Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Jointly, Together and Simultaneously

In shared housing, how do most tenants begin to their renting adventure?

Do they arrive together, watches co-ordinated, pull up in matching vans wearing identical outfits? And the decision to leave: is it taken at a house-meeting, and (everyone in unanimous agreement after a vote) they all move out at exactly the same hour on the same day?

Of course not. Many tenants don’t even like each other very much, and were unacquainted before moving in. When renting shared homes, people move around a lot, settling in gradually and are out again in stages: one occupant moves in with a mate, finds some co-tenants, and then they stay, or move, sometimes separately, sometimes together. According to the interruptions of life, residents move on to buy, or for work related reasons, or just because they fancy a change, while others stay put because they can’t afford to move up or join that housing ladder, or return when relationships end, and move in to replace someone who has left. It’s vague, and used to be informal.

Why is this important? I’ve noticed something, a problem that will increase as larger numbers of people under the age of 35 are forced to share houses. Fixed Term Joint Tenancies are being used as a cheeky way of getting tenants to stay for fixed periods (meaning they have to pay to renew their agreement) and or are responsible for finding someone else if they move out. It’s that Assured (Accursed) Short-Term Tenancy (Travesty) again.

I am never surprised by what I hear when it come to property professionals trying to do no work and make loads of money, but this is creeping up on tenants. How many people live their lives in regular six monthly cycles? What if you want to move out, or your co-tenant wants to stay, or you can only stay for another three months, when six months is being demanded?

The reason why is simple: with fixed term tenancies agents can demand fees for every renewal: there is little incentive for letting agreements roll over, which is more convenient for tenants, especially where houses are being rented by multiple occupants who rarely know each other and move in and out at different times.

I know of friends who share and dread their other flatmates moving on, as they will have to either accept responsibility for the rent and try to find replacements, or else move on themselves.

Some tenants are lucky and the agent/owner allow stranded occupants to sign individual agreements, so they can negotiate their own dates to leave. The easiest method is what is known informally as ‘rolling over’ of tenancies, where after the initial period the tenancy runs on unhindered by interventions like further agreements to be drafted and signed and…

But I’ve answered my own question haven’t I? That’s why it happens: someone, somewhere is making money. If people could move easily in and out of a place, then agents don’t make so much in regular fees (fees that in Scotland are illegal anyhow.) Why make a situation easy, when you can make it lucrative?


Skraggy,Mart,Marty said...

I think we should apply the 'fees are illegal' here in England just like Scotland!

RenterGirl said...

Except many agencies don't know that fees are illegal (and yes, some just don't care and charge in any case, almost daring you to question them.) Fees should illegal, as agents already make a percentage of rental income.