Sunday, 16 February 2014

Losing Everything.

Most tenants are itinerant; inadvertent, perpetual nomads, moving from one home to the next, living the life kinetic, but with all the restless, roaming energy travels sideways and backwards, seldom does this endless journey progress forwards or upwards.

Some renters do enjoy moving, but these optimists are a rarity. When an assured short-term tenancy (accursed short-stay travesty) usually lasts for just six months (twelve if you're lucky) and is then rolled over if not fully renewed or ended, tenants generally have a maximum of four months in which to breathe before they could face being kicked out with two months notice. This precarious, fractured security is more than simply unsettling. It's also costly, with the regular hiring of vans, storage to find, upfront deposits, the infamous fees to letting agents and rent in advance to find.

Other costs are emotional but they also hit hard over time, especially the cost of replacing lost belongings after yet another move.

Such losses can be accidental. I once mislaid a bag of beloved clothes including a new dressing gown when I moved. To maximise profit and to save me money, the removal firm split their truck space between several people, and stuff was mixed up, irretrievably. I only lost stuff - I did not gain.

It's a distracting messy process, this relocation conveyor belt, no matter how hard you try to be organised. Perhaps worst of all is leaving stuff with friends to be looked after informally, assuming they will respect the value of what you own.

A friend told me how she lost everything (literally - everything) after travelling to the States for a temporary but amazing opportunity. In the meantime, her now former friends moved out and casually left her worldly goods behind, without a care. No insurance, no payback, no possessions and a series if wrecked friendships.

Storage can be expensive for those on no/low pay. Leaving baggage with family or in the attic of stable friends is inherently risky. Some other friends have had property damaged in floods, fire and break-ins.

Nobody escape the curse. The artist Marc Chagall lost all his early work when he left it with a friend in Paris during WW1. His paintings later appeared on the open market...

Like many renters, I operate a triage system for possessions: absolute essentials are taken with me when travelling. Valuables (if only to me) are left in official storage centres - costly, but worth it. I keep possessions to a minimum, but things like precious art works, made by friends are irreplaceable.

Mass made household goods are cheap to acquire, but dear to replace when lost in bulk. Bin bags burst during the move, with explosions of underwear veering across motorways. Soggy cardboard boxes cave in and smash all your crockery onto the pavement. Overburdened suitcases burst.

I've been told, callously to shrug off the loss. It's just 'stuff.' It's only 'things' - nothing more than 'possessions.' But to lose everything you own, including winter clothes or precious photos never stops hurting.


Anonymous said...

Cheer up RG!
Things aren't so bad.

Average length of a tenancy has increased to 20 months. Even when a tenancy does end, it is nearly always the tenant who chooses to end it, not the landlord.

How long has your current tenancy lasted BTW?

Regards HB Welcome

Rich Tee said...

Have you seen this:

"Mark Carney offers comfort to struggling homeowners."

Oh those poor dears with their negative equity! How on earth will they afford that new kitchen? How do they cope? Luckily, us tenants don't have to worry about having our homes reposessed at any time.......oh wait

Anonymous said...

i hate renting id rather live in an old caravan than keep renting everytime ive had to move[yet again]ive lost more and more of my megre possetions to the point a couple of years ago were id move for the 6th time in 5 years i started out with a large van full of furniture to a sad small car load of laundry bags,lol it was a vulnerable period for me i was vulnerable and was at the mercy of rouge lettings agencys and landlords they were like vampires,heyenas ,cockroches,and the fed and fed...we here in the country need to start to get a handle on the national sickness of obsessing over property ownership this life negateing grabbing,grabbing,grabbing we will end up with tent citys like america otherwise

RenterGirl said...

HB Welcome? No - that's not the case. And my tenancy? Mind your own business.

Rich Tee; I know. It's galling, isn't it?

Anon - yes on all of the above.

Anonymous said...

RenterGirl said...
HB Welcome? No - that's not the case.

Yes it is, see this link-

Recent ARLA figures suggest that average tenancy lengths have actually increased over the past five years, from 16.7 to almost 20 months. It also found that only 9% of tenancies are ended by the landlord.

I'm guessing that's about as long as your current tenancy, with not much chance of it ending unless you want it to.

Things aren't so bad for the average decent tenant.

Hey, Kate said...

Let's begin with this article:

This article is really slanted toward propaganda: look, we're the government and we're doing something constructive about the private rental sector. Codswallop.

"Guest Author" either makes a catalog of assumptions regards the CLG’s Tenants’ Charter, or it has been portrayed to him/her as a beacon of hope for the masses of people bent over the table by the "industry" of the housing market.

And that's part of the problem, housing -a basic human need-- should not be an 'industry' and the buying, selling and renting of homes should not be the backbone of a nation's economy.

One assumption concerns the recent ARLA figures which suggest that average tenancy lengths have actually increased over the past five years, from 16.7 to almost 20 months, and portrays that as a positive indicator that the situation for tenants renting a home is not so bad after all. HA! My inclination is that the reason of longer tenancies has nothing to do with tenant satisfaction, but the absolute lack of available properties to choose from. Many people live in substandard housing and would dearly love to rent better housing, but there isn't much to choose from, rents are ever and ever higher, and there is a mountain of costs from moving to deposits to fees. This is likely true also about why only 91% of tenancies are ended by the tenant: tenants move when have found something better or their rent increases beyond what is reasonable or affordable and they move because they must.
That 9% of landlords end tenancy agreements also contains something of a negative subtext; that nearly 10% of landlords end tenancy agreements because of problem tenants. In actuality, many factors contribute to landlords ending tenancies, not just rent arrears or 'bad' tenants; property gets sold, owners decide to live there, landlords die and their estates divided, landlords want high-end tenants who are willing to pay more rent and don't renew agreements.

The deep problem with this 'Tenant's Charter' is that it is only tinkering around the edges of a very ingrained and social problem: there isn't enough housing and those who profit by the supply and demand philosophy have nothing to gain and much to lose if that changes.

The final paragraph states: "... the government believes its new Charter can make a difference, especially if compulsory redress for agents is introduced as a first step. At the very least, the new measures should improve tenants’ confidence and it should be seen as a step towards a fairer, more transparent and consistent service for all."

I see very little in the Charter for tenants and fail to see how much of it can make any difference to the current state of affairs. Little of the suggestions or inclusions are enforceable, at best they are (as stated) guidelines, or at best suggestions, and without enforcement they are hollow gestures aimed to nothing more than mollifying growing concern and problems with housing in the country. These so-called 'new measures' do nothing to improve my confidence as a tenant. And why waste so much time effort and human resources on "a step towards a fairer, more transparent and consistent service for all".... never mind a step, the whole housing problem in the UK problem needs to be frogmarched toward real solutions.


Regarding loss of possessions, RG and anonymous, my list is long and tiresome. Now, I only own a few small nice things because it is not worth the cost of moving a houseful of things and having them damaged over time.

Your post, RG, reminded me of many things and experiences that I thought I'd closed a door on. And your post anonymous, mirrored many of my experiences.

I should get a lock for that door.

Matt Wardman said...

@HB Welcome, @Rentergirl

It may help to be more exact about the numbers. The median length of a private tenancy in England is just under 2 years; the mean length is 4 years. So a substantial minority of private tenancies are more than 5 years.

From the Resolution Foundation Report "The Challenges of Build to Rent", published in June 2013:

"Occupancy has been steadily increasing in the private rented sector over the last decade as the number of people stuck in the sector grows. According to the English Private Landlords Survey, median tenancy length in 2011-12 was two years and mean tenancy length was close to four years."

The EPL is a survey done by government.

The report includes a graph showing similar results from research by ARLA, as a separate source. It is on page 9 if anyone doubts these numbers.

The mean tenancy length in Wales is shorter, at 14 months.

Where are your figures from, RG? Perhaps private tenancies are shorter in Glasgow than everywhere else?

Anonymous said...


Whilst it is entirely possible for a tenancy to last as little as 6 months, I would suggest that that is very much the "tail" of the curve. As the figures seem to indicate, the median tenancy is around 2 years and 90% of tenancies are ended by the tenant.

Whilst there are certainty many bad practices around (serving s21 notices the day after a tenancy starts is a pretty horrible one). The plain fact is that once a tenant is in it is extremely difficult for them to be removed against their will. Of course a s21 will ultimately be successful but only after months of expensive court action. It is rarely in a LL's interest to remove a good tenant. Even if they can up the rent with a new tenant, the void periods and admin costs eat up any potential gains.

Pretty much everything is an "industry" now, the food we eat, our clothes, our education etc.

I agree that people deserve homes and not to be thought of as figures on a spreadsheet, but the ability to regain control of your property is vital if people are to be persuaded to allow other people to live in their property. The alternative is that no-one would let a house to anyone else and the only way of providing a home for yourself would be to buy.

Put it this way, would you lend your car to a friend if, once you gave them the keys, they could keep using it as long as they liked, require you to keep it MOT'd etc and could use it without their permission. Of course not, the ability to regain control of an item is vital to allow that item to be lent out for other people to use.

Anonymous said...


I agree with a lot of that.
I linked to the article solely for the figures- although Matt has found a better source.

Couldn't resist this though-

"HA! My inclination is that the reason of longer tenancies has nothing to do with tenant satisfaction"

A survey by the National Landlord Association (NLA) revealed that 79 per cent of tenants say they are satisfied with their current landlord.

- See more at:

A more recent survey has better levels of satisfaction but is not as succint.

The survey is by the NLA so not entirely unbiased but quite a bit more reliable than your 'inclinations'.

I was also quite surprised at the low amount of tenancies ended by landlords. Many of the factors you mention can be avoided by complying with the tenancy agreement and using an established professional landlord rather than an 'accidental' one. If you are a decent tenant with a professional landlord, the chances of them ending it must be <1%.

Cheers for that. When you take into account that includes student tenancies, re-locations etc, the tenancy length for the vast majority is excellent (for those that want it).

@Anon1, Fair comment but likely to be frowned upon here.

However, this is turning into a factual, reasoned discussion. This is meant to be a one sided opinion blog. I expect it will soon be stamped on by TPTB!

Regards, HB Welcome

RenterGirl said...

Aw, poor little landlord trolls, veering from one tenant focussed blog to the next, claiming to 'rectify' 'wrongs' with their supposed facts, even though this blog post was about the fact that tenants can face being moved on every six, and that many do. And that they often lose possessions. If tenants end tenancies, it not usually of their own volition, but to move somewhere cheaper, better of safe. Begone!

Anonymous said...


"If tenants end tenancies, it not usually of their own volition, but to move somewhere cheaper"

isn't that "of their own volition", after all it is a power that tenants have, if they don't like a property or the LL they can move.

Before someone jumps down my throat about "why should they have to, it's their home".

What about owners who hate where they are living because the street is awful, the new pub has made their life hell, they've fallen out with the neighbours, they've moved jobs so have a 2 hour commute, they've been flooded for the 3rd time in 6 months and can't take it anymore. etc.

They would love to be able to move simply by writing a letter and stuff the fact the house is on a flood plain/next to a crack den/in an unfashionable postcode.

Sure, everybody has a right to quiet enjoyment of their home (actually home owners don't, only tenant's do) but nobody has the right to never have to move for any reason

RenterGirl said...

'Move by simply writing a letter.' There speaks a landlord troll! No they move somewhere cheaper because... profiteers are raising rents, and they can't afford to pay the increase (jeesh...)So they pay for... vans, fees, cleaning... storage etc.

Anonymous said...


RenterGirl said...

You seem angry. Or just really block caps. It is a nightmare. Despite what the landlord trolls are saying here and on all the tenant related sites.

Hey, Kate said...

I hate it when I try and edit a post before publishing and it flies away into the aether.

Not sure how much admin-tweaking of site preferences and features are provided by this blog template but, I would be willing to wait for my comment posts to be moderated before appearing on the site; also I would be willing to have to register and have my posting privileges contingent upon worthwhile contributions to discussion.

Been looking at some of your other past articles and columns, and of one in particular, which ended some time ago and has not been replaced with similar, that column is very missed by many who followed it. Point being, renting and all of its associated problems are not diminishing, but increasing, and there is a growing need for tenants to discuss events and problems, and collaborate toward real, lasting solutions.

RenterGirl said...

I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean the comments? They are time-limited and always be, simply to stop porn and otherspam adverts posting (they still try, mind you) and other ads which can affect my own stats - which matter. Sorry - but you'll just have to put up with it, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...


What are your stats for the average PRS tenancy?

Put up or shut up.

Hey, Kate said...

RG, yes, I was referring to the comments, regarding your previous mention of trolls.
My point was just a suggestion about possible ways of reducing them, and not a complaint at all. Sorry if you took it as a complaint.
Thanks for your clear reply. Sorry to have overstepped, not my intention.
Sorry, too, for veering off topic.

space cadet said...

Jeez, reading this thread was 10 mins of my life lost. The trolls are out again, patronising the rest of us; comparing homes with cars and talking to us like we're stupid ill-informed eejits who could have a happy life renting you know, if we just did things properly and read the right manuals. You are so wrapped up in your own importance and self congratulation, so bereft of empathy and real understanding you are nothing but the comedians in this show. Surveys are just fudged stats, nothing more.

Matt Wardman said...


I take it "troll" is a euphemism for "person pointing out an inconvenient fact I want to ignore".


If you assert that clearly established basic facts (comment 18 February 2014 04:32) are "not the case", expect to be called out on it. Fairy stories don't help move this debate forward.

Technical point: the average tenancy lengths I quote may well be shorter than the reality, since the English Housing Survey addresses tenancies that have not ended yet - there's still more time to run on all of them.

My view is that longer term tenancies are way better for both T and L. T for stability and because long term tenancies usually keep rents lower due to changeover costs being less significant, and Ls because every time a T changes the costs involved are a couple of thousand and a lot of time.

RenterGirl said...

Simon - you're obsessed with this site. Comment deleted.

I'm flooded with spam from bizarre overseas SEO factories for odd products.

Matt - it's like the costs of living numbers. Officially fallin but in the real world it's not true.

space cadet said...

No Matt. But then, there you go again.. The trolls who read this blog are the ones who insist on talking like everything's fine really, if only you did "this"; they seek to undermine and patronise tenants who want to tell it like it really is. It's frankly pathetic.

James said...

Just to repeat what several other posters have said, as a landlord if I have a decent tenant I'll do everything I can to encourage them to stay long-term (including, on occasion, multi-year rent freezes).

There is no benefit at all to the landlord in having a constant churn of tenants, for loads of reasons:
(i) there'll almost always be a void of at least a week or two, and often longer, between tenancies when you're not receiving any rent;
(ii) you generally need to freshen the place up and do various other little tasks between tenancies, which is a cost and trouble you don't want;
(iii) you'll have to pay a letting agent for a tenant-finder service (which can be a lot -- I paid an extortionate £1800 last time, admittedly in inner London) or go to a lot of trouble to market it yourself;
(iv) settling new tenants into the property always take a few weeks -- they invariably raise trivial maintenance requests which the previous tenants weren't bothered about, or phone up all the time asking how to use the washing machine etc.;
(v) more generally, provided your existing tenants aren't terrible it's always "better the devil you know".

Renter Girl, why do you suggest that it's usually landlords who end the tenancy? My experience is otherwise -- unusually, I am also a long-term tenant as well as a landlord (for various reasons it's more convenient for me to rent my own home), and (touch wood) I have never had a landlord want to end my tenancy (and only occasionally have they wanted to increase the rent).

RenterGirl said...

I do wish landlords would keep away. Tenants often do not 'choose' to end tenancies, but must do so because of rent increases. Those stats quoted are collected by lettin aents, who profit with every renewed tenancy to the ocst of eeryone else.

Ths post is about the losses and disruption of the move. Keep comments to that.

Anonymous said...

One of the best things about renting for me, is the flexibility to move without all the hassle and cost of ownership. It is a positive of renting, not a negative.

It is unfair for the tiny minority of tenants who have to move through no fault of their own.

The losses and disruption of moving home is simply part of life.

(10 moves in 10 years)

Anonymous said...

The writer of this blog holds an opinion ,fine but should not be afraid of opinion being challenged .
There is a site I thought was for tenants on Facebook called tenants voice it has infact collected all our likes so has a massive database of tenants and is run by a profit making letting agent website .
My point is things are often not what thy seem everything has an agenda to push

James said...

Renter Girl, I do enjoy your blog, but your comment "I do wish landlords would keep away" and your willingness to refer to any landlord who challenges you as a "troll" really, really grates with me. If you actually wanted to improve the private rented sector for tenants, you'd be delighted that some fairly reasonable and sensible landlords want to engage constructively with you.

Also, given that I am both a tenant and a landlord (as explained above) and thus have the fairly unusual opportunity to see things from both sides at the same time, are you happy for me to comment? Or is anyone who might have a nuanced and balanced view of the private rented sector unwelcome on your comments page?

More generally, I actually agree with you that revoltingly venal letting agents are usually the problem here. In fact, letting agents screw landlords over as much as they do tenants with excessive fees and inefficiency (as well as driving good tenants out due to the fact they have a major incentive to do so through re-letting and new contract fees). Changing tenants is of no benefit to the landlord (as I explained above) which is why self-managing landlords will often offer rent freezes to good tenants, but letting agents have incentives which are totally misaligned to both landlord and tenant -- so you should be careful to pick your target properly. In this case, it's primarily letting agents. In the flat I rent the letting agent isn't like this, but I am aware not everyone is so lucky.

RenterGirl said...

I started this blog to reflect tenant experiences. That is what I do. Whenever self-serving stats are used by letting agents or rentiers, to say that why I know from personal experience and the lives of those around me is going seriously wrong, I get very irked.

Like I say - officially stats used by some idiot even claims that wages are rising. We all know that inflation makes that meaningless.

I often think of turning off the comments. I might well do in the future - it's a pain to monitor, to be honest.

I agree, and have said several times that letting agents screw over both rentiers and tenants. But also some landlords have no professionalism, experience, social skills or conscience, and do indeed - a minority - give notice because they feel like it. And that letting agents make money from the process when they are used - which always baffles me because they don't do much.

But this blog reflects the hidden story. A friend of mine walked every day for three months past the flat that had been her home. It's empty. It's on renting websites. The price is higher. It's not managed by agents. the owner just refused to extend her tenancy for mysterious reasons.

Despite stats, it happens. And moving is a pain. the point of this post.