Monday, 23 December 2013

Cancel Xmas. To Pay The Rent.

Too many people can't pay their rent. Due to a noxious combination of low wages, high rents, soaring utilities, job insecurity (zero hours contracts with exclusivity clauses) and the looming threat of redundancy, I've been contacted by several readers who can't pay. But here are the measures taken and lengths, deprivations endured and humiliations tolerated to cover their essential rent.

No xmas presents. None. Nothing whatsoever at all. One of my friends can't buy even a tiny gift for her new nephew, another has nothing to thank her supportive family. Yes, xmas is a febrile fiesta of escalating greed, even so, this has happened for the third year in a row, which is demeaning. Not everyone can make something. But she needs to pay her rent.

Porridge for xmas brunch (late to rise to stay under the warm duvet for as long as possible). Porridge for dinner. Porridge for every meal over the xmas holidays. People are not eating properly, if at all, but at least they're paying their rent.

Meeting a potential work colleague in a coffee bar, hoping for seasonal freelance work. My friend had just enough in her purse for one coffee, a rare treat to be cradled and savoured. Contact arrives, but oops - he'd forgotten his wallet. She had enough for herself and the fare home in the darkness of midwinter. Desperate for work, keen to show willing - if not ingratiate herself, she 'loaned' her contact a coffee, and walked home in the sleet. Because she couldn't afford to dip into her rent.

The worry, fretting, not sleeping then simply panicking. The stress is remorseless, unrelenting and worsens. Bellies half-full, minds in turmoil, life lived on a day-by day basis. So tenants can pay the rent.

Kids, who overhear their parents agree to ask for cash and to put into the household budget. So they can pay the rent. Fine dining on value brands and gratefully accepted food-bank bounty. So they can pay the rent.

There are days of holiday in the cold weather, when warm libraries and museums are closed, so pondering a bracing country walk, which is free, but does create a healthy appetite, which you can't feed. Mothers deciding to stay huddled with miserable, fractious, disappointed children under a blanket, afraid to boil the kettle. So they can pay the rent.

Selling everything (I mean everything - that is, absolutely everything) other than basic essentials. So you can pay the rent.

Actually begging in the street to see if you can raise something, to buy food, so you can pay the rent. Lunching on tiny bite-size samples of xmas food. Overhearing your richer friends complaining that you've never repaid that tenner from a few months back. Because you need to pay your rent.

No headache pills or plasters, eking out toothpaste, rationing toilet paper, painful lumps in over-darned socks. Cuts from blunt razors, clothes un-ironed, length of shower rationed on the electrical appliances and scant telly time. Because you paid the rent.

Fearing the unexpected, or anything outside of your strict, regimented budget, such as leaking shoes, a coat being stolen, or a broken pay-as-you-go phone. So you can pay the rent.

Cancelling xmas, because if you do that, you might just if you squeeze, and don't eat for a day (it's only one day, right?) then might just about be able to pay your rent.

Will 2014 be the year that we descend upon Downing Street with pitchforks? I hope so. Because we need to comfortably pay the rent.


Anonymous said...

How come its only my English tenants who are late with rent with excuses smoking outside while the raindrops drip on them from their satelite dish?

Never have I had any problem with Polish or other Eastern European tenants ,bang on time every month .maybe it's cos they have get up and go get off their arse and graft at four jobs mentality ,these guys will add a positive dynamic getting back to the work ethic we once enjoyed in this country .
Just think your mate could have a better Christmas if she after her meeting and sipping of her mocha called in Tesco's on her way home to start her second job making her £8.65 an hour ,or maybe she is far too good for that oh no I don't want to be classed as trade! Maybe she should have been second generation Polish influx who had the work ethic instilled in her rather than mummy and daddy telling her she should go to university to study some none degree!

Merry Christmas

space cadet said...

Did you go to type "xmas" and start typing "xenophobia" instead ? Ho ho ho...

Anonymous said...

Whilst unsubstantiated anecdotes might stir up some rightious indignation, they don't really prove a great deal.

A journalist not being able to afford another Starbucks coffee hardly makes a crisis. Maybe she should have asked them for a job instead?

In the private rented sector, rent arrears are at their lowest for a very long time. See this latest report-

Tenant Finances

Tenant finances improved in November, with the total amount of late rent across England and Wales reaching a new record low of £228 million.

Regards, HB Welcome

RenterGirl said...

What on earth are you talking about? That's the POINT of this post. People. Sturggle. To. Pay. Their. Rent. But they pay it. Thanks for the confirmation!

Journalist can't afford a coffee? Who said my friend is a journalist?

Further comments will be deleted. I don't want your stupidity on my blog. You're just a troll.

Anonymous said...

People in every walk of life struggle with the cost f living at the moment ,you say you on occasion write for The Big Issue , in there ( north ) this month is an article on Atos , in Grimethorpe . This company has created a lot of jobs in this former mining community and some credit has to be given for that however packing knickers into boxes does not generate the kind of pride shelling coal onto belts does all the same it does generate pride.
people do it and they struggle they provide for their families and pay their rent .
I read this as your friend the journalist too , you do not find a 'freelance' coal miner nor a 'freelance' packing warehouse worker ,architect plumber or indeed doctor ,but you do find freelance journalists and writers , a lot of self pity on your friends part comes across ,maybe a little less of the Bic and a little more Braun in an Attos warehouse would bring a little pride into the struggle.

Simon PLD

RenterGirl said...

Idiot. Your 'point' makes no sense. There are freelance workers everywhere even in Norway BTW. My friend is not a journo. Now stop the stupidity. Further examples will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

It's Christmas and some of you should swap the scrooge/grinch approach for some empathy and compassion. Not every freelancer is a writer. I myself am a freelance web & graphic designer and I've often found myself in the situation where I will spend my last penny in order to secure a contract through travel expenses and paying for coffee. I have worked in jobs that paid between£50k a year and £7 an hour, no-one has the right to judge anyone else based on what they do or don't do or judge them for wanting to do what they love in order to pay their rent. I can totally empathise with anyone who has to cancel xmas to pay the rent, I've had to do it several times in the last few years. Fortunately times are getting better and myself and my hubby are going to get out of our damp infested rented cottage and buy our first home next year. I can only hope the previous posters never find themselves in a situation where they themselves fall on hard times... A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all x.

Anonymous said...

They make a lot of sense to me ,lay off the vodka and re re read !

Second time been here rentergirl you don't seem to grasp what people are saying .

Last time sadly

Anonymous said...

A different anonymous this time. I speak as a freelance architect. (They do exist but many are still put of work. Waiting for the 'good times' that we are supposed to be enjoying now the recession is over). Actually it's bollocks. House prices and rents are still falling on the Northwest. There are jobs being created but they are not real jobs that can support a family. Noone will get a mortgage or new rental with a zero hours hours contract? Or a minimum wage job or even one of the much heralded apprenticeships at £2.50 an hour. Followed by unemployment after 6months.
Yes its tough but you overstate the dedication of the renters in forsaking food and warmth to pay their rent. They They don't!
At Christmas they stop answering their phone. If they are on benefits then they may pay some of the rent but not all of it and not on time. Some pay nothing and come up with pathetically poor excuses when you manage to speak to them.
I am also a landlord. But have to work a full time jpb when i can because contrary to popular belief amongst renters, we are not rolling in cash! When I cant get fulltime work as a professional then I rely on parttime work as a driver for £7.5/hr.
Today one of my benefit tenants who owes over £2500 and never pays any of the top-up that the gov says they ought to be able to afford, rang me. To tell me that the new boiler wasn't working and they were cold. Knowing that the arrears are now climbing at a rate of £170/m. What would you personally do?
A. Ask him to leave.
B. Tell him to leave
C. Throw him out
D. Beat him up and throw him out.
E. Issue a section 21- ( please leave in about 6 months. I need the house back and dont worry about paying the arrear).
F. Issue a section 8. Arrears are well over 8 weeks. Get out when the bailiff shows in 6 months if I'm lucky and ita not contested in court. Plus issue proceedings to recover rent niw standing at £3, 500 from someone who hasn't a pot to piss in?
G. Do nothing and get reported as evil rogue-landlord. (I've hyphenated the two words because they are usually seen together these days)
H. Get emergency plumber out to sort out heating?
Interested to see responses, please advise as if you were the a.landlord. b. What you would expect of Your landlord if you were the tenant in debt.
As an aside, I believe no-one should be expected to work for nothing. Benefit claimants should not be forced to take menial jobs as punishment for receiving benefits. Any MP that has an unpaid intern working for them should not receive a salary themselves.
Hoping that 2014 is a more honest year in Parliament than the current.

Anonymous said...

noun: freelance; plural noun: freelances; noun: free-lance; plural noun: free-lances
a freelance worker.
a medieval mercenary.

As I suspected bought by the highest bidder.


RenterGirl said...

Freelancer work for most bidders, not just the one that pays them the most. I am considering cancelling comments. This is not your forum.

Anonymous said...


As I see it, this post is about the tenant's putting paying the rent higher on the list of priorities than heating, food, Christmas items etc.

It goes without saying that it is awful that these decisions have to be made at all, but is the situation entirely of the LL's making?

Consider if you are not renting you either own the property outright (and we'll ignore you for now) or you have a mortgage.

You have to prioritise the mortgage payments pretty high because if you start missing them the bank may think about foreclosing, and the protections from foreclosure are less than the protections a tenant enjoys from eviction.

Why should tenant's situation be any better than an "owners". After all the LL may well have to make bank payments so the priority to pay is merely being passed down the chain.

The real "enemy" is the stupidly high price of housing. If this was more sane then the relationship between LL and tenant could get back to what it should be; the relationship between a client (the tenant) and a supplier (the LL) where the tenant can pay for a service or chose to take the responsibility for owning/maintaining a property themselves and cut out the middleman.

Right now we have the situation of people who don't want to rent having to rent from people who don't really want to be LL's. Of coursed this is going to result in friction!

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 1 who says:

Right now we have the situation of people who don't want to rent having to rent from people who don't really want to be LL's. Of coursed this is going to result in friction!

I also agree with renter girl on her last comment. I think some of you are lost - this blog is called renter girl after all and not landlord girl ;-)

Anonymous said...

Without comments a blog would tend to be dictatorial and inaccuracies would be passed on as fact.
The premis of this blog was implying that many if not all renters are forsaking food amd heating to pay their grossly inflated rent to rich and greedy landlords.
Whereas comments have shown that many landlords have been forced into the situation reluctantly. Most lanslorda are no more greedy than general population. And some of the renters do not put their rent payment before all else (sky and dominoes pizza always rank highly )
Comments are there to show the other side of an argument. There are always two sides /two ways of looking at a situation. That is why the legal system exists and is so well paid.
Blogs with comments are a cheaper way of getting a more balanced view point, closer to the whole truth.

RenterGirl said...

'The premis of this blog was implying that many if not all renters are forsaking food amd heating to pay their grossly inflated rent to rich and greedy landlords.'

Nowhere do I say that. Rents are too high. Everyone knows this.

So many of these 'helpful' comments come from people who troll sites they perceive as 'pro-tenant.' Which this unshamedly is. You do not correct 'inaccuracies' rather, you try to steer the conversation towards your own agenda.

Anonymous said...

Just written 2 long apologies woth fat fingers on a 'smart' phone and lost them both tring to send. So Sorry
.not trolling. Trying to help with second viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon P,

In reply to your earlier question (assuming its not a wind-up);

Providing space heating and hot water is a landlords statutory repair obligation. Whether your tenant is in arrears or not is irrelevant.

However, if the boiler is new as you claim, why haven't you been in touch with the plumber who installed it to repair it under warranty?

Regards, HB Welcome.

p.s Serve both a S.21 and a S.8.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hb w.
Yes. I had to get it fixed tqice under the the guarantee.
I haven't issued either. As the tenant has been ok for about 3 years. Is on benefits that have reduced. Local social housing will no longer take rwnters with more than £250 arrears from previous LL. A section 8 automatically implies 8 weeks in arrears. They also now ask for a reference from me. If I tell the truth he will never get social housing. He has both health and mental issues so he cannot get a job regardless of assessments. If I chuck him out he and his two sons are on a downward spiral. I guess he has become my in-house charity case.
It wasn't a wind up. I was interested to see how far the readers of this blog would expect me to go in supporting my tenant. Renters are usually happy to quote the law but rarely willing to go beyond it themselves. I'm always happy to be proven wrong on that, but shalln't hold my breath.
Thanks for taking time to reply.
So. Who thinks I should play by the rule book, fix the heating and evict him? I did have the opportunity to before Christmas but let it pass.

RenterGirl said...

Try a landlord forum, not appropriate to seek advice here.

RenterGirl said...

Repair the boiler. I do not see how the social security was 'reduced.' Arrange for arrears paid in installments. I once interviewed a prize-winning landlady of the year, who owns a massive portfolio and has never evicted anyone.

I still think you're trolling. Like I say, this is not a forum, but my blog. This ends here.

Tracie said...

I look at rents back in my home area every now and again to see what they are like should I ever need to move there. I also check out London rates as it make me feel so much better off. I am puzzled as to how anyone affords rents in London!! Several small flats listed suggest they are paying roughly the same per week as I pay per month. Also seems a lot of misleading ads- one bed flats which are in fact a room in a house/flat.

I worked out I would have to earn between 50 and 100% more than I do now to afford to rent a one bed flat (flat not studio) in London.

I am puzzled as to how Christmas makes a difference? Surely the issues are there regardless of Christmas. I do know however some parents buy their kids toys etc at the expense of feeding them and then turn to the food banks for help.
As for freelance, great if you can get it but surely better to be low paid than unpaid. At Christmas many places look for temp staff. I would highly recommend signing up with agencies for temp work so can still be flexible if necessary.
I hope your friend gained some benefit from her meeting. Seems a bit suspect someone going to a meeting without a wallet. Mind you even in a coffee bar prices vary.
I remember during the times I was out of work how hard it was.
I am so glad I live in an area where rents are more affordable.

RenterGirl said...

Hello Tracie,
For crying out loud - has the whole 'mass unemployment' situation passed over your head? people take whatever they can, and whatever is there. (Good grief...)It's worse at xmas because everyone else is plashing out, and people can't to the slightest degree. Suspect? Why, why, why does everyone focus on the irritating minute details, and avoid/ignore the problem I am raising here. PEOPLE STRUGGLE TO PAY THEIR RENT BUT MOSTLY THEY DO!!!!
*calming breath*

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Renter Girl!
In the last 11years, our family has shelled out nearly 100,000 in rent, over several houses. Sadly only one house was worth the rent, the others were semi-derelicts (oh to rent in sw cornwall :(

Im pretty well qualified, not sure if a mining degree, msc, pttls teacher training and full nebosh health&safety is classed as a "non degree"? and have found that markets and circumstance can cause huge change to a family's situation. More frustrating, was working in alongside the housing market - working with mortgage brokers, banks, buyers, sellers....and repossessions. Watched in my lifetime the prices rocket, mortgages got silly cheap, borrowing went mad, then the costs went up. What no-one mentions are the number of tenants who paid the rent, only to find the landlord hadnt paid the mortgage. Hated surveying houses that had been repo'd. Some forced to leave so quickly - they left their life and belongings behind.

This country got too greedy on all levels...sad reality is that the system is setup to make it very hard for most people to get / aspire to what the "few" have. All the qualifications still wouldn't allow me to earn enough to get on the ladder and leave renting. Now having been made redundant from two jobs (at the same time), ive found credit file was shot up pretty quick, bank account failed, rent arrears appeared, and the foodbank became a reality which i will never forget the embarrassment of. ever. Bonus prize - owe more than two months = voluntarily homeless with a council / social services duty of care...over my daughter only! (i.e offered foster care). There are alot of people out there which obv. have not had it really bad, and im sure there are alot of very slack tenants who are creating a very bad name for all unemployed / tax credit/ dss people. The daily mail amongst others have been very quick to jump on the bandwagon. 2nd jobs? in my area you are lucky to find one job, then it will be 8 hrs here, 8 hours there, often with an expensive commute. The maths doesn't add up - god help you if you have a rent of, let say 775pcm, but are then made are told, minimum wage job or else sanctions, sorry if it makes you so broke on paper that you WILL lose your house. But im told i have to go out and work and raise taxes, then spend my wages...on more taxes, to be told - 5-7 yr wait for council property, sorry if you are homeless but cant afford the silly rents..caused by the silly mortgage people / buy to let assholes - property developers (enjoyed watching them go bit of my old job)..

Sadly the whole system is based on a few now having to work and raise taxes to cover the few....without much hope of ever making it to the promised land themselves. hence why alot of younger, skilled workers left...99% of my former uni peer group left...a few came back, to find they couldn't afford to live over here...then left again. So sad. I hear homelessness is up 63% last our nations capital (of money and greed)...says it all really.

Keep up with the rent! Im planning to exit the uk if i ever get the chance as i see no possibility of a secure home staying here, giving away 70% of my earning in rent and council tax!


piotr said...

Why there are so many ranting people here? I´m from Poland and have been living in Birmingham for 5 years now, so I think I know the situation in the UK quite well. And I have to say that I agree with Rentergirl, it´s a topic that should be addressed! I have a lot of friends in comparable situations...