Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Single Room Is Singularly Terrible

When flat hunting, have you ever seen the phrase: single room? In the past, if I have called, the other residents will discuss this boudoirs many excellent amenities, recommending all the lovely features of the house: the dependability and sociable nature of fellow tenants, the lovely kitchen, the heating. It’s great! Except for the size of the bedspace.

If you ask ‘…could I fit a double bed in there?’ the answer is, invariably: no. I am always curious, but the rent for these rooms is rarely, if ever cheaper than the rest.

Double beds are nicer: more spacious and comfortable. Unless the potential tenants is leading a secular monastic life, I doubt a tiny bed, so small you have to sleep on your side, will appeal.

These rooms used to be called box rooms. It was recognised that occupants needed somewhere to safely store – well, boxes, and cases, and these days, the cartons for expensive laptops that go wrong within two months of purchase. They were never intended to be slept in. Some flats I’ve seen ever allowed for tenants of the smallest room in the place to have to ‘box-room’ for use as an office/studio, which made them cramped but useful.

But now, greed means that tenants will be expected to pay the same as everyone else to live in miniature: nowhere to put a desk, nowhere to eat (remember, these days, there might not even be a dining room.) Nowhere to spread work, belongings out on the floor when packing, working, or just because.

I know that we are the generation that not only rents but has supposedly whittled all possession down to one capsule wardrobe and a multi-purpose communicating device/compass/music provider/diary. But we need room to breath – room to live.

And also to shag. People who rent a house are adults. I know I keep returning to this one point, but there’s more to life than storage, you know (mmm…cupboards) and that lonely little bed in the corner is another example of tenants being infantilised and then marginalised and subsequently penalised (along with guarantors, and charges for everything.)

The PRS is out of control, and letting out rooms the size of an actual prison cell is a part of the problem. In London especially, the market driven renting crisis is looming: soon tenants will be crammed into and paying a fortune to exist in what was once a cupboard (no? well it’s happened with garages and sheds.)

There are no rules for the minimum permissible size for a bedroom, and keeping in mind that in most modern urban househares, these spaces are used for eating, sleeping and sometimes working, they need to be of a certain size.

The current Condem no regulation mantra prevents any intervention, and the PRS is out of control. They do things like letting out shelves to live on because they can, occasionally because that’s what is being built and because they can get away with it. Somebody stop them.


Ellie Gray said...

totally agreed
As I work in a London inventory company, I've seen plenty of examples of what you called 'box' rooms. There are no things to check actually. And it is still considered as furnished properties.

space cadet said...

My flatmate was paying just £10 less, than me, per week, but her room was tiny. Imagine a single bed that touches a desk that touches a wardrobe, accounting for 3 walls out of 4. The 4th wall had enough room just to let the door open. The price? £85 a week. She was desperate, and it was handy for work. The (live-in) landlord had that greedy smugness about him. I affectionately called him Fagin. As for shagging, well overnight guests weren't even allowed.

Dazzla said...

A friend of mine lived in such a room in Manchester. It had a double bed in it, but that was all - you couldn't fit anything else in it. Strangely enough, it actually had a tiny en-suite bathroom, which wasn't properly installed, spread damp into the room and dripped water through the ceiling and through the light fitting below.

It being the only room in the house with its own bathroom, the landlord's cretinous agent (privately-employed, earning only what he could screw out of the tenants, not a professional agency and therefore exhibiting all of the horrific tendencies of agents without any of the fake professionalism) decided that he was going to convert it into a premium 'VIP' room.

My friend didn't stick it out long enough to work out what that might entail.

One of the tenants is now in Strangeways. He had a suspended sentence revoked for skipping bail and handling firearms. What sort of 'VIP' might be interested in that opulent situation, I have no idea.