avoided weirdness: one did the usual trick of offering a room over xmas as long as I was absent for the entire festive season (yeah…) and another when giving details of excellent local amenities mentioned a 24 hour garage. Wow! I can buy mini-barbecues and compost whenever I want!

Because of the recession, what used to be so easygoing is now following a strict ruthless business model, with websites and appraisals. And here’s something surprising perhaps: the people who are in danger, according to some sources are the ‘landlords,’ fondly imagining they can be rid of tenants whenever they want. Problem seems to be that even temporary tenants enjoy more rights than anyone knew, meaning owners could find themselves facing costly court eviction proceedings unless they use a proper legal renting agreements (the rules seem to be different in Scotland the rest of the UK.)

Life was easy and innocent. That’s the point I suppose: this is all so new, really, but property prices and rent increases have turned into a business something that used to be informal, with some very negative possibilities waiting round the corner.


Dazzla said...

It's a requirement of the consumer economy: non-commercial activity is untaxable and doesn't show in GDP figures. Things that were done for favours or just out of kindness must now be 'monetised'. We're all entrepreneurs now, don't you know.

Ugh. 'entrepreneurs'.

The cuthroat society is back. The nasty party is back.

Del Boy is back.

Don't set up a business. Don't register with Companies House. Do things for favours. Do things for barter. Swap. Pay it forward.

I'd love to become a member of a LETS-type scheme but they're just not comprehensive enough.

RenterGirl said...

I can see how people would want safeguards in their own home. But some of the landlords are desperate. And we are supposed to be a mobile workforce, so somewhere to stay for a while is a good thing. But...