Sunday, 13 April 2014

Seven Years Here.

So it’s my blog’s birthday. Rentergirl is still here. Now we are seven, and I’m still furious.

I have enough subject matter; in fact there’s plenty. I thought I’d run out of material within a few weeks. Sadly, renting is still mostly terrible, so I’m still here.

Best news first - there are some good things happening. Tenants who were previously just angry are now getting organised, forming action committees, completing and then sharing their own research. This more than anything else fills me with hope.

These tenant advocacy groups are increasingly professional, with EPTAG IN Edinburgh, and Generation Rent countrywide, with groups in London where renting is woeful if not downright harrowing. There is the heinous rent-to-rent, where cowboys promise rentiers they will have no voids in occupation, but then run away with the money from re-renting rooms. Or tenancies auctioned with sealed bids.

Which means that wise politicians pay heed to, or actively court renters, and the wisest will encourage and facilitate voter registration, concerned with tailoring manifesto commitments to reflect not just our needs, but our power.

The dreams of hopeful renters are simple: rent control, security, longer tenancies and an end to revenge evictions. For the first time, I am relatively confident that one, if not everything on that list will be achieved.

Sadly, there are some truly bad things happening. Rising homelessness is one, caused directly by Lib Dem supported (and lest we forget, Labour endorsed) Tory social security cap, which as I write this, is causing even the mythical, iconic ‘hard-working families’ to be frog marched out of London – where the jobs are - to wherever the homes are.

The UK’s PRS is broken, especially in London. People are moved away from where their support – in the form of child care, education, training and part time work, which could lead to full-time work, is located. It’s cruel, pointless and distressing.

Victims have homes but live in isolation, expected to be not simply glad, but speechless with gratitude. Cue clueless Eton mess.

There’s the fact that people accepted as homeless, but when still vulnerable and poor are no longer placed on waiting lists for social housing, but batted right back to the now infamously dysfunctional PRS, prey to evictions and uncontrolled rents.

The bedroom tax I was dreading last year is every bit as bad as we thought. Apparently, those clueless Tories assumed affected tenants would pay and stay, not fight to remain. Blimey. These plebbish povs must be dining on foie gras wrapped in gold leaf. The first evictions, with babes in arms are imminent.

In other news, letting agents still exist. Just. For now. Increasing numbers of online portals will inevitably replace them. The sooner the better, because they’re increasingly brazen.

One small but important victory – the word ‘landlord’ is being rapidly replaced with the less aristocratic ‘rentier.’

There is some cause for more joy. I rent my home from an amazing rentier, or ‘Landgirl,’ as she prefers to be called. I know she reads this, so I’d like to say thank-you. It’s not all bad. Just most of it.


J N said...

I hope you're wrong about 'rentier' replacing 'landlord'. Having a word for landlord that looks so much like the word for tenant is needlessly confusing. I've had to reread several of your sentences because I read one word for the other the first time.

More broadly, I don't want the more general economic meaning of 'rentier' to be subsumed under a new meaning restricted to 'landlord'. In the economic sense, people live off rents from tenants, yes, but also from having control of natural resources and from investment portfolios. I don't see the value in losing that broader meaning.

I also don't think the 'lord' part of 'landlord' is especially inappropriate. Since we live in a society that allows private land ownership, that means that owning land gives a person some extra influence or power. Changing the word doesn't change the underlying situation.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Happy Birthday RG.

I agree with you on the prospect of changes to renting. In a sense the sector is a victim of it's own success. The growing numbers of tenants includes people who are articulate, vocal and organised. These tenants can certainly provide a pressure base for change and know how to do it. Any government would be foolish indeed to ignore a growing voter base who dont feel their interests or concerns are being addressed.

Trouble is, where do they go? As you say Labour are hardly proposing anything different. Maybe it's time for a 'Tenants Party'.Or for tenants group to be as influential as trades unions.

RenterGirl said...

Hey Anon - rentier is taking over - but it's my journo habit of still interchanging tenant and renter if used more than once in a post.

Thanks Ben - I agree with you apart from the 'success' part. I'd refine that as stuck, staying put, no longer a midway port of call to ownership. So people will get angry, organised registered (or agitated, educated and organised for those of us of certain vintage.) Aah... forever renting!

MattW said...

Happy 7th birthday!

Agree with Ben's comment. Private Tenants are forming a greater proportion of the electorate. It is certainly time for the politicians to address the broken private rented sector.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

A timely comment Matt. I just read of the Halifax's 2014 Generation rent survey, which follows on from the original 2011 survey and attitudes are changing with 48% of the 32,000 respondents now believing that the next generation will be renters only. A sizeable voter base.

This is some of the other findings

One in five of 23-27 year olds have no desire to own a home.

46% believe Britain is becoming more like Europe, where renting is ‘the norm’.

86% of potential homeowners refuse to sacrifice the quality of accommodation they currently live in to reduce the amount of rent they pay in order to save for a deposit.

54% of homeowners think people aren't willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get on the property ladder.

57% say first-time buyers today are guilty of trying to find their perfect property rather than adjusting their expectations to their means.

57% of would-be first time buyers would like to save but claim to not have any spare cash that they could save.

space cadet said...

57% say first-time buyers today are guilty of trying to find their perfect property rather than adjusting their expectations to their means. "

Maybe that's because property isn't the vast revenue stream that it was for all the baby boomers, who hopped between homes making nice tidy profits along the way. That 2 up 2 down won't sell for 5x its value again, because already IS 5x its value. Idiots.

RenterGirl said...

People are too borke to save, wages are low, prices are to high. Factor in no fault and revenge evictions and you have the reasons for this current nightmare. Not willing to make the necessary sacrifices is telling - this means forgoing food. Renting will become the norm. But without the protections enjoyed in Europe ie France where all Winter evictions are illegal.

Anonymous said...

As a LL I was shocked by some of the recent tv programs eg how to get a council house. I agree the PRS in London is well and truly fu broken. But that is not the case throughout the rest of the country.
Do you not see a direct correlation between standard of property offered to benefits claimants and the fact that the LHA rate is capped at 30 percentile. It means that the best 70% or properties are out of their grasp. The cheapest 30% will naturally be the nastiest properties.
Maybe a rent contol is required but I have yet to see a reasonable working example put forward.
Any offers?

RenterGirl said...

I agree that there is now a stupid, and hopefully (hopefully) unintended rush to the bottom of the acceptable face of renting for those permitted LHA percentile. Rnet controls worked before - owners hated them as they kept tenants in situ and rents low. Also - more people could buy homes then. No rises above inflation - if at all, and then only when approved by the rent officer who set the rent. Like they used to.