Monday, 15 April 2013

Still Here 6 Years Later

The idea of writing a blog about the tenuous and precarious nature of renting was suggested by my friend Danny. I’d been living a nomadic life after flat-hunting following the usual housing disasters, and found myself hiding in a room while a rentier (who had previously rummaged through my belongings and locked me out all night) screamed at me like a banshee to get out of her house.

I moved on from hostel to sofa-surfing, then a bright, shiny newbuild. Dovecot Towers (as I soon christened it) was rickety, and eventually broke. My landlord went bankrupt, amongst adjacent, life-changing catastrophes. A neighbour took his own life, I learned of a murder in the block (not to mention burglary, drug-dealers and brothels, all the fault of illegal sub-letting.)

I moved on again, finding Nice Heights – a lovely flat with an amazingly kind and reasonable owner. Then, moving to another city and after more hostels, moved to other places, one with where the rain seeped through the window frames, another where the owner was damaged, but surrounded by thuggish acolytes. I travelled in Europe and researched renting life – it’s mostly better, you’ll be amazed to hear.

I wrote about the design of buildings intended for renting out, then moved on to the horrendous nature of the private rented sector, and became increasingly aware of the unregulated nature of letting agents and owners, who despite their incessant bleating and whining as they insist tenants hold all the cards, manage to do more or less as they please. This must change.

Rentergirl is always written from direct experience or contacts. I’ve seen boom and bust, and watched renting a home move from basic right to a privilege refused to all but saints, and denied to mere mortals with typically messy lives.

I imagined the blog would last a while, but then I won a few awards, was sought out by the media for comment, and began to write for The Guardian. Such is the advantage of living in ‘interesting’ or utterly chaotic, times, with the property crash and a growing awareness of the abuses and impermanence of life as one of generation rent.

I have never run out of ideas, scandals or subjects to write about, and as we move towards a world of restrictions like Local Housing Allowance, the Bedroom Tax, and the rumblings of the buy-to-let zombie walking again, there will be plenty to document in the future.

And you know, one day I hope that when some stupid commenter writes ‘Well, move then – find another place’ as if nobody has said that before and I’d never considered that option, I can… well, just move, albeit without fear or obstruction, into a well-constructed, well-insulated, properly maintained flat, with plentiful storage. The owner/rentier will be diligent, motivated, well-financed (also, sane…) and I will live free from insecurity, harassment, bullying, without mind-games inducing me to go, no threat of summary, illegal or retaliatory eviction. You never know – one day, I might own a home.

I can only dream. But please, indulge me and allow me some brief happiness, as dreams are all I have, and even these fleeting dreams are better than reality.

Thanks to everyone who comments on, and supports rentergirl.
Examples of the early years.


space cadet said...

And let me be the first to thank YOU Penny! For an exceptional blog, and for sharing a (wonderfully acerbic and often amusing) insight into what is the Private Rented Sector. So much still to be done for the better, sadly, but when I found your blog, about 3 years ago, it was an Hallelujah moment for me. Finally - I thought - someone out there is telling it like it really is! Because the reality is, it can all be very depressing, and this blog honestly makes me feel better!

Rich Tee said...

re: renting is better on the continent.

What makes me laugh is that the politicians want us to be more European, and talk of "ever closer union", yet if you suggest to them that British tenants should get European-style tenancy rights they go strangely silent and change the subject (try it sometime).

The EU may eventually force Britain to change its tenancy laws anyway, so they should do it voluntarily before they are forced to do it.

Personally, I have stopped voting and I won't start again until somebody has better tenancy rights in their manifesto. I am not expecting this anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

So how about a nice house to move to ?where you can reflect on how us good landlords do it cos there are thousands out there !
Available - nice town house in market town outside York plenty of space to indulge your artistic bent,sadly comming empty after 2 years .
This city flat living is no longer for you make the move ,I will even give you a discount just because its you !

RenterGirl said...

Thanks space cadet. The news on regulation is not enough. And thanks for the offer, but I have no plans to relocate again...

RenterGirl said...

Spammers now posting jazz-poetry as comments. V.odd.

Dazzla said...

Another day in the delicious paradise of the rented sector:

Me:"Who pays for the landlord credit check?"

Agent: "If you mean the landlords affordability, we do not need to prove this as the landlord will be receiving rent from tenants. Also the landlord is an established business tycoon."

In other news: I'm still living in a Travelodge. Ah-haaaaaa!