Monday, 11 March 2013

Putting Down Roots

I been collecting plants again – snatching security from the jaws of precariarity. Nothing major: just a few ferns in pots. My botany is a big two fingers at one single fact: I will never own a home of my own home.

Does it matter? Yes, to me it does. Ownership is about being firmly rooted in a neighbourhood: of knowing the people next door, and being on chatting terms. So sad to realise life is tenuous, and security so precarious.

It might sound boring but I will never be able to think: this heating is costly and inefficient - I’m sick of being cold so I’ll get new heating installed, maybe even take advantage of government efficiency or green energy schemes. There’s nothing to do but find another blanket and snuggle up.

Having little or no security affects my daily life. I don’t get to choose a cooker, washer or fridge, or rip out the shabby cabinets, or update a shoddy floor. Carpets would be great right now in the draught, but I won’t be paying for any. What’s the point when I could be given two months notice?

Recently I watched a friend clear out her beloved garden, having been given notice for no clear reason. There were well-tended pots of vegetables, and a partially rotted compost heap to relocate (she’d asked for both permission and reassurance she’d be there to benefit.) It was heartbreaking.

I’ve been collecting house-plants after years ago being forced to abandon my prized, beautiful botanic collection. When you never know if, or how long you can stay, and plants will be lost when friends don’t them tend them as you would, or die in storage, it’s a big leap of faith.

Some landlords are restrictive, and that horrible situation of being ‘inspected’ every six months (when did that become the norm?) means that tenants exist on a knife edge. Yes, we know that in theory you could have painted the walls fluorescent green and grow a lawn in the lounge – as long as tenants leave the place as they found it, then there’s nothing that rentiers can do. Except – they would. Inspections are a nervous time, and they shouldn’t be.

Certain rentiers and their agents ensure that the place we pay to live in never feels like home, with no prospect of decorating, or even changing energy supplier (see posts where that is arguable not lawful, but when your lord/lady and master can evict you on an airy caprice, what choice is there?)

Then there’s the furniture thing. We don’t have a culture of unfurnished places, mainly due to insecurity – when tenancies last just six months, who would ever buy freezer? But in my humble opinion, and I know controversial opinion, the PRS would be much better if we could move in with our own trappings – a sofa and a bed. Some people don’t want to stay long term, but most do.

Worse of all there’s no knowing how long I can stay. I can still be given notice on a whim. Planting a garden and buying plants - literally putting down roots - is a one massive leap in the dark.


space cadet said...

I've been thinking lately, if the PRS ever gets the regulation it so badly deserves, then there should be an extra fund available for those homes being rented unfurnished. A fund which should be funded and sacrificed from the landlord's rental income, I think. After all, LLs are quick to charge more for furnished. So, just flip it around.

I'd really like my own furniture here. And i'd love to do great things with the space, to make it work. To have it feel like home, to have me stay. But there is zero incentive, for me to suggest/change anything, when the flat is so cold, i'm already looking for the next - warmer - one.

RenterGirl said...

It needs a change of culture. Germny is not the renting paradie you read about, but you do get great stuff on freecycle, and people leve goods in the street for people to reclaim.

RenterGirl said...

Damn those SEO spammers.

Emma said...

This is one thing that annoys me so much about renting. It makes me laugh when I read those 'how to save money' articles on the net, as they usually start with 'insulate your home'. Nope, can't do that and my landlord refused point blank when we tried to discuss the free insulation being given out (still can't understand why ...). Then they move on to 'grow your own vegetables', usually with the chirpy assertion that 'you can do this even in the smallest of gardens'. Well yes, you probably can but there's the small matter of time, and when you're living on a six month contract that's not even long enough to grow a tomato ... Hardly money-saving when you have to chuck perfectly healthy plants away because you've been evicted and you'll be charged for 'damage' if you leave there. That's even if you have a garden. My heart sinks just a little when I read that phrase 'low maintenance garden' in adverts for rentals. 'Grim concrete yard modelled on a State penitentiary' would be slightly more accurate than 'garden'.

It's so, so depressing not to be able to do normal things when you're renting. I've lost count of how much money I've lost in furniture that's had to be dumped or given away because it doesn't fit, only to notice two or three houses down the line that 'that's a perfect corner for that desk I had a few years ago ...' What annoys me too is the new trick of landlords renting out somewhere with white goods but then refusing to mend them when they inevitably break. That's fantastic, thanks, I'll just buy some more as it's going to be soooo easy for me to lug as washing machine and fridge around with me from flat to flat.

I'm sick too of living with other people's poor choices when it comes to maintenance and decor. I swear to god that there's an unwritten law somewhere that states that at least one room in every rental must be painted (badly) in either a dirty blue or lurid yellow (it's usually the kitchen or bathroom). These colours appear so precious to landlords that they must have a hidden symbolic meaning because any requests to cover them up, even at your own expense, are often met with a flat refusal. Honestly, if renters could buy then we'd probably pull this country out of recession single handedly as after so many years of sensory deprivation we'd hit the DIY stores like there's no tomorrow ...

RenterGirl said...

Yep - I've written about this before, Emma. But never considered the symbolic meaning of the vile colours so often chosen. Good point...

Dazzla said...

"Honestly, if renters could buy then we'd probably pull this country out of recession single handedly as after so many years of sensory deprivation we'd hit the DIY stores like there's no tomorrow ."

It would take chloroform to get me into a DIY shop.

Dazzla said...

It is strange, though, this idea that home ownership is and should be the norm; it's almost unique to Britain, I think. Continental Europe has a different attitude to accommodation, and in Asia and South America, owner-occupier status has traditionally been almost unheard of except in the aristocracy. India's expanding middle class is changing that a little, but it's still true that the overwhelming majority of people in the world don't consider ownership of the place where they live even a possibility.

I think that on balance it's a bad thing that there's an expectation that you'll buy your home. It throws people into terrible debt servitude and reflects badly on those who don't. It encourages the belief that because an arbitrary figure has been placed on the putative sale of your home, then you're 'wealthy', but all you've really got is interest-bearing debt. Until it's paid off.

But couldn't you just have put the money in a high-interest account?

RenterGirl said...

It's odd. But the semblance of security and the opportunity to make home your own, that renders ownership so attractive.

space cadet said...

I'm especially jealous of those homeowners that can "go green" and make money from it aswell. How I dream of owning (and probably building) my own eco-friendly mortgage free sustainable home. Not the rented traps i'm forced into !