Monday, 17 September 2012

Nowhere Left To Go

Being lost, and about to be homeless is the sad and inevitable consequence of the housing catastrophe we live in. Many people are googling, and even asking me as a last resort about a simple problem: they have nowhere left to go.

These unfortunates are not roofless (the unofficial reality is that to be accepted as homeless, and therefore housed, applicants must be at the very least sofa-surfing to count, such is the demand.) No – these people are desperate and close to disaster.

The reasons are quite straightforward. Because of benefit cuts and the bedroom tax, tenants are being forced to leave their home and are looking for a new place.

But they are flat-hunting whilst in limited poorly paid employment or claiming, and face referencing, extreme vetting and the need for guarantors. Letting agents, certain landlords and even a few housing associations now require spotless reputations, despite the fact that life is messy and human beings make mistakes.

As Tenancy Relations Officer Ben Reeves-Lewis has said hereabouts, even Sir Alan Sugar went bankrupt a few times before becoming ‘Suralun of You’re Fired Towers.’ And as I’ve said here, people lose money when holding fees are swallowed after non-pristine credit checks, and then…well then where do they go? Find a guarantor, except guarantors are increasingly asked to earn disproportionately high levels of pay.

Next up: prices. Agents and owners conspire to ramp up prices where demand is high, leaving claimants and the low paid struggling to cover their rent, and punished by homelessness for their inability to afford the buttock-clenchingly large sums required in certain areas of the country.

The next reason for the precarious nature of housing is supply, and competition for a limited number of suitable houses. This is getting worse with housing benefit cuts, as many people are in desperate need of one bedroom flats under the cruel and ridiculous bedroom tax (don’t tax the bankers – punish the poor.)

The next spectre pushing tenants into the abyss is that of adverse personal circumstances. Being unemployed, or even on low pay makes for an undesirable tenant, and such people face being turned down everywhere they go: letting agents avoid them, and landlords spurn them – despite there being a depression. As I wrote about previously, having kids is also a no-no. As are pets. And just not looking right.

Something is very wrong in housing land. It’s strange how often these fatal flaws are surmountable by cash: pay six months rent in advance, and all flaws are ignored.

In Manchester, and other areas where there was an oversupply of urban Dovecots, prejudices were immediately and strangely overcome when agents and owners endured a lengthy void. They found their homophobia, loathing of the jobless and kids overcame by need and greed. Elsewhere, the perfect tenant (professional – often arriving as a couple even for a one bed) are welcomed in.

Meanwhile, the gathering storm is swirling in the distance: homeless figures are spiralling. I wrote while back I write that something very bad is going to happen. Well, now it’s begun. Brace yourselves: it’s going to get ugly.


Anonymous said...

Both sets of tenants in the flats beneath me in London have been evicted due to the housing benefits and the flats remain empty anyway. I hope they stay that way as long as possible so the landlord profits as little as he can from ejecting two families and a senior citizen.

space cadet said...

What a blindingly accurate post you have written.

RenterGirl said...

I hope that people don't suffer. In London, landlords won't suffer as there an endless of tenants. Elsewhere, they might go bankrupt, and/or lose everything, which is still a human tragedy. But it is the tenants who will suffer. Where will they go when they can't afford the rent or are rejected for the homes they can afford? I wish this post was inaccurate. There really is nowhere else to go...

Blackdog said...

You are absolutely right, there is a bitter wind which is blowing towards hapless tenants that is driven not just by greed or legislation, but also by a general view that tenants are tenants because they are failures. And as such are viewed with suspicion and contempt.
I was recently looking at a website selling 'Investment rental properties' and the rental income was described as 'Yield'. This term took me back to when I lived on a farm. As well as arable land, the farm also reared cattle. Calves were bedded down in large pens, fed, watered and fattened up. After a period of around a year they were moved out en- mass to auction and finally dispatched. Afterwards, the pens were mucked out, re bedded and the whole process started again. And it struck me that the only difference between the life of tenants and those of cattle, is that the farmer doesn't paint the inside of the holding pens with magnolia paint

RattyLady said...

I feel like I've been riding a tenuous wave of luck in the three years I've been a private tenant. As a couple on benefits due to mental health problems, with the help of a guarantor, we were accepted in our bid for a 2-bed flat and the letting agents have been pretty good, and nice friendly people. Our rent hasn't even gone up in those three years, thank God as our HB took a hit this year. They even allowed us to move in with a cage of 3 pet rats! We just sit tight at the moment, hoping our luck will last...hearing all the horror stories out there makes me furious at how the private rental sector is causing distress and ruining lives by its lack of security and regulation