Monday, 20 January 2014


For some tenants, renting is a constant source of joy. Just one, vast panorama of happiness. A gorgeous extemporanea full of glee. For others, mostly the impoverished renter, whose work is precarious or those crammed in and insecure where demand is impossible high, it’s horrible.

The device that enables me to see search terms used to reach me here often serves to flag up common concerns. In other cases, people have contacted me to share their stories. The recurring, distressing, but I suppose, inevitable theme is flatmates in shared homes, not just hostile HMO’s, but supposed friendly shared houses with joint tenancies who are very worried about money.

It’s getting quite nasty. Some co-tenants knew each other before moving, others join a new family of convenience, living at close quarters with people they barely know. They share a world of unwanted intimacy, and they usually learn more about each other than is desirable or ideal.

But their lives are linked. I am being told of many examples of austerity biting and damaging the sense of distance most co-tenants seem to want.

One renter tells me of realising food was missing. Nothing major – just morsels really, as if someone had been trying to discreetly and surreptitiously feed themselves. She knew her co-tenant was having a tough time, but realised he was just plain hungry. She did her best to help, by not mentioning it, and offering to share meals, and donating ‘spare’ food. Her flatmate was later seen in tears, holding a parcel from the foodbank.

People everywhere are being forced to share rented homes – that includes claimants under 35, who might - let’s remember - be in work. Life is precarious, job contracts are short-term, pay is low, and people are pushed together. What do you do, when you know that someone is in trouble? When that trouble could affect you?

Then there are bills. How do you share the cost, when people cannot afford to pay monthly, or others cannot pay at all? There are communal meals – even trips to the pub, where one tenant is always, always, busy, and the others feel guilty.

There’s rent. People often elect one person to pay from their account, which is tricky if you’re paid late. Someone shares with an old friend who wasn’t paid for months on end, and he had to cover her share. The employer eventually went under, and he was struggling to find enough shifts himself, so it was a nightmare. He found her in tears. She’d taken a payday loan.

They took debt advice, and eventually had their card meter removed, so they could pay regularly throughout the year, instead of massive amounts in the winter. They paid off the arrears, but they had worked together. Not everyone is close enough or kind enough to do that.

It’s the sense of knowing that people are not your responsibility, but caring nonetheless. When, and where do you draw the line - do you feed them, or does concern stop simply run to polite, ‘caring faces’ and platitudes?

This is another problem that will get worse and worse. Renting isn't funny anymore.


Jill said...

I do advice work myself, and I've heard stories like these, so I was nodding my head while reading them. I wonder though if in this particular instance you might be looking at not quite the right problem? The distressing experiences you've passed on sound like people who are suffering due to not enough work, not secure enough work, or wages that are too low. There are huge problems with the way renting is done in the UK, but I don't think these particular stories illustrate those problems. They illustrate another problem that is at least as important, possibly more so.

RenterGirl said...

I'm baffled by your comment. This is a blog about rented housing, and experience surrounding the rental life. Hence a post about... the awkwardness of austerity and shared homes. Yes, the problem, as we all know is low wages, insecurity etc. But this is about the way it feels when you are sharing a home.

Anonymous said...

I have worked in the letting and property management industry for over 15 years and it amazes me how people enter into renting with eyes closed. The bottom line is if you are sharing you are joint and severally liable for the property, rent and deposit so if someone misses payment etc you are responsible. Don't just think great I only have to pay £400 per month, if your flat mate can't pay his or her rent has to covered by the other tenants. So please take care and make sure your deposit is being correctly protected - websites like ARLA, DPS are worth a peek. When you purchase a home you have the security of a solicitor, if your renting make sure your agent knows and understands the legislation and rules and ask loads of questions, it could prevent nightmares in the future. Also tenants make sure you know your rights and be aware of what you are responsible for, if you are renting in block, what are the house rules of the block, ask to see a copy of the lease so you know what you can and can't do so no breach.

Tenants don't just do one visit, see it a other times of the day make sure the basics have been checked ask to see the EPC - this should be provided at the viewing.

Okay leave it for now will pop back soon.

RenterGirl said...

Yep. Excellent points. This comes up when co-tenants awake to find their co-tenant has left. But while you're correct, this was more about rental austerity impact.

Anonymous said...

Hope it helps - just sharing the hours of revision and years being in the industry. Its a minefield!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately some people 'blight' it for others - simple respect seems to be amiss! Would the 'bad egg' like it being done to their property - the answer would be NO.

Anonymous said...

By the way great blog - will pop back again.

RenterGirl said...

To the Anon who described people who can't afford food and are worried sick 'bad egg' - you're an idiot. Simple.

To the letting agent anon - I love how you mention arla - as bein 'worth a peak'. They're not. They represent rentiers. But thanks for reminding readers about DPS etc.

Dazzla said...

"Don't just think great I only have to pay £400 per month, if your flat mate can't pay his or her rent has to covered by the other tenants."

It wasn't always that way. At one time, sharers rented separate dwellinghouses, and paid separate rent so another tenants' inability to cover wouldn't affect the rest of them. Contracts were changed to joint tenancies to make strangers responsible for each others' rent. For a representative of the 'letting and property management industry' to shrug this off as an unfortunate fact of life is, if you don't mind me saying, a little rich.

RenterGirl said...

I agree Dazzla Yes, the whole joint AST thing, with shared responsibility is a bit rich. People are, where demand is high forced to share. It used to be that separate occupants used labels cupboards as evidence they were not 'in a relationship' or in a joint tenancy, because the assumption was that joint tenants shared outgoings ie food. One thing that's changed for the better.

space cadet said...

Joint tenancies with joint liability: just another means for landlords to have no active participation and scoff their free "business" lunch apparently.