Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Why Not Move?

The most stupid comment made to tenants enduring bad housing, be it the epitome of horror found in mercifully rare ‘beds-in-sheds’ to the underlying and constant low-level misery and insecurity of perpetual renting, is: ‘Why don’t they just move?’

Even one famous doctor publicly celebrated for debunking stupidity and a famous advocate of evidence based science, tweeted how he couldn’t see the problem with people being forced to move… because his friends moved. Presumably he has peer-reviewed stats, not just anecdotes. People must imagine tenants teleport from one home to the next, their belongings moved by kindly furniture pixies.

Moving house is consistently placed in the top ten on those presumably spurious ‘most difficult life event’ charts – and that’s just for owners. Renters face moving on every six months, either because they were turfed out on a whim, or when rents were raised so much they couldn’t pay. We know all about moving. We are experts.

But why is relocation so daunting? Because this ‘new start’ is unlikely to arise for any of the ‘good’ reasons, such as finding somewhere more spacious, or closer to friends and relatives or a better school. No. It’s more likely to be away from all those amenities.

Worse is the worry – will a landlord/letting agent take them on, or will they be forced to spend months using the temporary measures detailed in my previous post, at the mercy of rentiers, the crazy world of the internet and vile agents.

Then there’s the expense – two lots of deposits, one in stasis ‘protected’ while rentiers plot to keep most of it. There are vans, removal firms, storage etc to hire, and the hassle of finding new schools, doctors, and informing utility companies that you’ve moved.

Now imagine the close and genuine possibility of doing this annually, or even in extremes every six months – and yes, oh ye doubters, this happens. You will find friends become less willing to come along and help out. You will find unpacking less appealing, along with redecorating – what’s the point when you’ll likely be moving on so soon?

When you’re affluent and on the up, moving is a wheeze, an adventure, albeit a stressful one. You might be stricken with anxiety about the options available, but then at least you have the luxury of choice. When you are less flush with money, you take the first place you can find within your budget – and in places of high demand like London, suitable homes in your price limits are few and far between.

Then there’s the unbearable tension of the cross-over point, that exquisite time of roughly one month where impoverished renters pay for two homes, as they must sign on the line and cover two lots of rent to ensure they keep the flat. All while paying sundry sums to grasping letting agents eager for random fees. It might not sound like much, but the outlay cripples tenants in popular places where there is little opportunity to find somewhere cheaper, especially in hot-spots like London.

So when you read this blog, or other rare stories documenting the plight of generation rent, don’t say – ‘…why not move.’ It just makes you look stupid.


Emma said...

Couldn't agree more with this post. One way to immediately get my hackles right up is to suggest that the problem to all of my renting woes is to 'just move'. As if it's that easy.

People seem to assume that it costs tenants nothing to move, and it's just a case of putting your spare pants and your toothbrush in your rucksack and off you go. We all know it's not quite that cheap or simple.

Another thing people don't think about is how uncertain moving can be - until you actually have the keys in your hand and you've locked the door behind you, then the property can fall through. I know so many people who've been let down days or even hours before they're due to move in as the LL has changed their mind (I even know one couple who got told on the day of moving that the LL had decided that the bloke could move in, but his partner couldn't until she'd satisfied whatever random criteria the LL pulled out of the air ...) It's scary stuff, especially if you're trying to same money by minimising the crossover periods. The potential to end up homeless, with a van full of stuff and nowhere to go is very, very real every time you move into a new rental, and is one of the main reasons that people tend not to 'just move'. That and the extortionate fees.

Daria said...

I was looking to move out to my own place a few months ago and was horrified to find out when I did the sums that it was going to cost nearly a month's worth of salary for a modest one bedroom in a non dodgy suburb in London. Given I am on better than average salary, how on earth do families do this on a regular basis?

RenterGirl said...

Emma, that is true, and I have written about it previously - when the flat 'falls through' sometimes literally. The previous post about what happens when things go wrong in London is also sobering, but true, and has annoyed some Londoners.

Anonymous said...

Why not move is just a common sense phrase and applies to jobs as well as housing.

Of course there are costs involved in the short term but it is better in the long term.

The world does not evolve round one person and if they are unhappy with where they currently live then they should move.

RenterGirl said...

Suspect that Anon is a spammer who forget the link... idiot.