I am trendy, it seems. I am so this season. It’s not the length of my ‘trouser’ (why is it always singular in style magazines?) No: I write about renting, which is quite the thing. I have never ever been in fashion before, and it feels good.
There is something in the air. Everybody is talking about renting (except the Condems; still rabidly anti-reform and sticking to their corrosive delusion that rents are falling.) Otherwise, charities, politicians and even tenants themselves are offering suggestions, or holding hilarious protests in the streets.
As you will be aware, there is much to discuss: rents are soaring/rocketing/escalating (or ‘responding to market forces’ if you believe the tories.) Letting agents have gone rogue en masse, charging astronomical fees with Orwellian Newspeak names and as for landlords…
Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey wrote an article containing some significant errors: he misunderstand the nature of protected deposits, but bless him, he means well. Why the sudden interest in tenants from Labour? After all, they oversaw the march of the zombie letting agents, and turned away during the buy-to-let boom which forced rents upwards.
Labour have suddenly begun to care about renting, tenants and abusive landlords, despite having put their fingers in their ears ignored the rented sector for years. Rogue landlords were mentioned: a minority, are bad, but the worst thing about renting is the insecurity. The private sector will house growing numbers, alls saving to buy, forced out through bankruptcy or job loss, perhaps just unable to buy full stop (nobody mentions poor pay.)
But could it be that Labour have finally grasped that many of the voters they lost are tenants? It’s like Shadow Minister Hilary Benn has just woken up. Oh, cynical me. Let’s hope some good comes of it, anyway.
Aaaaa-nway, the common enemy of tenants, landlords, and now politicians are parasitical letting agents, who must be aware that their heyday is over. Charges should be paid only by landlords, just as they are in Scotland. Imposing fees on tenants is like charging an entrance fee to a supermarket. The business must pays the costs, the user pays for the expenses incurred in paying for the service in the cost of the goods (ie rent.) All that’s being mentioned is ‘control’ or fairness when fees charged to tenants when quite simply – they shouldn’t pay fees.
Ken Livingstone also wrote on housing, mostly about the badlands of renting in London, and remembered trying to set up an equitable agency at county hall, where landlords could find tenants. Like everybody, he wants more homes built.
The main problem in London is price, as rents conspire to bankrupt everyone. I am in favour of rent controls. I think a ceiling is now required, as levels are currently set by a pulling a figure out of thin air, and doubling it. Tenants need a return to registered fair rents with increases linked to inflation and controlled by rent officers. The market won’t control prices. The market works against fairness.
I’m glad the world is finally listening. I hope things will change, and fast. But… onwards and upwards, the struggle continues: now for social housing.