I started blogging when I lived in Dovecot Towers, a new but accursed, prematurely decrepit and chaotic apartment block which now seems like a bastion of sanity and comfort.
I remember the trials of life in that building: there was a murder, after all, and I witnessed the aftermath of a man taking his own life. There were drug dealers, prostitutes, burglaries and assaults. There were evictions, repossessions, thefts and frostiness and distance replaced neighbourliness, not to mention that the building was falling down.
But nothing is as fearful as reading my own statcounter – the tool allowing me to view what search terms used to find me.
And it’s horrible. Every other question shows real fear, with the words ‘I’m afraid of…’ followed by a varying and increasing list of terrifying eventualities and dreadful possibilities. Flatmates, are (as I wrote previously: see links) increasing menacing, especially when they are unavoidable, and claimants (remember, most housing benefit claimants are in work) are paid only enough to share.
Then comes landlord terror, refined and honed, adding phrases like: my landlord is visiting unannounced, scared my landlord will evict me, I can’t pay my rent, they won’t renew my lease, won’t let me stay. Then there’s I am afraid of benefit cuts, I am afraid to move, afraid to go home, afraid of the future.
Letting agents? I am afraid if I ask for repairs, then they will give me notice, scared they will keep my deposit. Scared they will discover I lost my job…scared they will blame me for the stain on the carpet… scared they will find my cat.
Benefit cuts and rising rents mean tenants have not choice but leaving their home (rising rents in the South, or benefit cuts everywhere) and they have need a payday loan with crippling interest to cover another deposit, while they wait for the other one to be returned after the now traditional dispute about what is reasonable wear and tear and what is vandalism.
When did renting start resembling a horror film? Why are tenants living in constant fear? There is mounting insecurity, a feeling that nobody is on their (our) side, and that we have nowhere to go if things go wrong, and had better move as demanded without a murmur.
Research by the World Health Organisation on sound intrusion has shown the detrimental impact of stress on well-being, happiness and health. Perhaps I am over-interpreting data, but any fool knows that feeling constantly undermined and insecure, being afraid all the time makes people ill, since it has a deleterious effect on the immune system (it’s one possible explanation for the premature death of those classed as financially poor.)
I’d love to see a study of the health of long-term, perhaps lifelong tenants, with regard to mortality rates and longevity, as I am certain it wouldn’t be a pretty picture (evidence required, obviously, but that’s my hypo-deductive hunch…)
But the most regularly occurring and consequently, the most upsetting, worrying and sinister search-term, is rarely refined, or re-defined – it’s simply: ‘Really scared of my landlord.’
Another popular term, meanwhile is this heart-warming gem: ‘Tenants are scum.’