Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Renting Times Are-A Changing (We Hope.)

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.


Anonymous said...

But nothing will change because the only people who can change is are the condems and they are not listening.

Burbage said...

Charming though optimism might seem, it's not too long since Gordon Brown promised 3 million new homes, and used the word 'affordable' without irony. The difference this time is purely because there are now more tenants (almost as many as in 1970), and some of them might vote.

But, as we well know, 'aspirations' rarely last till the manifesto's printed, let alone after an election. And any response will be feeble. The last initiative, the deposit protection scheme, wasn't to enhance anyone's rights. It was to cover up the fact that theft and fraud was so routine and widespread that Plod had given up. Now the extortion is done through fees (even, apparently, where that's illegal), does anyone feel better?

Rather than being grateful for garbled tokens of potential intent, we need to demand proper laws and regulations. We need full registers and paid inspectors and legal arbiters and written guidelines and clear complaints procedures and minimum standards and robust protections and the possibility of redress.

We have all that behind us when we hire a car, so why's it so different when we rent a home?

RenterGirl said...

I agree with both of you, and have written many posts to say so. We have in Grant Shapps a man whose many talents do not involve walking and talking at the same time, and no, the Condems don't care, like I say. And Burbage yes to all of that. I am just, I think a little giddy and perhpas sick of being the storm crow. At least renting is being discussed.

MattW said...

Ah, Grant Shapps MP. Apparently, he's the Housing Minister. He seems to be doing a role more befitting a Minister for Property Developers, Landowners and Landlords!

RenterGirl said...

You are right Matt. But he will never grasp why that is not his job.

space cadet said...

Just maybe there is hope.

MP set to introduce Private Member's Bill to control lettings industry


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