Monday, 25 February 2013

How To Be Homeless.

Homelessness is rising. I mean actual rough sleeping – genuine, totally miserable, cold, damp, hopeless, abandoned, hiding in the night, freezing to death, homelessness.

Most people find it hard to believe that anyone could end up actually homeless, let alone literally roofless, but believe me it’s really easy. Here’s how:

(1) Find yourself in between jobs. Having budgeted well, and until that point, you managed to pay reasonable rent on a modest flat, discovering only when claiming housing benefit that this little place of yours is over the Local Housing Allowance ceiling set by those condems: right at the bottom of local rents. When you try and move, discover that as far as landlords and letting agents go, you are a pariah. Apply to the council as homeless but lack priority need (no children or severe disability) and have no local connection. Good luck.

(2) Relationship ends: one partner leaves, and pride, or confusion leads to sofa surfing. Hosts get bored of a lump on the settee, and politely ask you to leave, assuming you have somewhere else to go, but also judgementally deciding that the accompanying joblessness is somehow your fault, as is the homelessness.

(3) Be a claimant (and yes, most housing benefit claimants are in work.) Then have your rentier decide, abruptly to sell, but in between moving out and finding a new place, discover that nobody will house you without a guarantor. Only you don’t have a guarantor. And you’ve been a good tenant, so abide by the notice to quit. Except you have nowhere else to go. And no local connection, and are not considered to be in priority need (that is: vulnerable for reasons of health or age, or childless.)

(4) Lose your home due to a landlord going bankrupt. In any of these stated situations.

(5) Move away for employment/education, but find no work, or lose the job, and be staying in temporary accommodation: a hostel or cheap bed and breakfast, but run out of money.

(6) Be bullied out of a shared home. Then find you can’t get a reference from your previous resident landlord.

(7) Be the bottom of the list when desperate in a high demand area. Place your sealed bid, but discover that people have outbid you for the hovel you could just cover on minimum wage.

(8) Be thrown out by your parents, but not knowing how to access housing, support or the funds to find a safe new place.

(9) Be freelance. Even high earning freelancers are deemed undesirable by letting-agents.

(10) Be disabled, or mentally ill. Few private sector rentiers will touch you with a very long disinfected barge pole, no matter how much support you have, or how ‘well’ you now are.

See – it’s not hard. In fact, it’s all too easy. Homelessness doesn’t happen to other people, to strangers with ‘chaotic lives’ or the feckless and useless. The UK private renting sector is broken. And nobody has the will to fix it.

Still don’t believe me? All of those scenarios were sent by readers, and one (or more) also genuinely happened to me.


RenterGirl said...

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Unknown said...

Thank you for raising this. We are encountering these scenarios on a daily basis at our project in North Devon. It is the judgmental 'it's your own fault' attitude that our clients seem to struggle with most, maybe because they (wrongly) believe it to be true.

Been There said...

How very true,

Or people who own thier own home, end & end up bacnkrupt - loss of business, made redundant, loss of hours etc...

Forced to sell house, or end up defaulting on mortage, leave house - landlords wont touch a bankrupt or if you have kids councils consider you voluntarily homeless unless you cling on to bitter end..

Peopep seriously think they are safe..

I reckon if interest rates go up 1% bankruptcies & reposessions will sky rocket..people are clinging on by their fingertips

Anonymous said...

You could have been shafted like me. Company move you to a foreign country and at the drop of a hat pull you back. I landed in the UK six hours ago and don't know what to do

RenterGirl said...

Yes, owner occupiers also suffer. and yes: the nobody believes the homeless not being at fault is bizarre. Who would choose that?

RenterGirl said...

Anon above: what - you were fired/made redundant on arrival? Can you go home? Horrible. Good luck, and all the best.

Anonymous said...

I was buying my first flat but had to move out of my rental place before it completed. I ended up on a friends sofa. Sale fell though and - due to a fall out with said friend - i ended up sleeping in the office at work until someone else rescued me. I now have my own place but have a much greater appreciation for what it is to have a home. Homelessness can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons.

Anonymous said...

What really scares me though (continuing from post 7) is what will happen when people in social housing cant afford the bedroom tax but cant get a private landlord to accept benefits? What happens when they fall behind on their extra rent? We all know one bed council flats are few and far between. ...

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was renting a flat, unemployed and claiming housing. The CC lowered the amount they would pay for rent and my land lord refused to reduce the rent.

I am not pregnant, disabled or with a dependent minor.

I was told that if I left the property when the LL wanted me to, I would certainly not qualify for any help from the council as I would be voluntarily homeless. I was told to stay in the property and wait for the land lord to take me to court and have be forceably evicted, then go back to the council to be considered.

I'm now on a friends sofa.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Anonymous if you are not pregnant, have no children or health needs you generally wouldn’t be entitled to homelessness assistance anyway so it would be neither here nor there if you gave up your accommodation. You would be on a friends sofa whatever way you look at it I’m afraid, as would I be.

On homelessness, I started my career working in a 1,200 bed direct access night shelter in London called the Camberwell Spike. For the first time in my life I was on first name terms with those bundles of rags I used to pass in doorways. Within days of hearing their stories you realise how any one of us could so easily end up there. Its quite terrifying.

At the Spike it wasn’t just drunks, but people who had been successful businessmen, ex servicemen who had never had to live outside and people whose relationship went down the toilet at the same time as they got made redundant.

And in my day job now I see people who have worked all their lives, lost their jobs and are facing mortgage repossession who are facing that same eternal dilemma

RenterGirl said...

So true Ben. A cascade of bad luck, and we are all of us two months away from the streets.

space cadet said...

Well, 2 months if your name is on the tenancy.. could be even less if your flatmate /partner /landlord didn't get around to adding you to it 'yet'.

I've lived in two sublets now, where my rights to occupy were effectively nil. It was an arrangement and nothing more. One was a Housing Association place that my flatmate (the owner) didn't dare ask them about, for fear of getting a "no". The other was a sublet in hospital accommodation.

Renting has never been the sea of options so many (glib homeowners) rather assume it to be. The timing and looming deadline to move really dictates so much of where you end up next!

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

In my time I’ve been a homeowner, a council tenant, a private tenant, a landlord, even a letting agent believe it or not and what I absolutely loathe is when I hear people talk about tenant choice.

There is no choice. Nobody in their right mind would choose to be a private tenant, with an automatic, no-fault ground for eviction and no control over rent levels

I became a private tenant after circumstances surrounding relationship breakdown and the recession hitting my self-employment (Housing law trainer… budgets are always the first to get cut). If it wasn’t for the generosity of my close friend letting me have his back room I would have been on the street. I took a private let because I had no choice and I hate it.

I have no control over my future, I cant put pictures on the wall for fear of losing my deposit, I don’t buy any furniture that I like in case I cant re-home it when it comes time to move (The move being Imposed on me and not of my choice) I have to endure annual rent increases because my agent assures my Greek property developer landlord that I can afford to pay another 10% of my take home pay on rent.

You can be the most model of tenants, pay your rent on time, leave the property better than you found it but still your life is in someone else’s hands at all times. Frazzles and I are in every way model tenants but it didnt stop our last landlord deciding he just wanted to sell and take advantage of a ‘Bouyant market’. It cost us £3,000 to move, taking into account all costs. Not enough to buy a place of our own but enough to allow our landlord (A homelessness charity worker) to capitalise on his investment.

Anonymous said...

Been through a number - business failure, private landlord wanting to renovate for family, squatter in caravan on derelict house land, rent rise to double when out of work ... All my own fault of course and in most cases voluntary homeless so not going to get help as no dependents. And as someone said, there are going to be a lot more when the "bedroom tax" kicks in. Looking at the social housing applications for one bedroom places locally - 67 for a bungalow, 1 off the list just 66 still with a problem situation.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

And wasnt the infamous landlord in a tenant - Suzy Butler a homelessness charity worker too?

RenterGirl said...

Ben - the one time I was summarily evicted, by the medium of screaming 'Get out of my house' it was a homeless charity worker...
But yes, there is no security. I think long term should mean decades. And that anyone not intending to rent a place for more than a year must be obliged to make this clear.
Just had to edit that incoherent post of mine. I wonder how many homeless charity workers are secretly perpetuating vileness - knowing what they can gget away with? Hopefully, not many.

Barney from Newington said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RenterGirl said...

Barney - you were warned.
He was accusing Shelter of being villains again.