In certain places, rents are out of control. Mostly in London of course, but also cities and towns such as Aberdeen and Warwick – historically beautiful locations where building is controlled or limited. Rents here increase so fast and by so much that renting a home will soon be out of reach (buying a place is already impossible for many).
Even renting in what used to be considered the badlands of London (districts marked ‘Here be dragons’ on the A-Z) is just a fleeting, distant dream. You can tell by the number of tanning salons and betting shops that these so-called affordable areas are... challenging. Add the cost in time and money of all that travelling to and from work, and living is as expensive as in more central locations.
Sadly and inevitably, rising prices have unintended consequences. People need homes but must pay these scandalous rents, and so, when pay is low and work scare and precarious (it still is – despite the tory myth of recovery) renters wrangle for cash to keep a roof over their head.
But the low supply/high demand model explains the game of poker forced on prospective tenants. It’s The Price Is Right but twisted (higher...Higher!...HIGHER!!!!) as letting agents see how brazenly they can ramp prices.
But now innovative cruel scourges scar the lives of already impoverished renters.
By which I mean scams like the dire and discredited ‘Rent to Let’. Here, owners let a property but someone (often without the owners knowledge and consent) sublets the flat or house, converting lounges and even landings into rooms.
It usually ends badly. Tenants frequently have their rent collected but not passed on to the owner, and if the ‘chief tenant’ disappears, their right to stay is suspect.
Now there’s yet another rent ramping problem: the incursion and rise of Air B n’ B. What used to be a friendly and informal arrangement where owners could let a spare room to travellers, is now used to rent out entire flats as what are, in effect, holiday apartments. Tenants have few rights, and rentiers have few responsibilities.
I’m not surprised. This used to be the case in Dovecot Towers, where many flats were rented out short term. Here however, this was as ‘hotel apartments’ and the practice caused severe problems for residents, with many stag parties etc disrupting life with no way of stopping them
Until that is I visited the office of one company, and asked innocently whether my friend’s hen night party could rent a flat. It might be a loud – they could be ‘boisterous’ – would it matter? ‘No – that’s fine’, came the reply.
I explained I lived there, and that subletting was illegal (few owners knew that) and that they should stop. The agent’s face was a picture.
Now imagine that the only possibility of renting a home is fleeting, precarious and on a daily agreement. Or that you pay online and on arrival find your new ‘home’ is double booked. And you’re homeless.
I’ve always wondered what fresh hell inflicted on tenants will be the actual step too far. What will make us snap and storm the barricades with pitchforks. You know what? I think this is it.
(You might have read I am ending Rentergirl soon. I will post a farewell piece.)