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.