On New Year’s Eve, a couple of flatmates were unable to enjoy the fireworks due to a text from their landlord letting them know their flat had been sold and they needed to find new accommodations within a month. This was the start of the drama that would take place during the month of January. In addition to the not quite legitimate and badly timed eviction text, they learned their landlord was just a tenant. The rooms in the high-rise were being sublet to the tenants. Prior to them leaving, the landlord was threatening to keep the deposits they paid if they did not get rid of the mould that was there when they first moved in. The tenants argued the mould was a structural issue and one of numerous reasons the owner intended to refurbish prior to selling. After a lot of scrubbing, they did manage to get most of their deposit back.
One of the flatmates found new digs fast by taking the first affordable room. The room was a beige box located in east London for £450 a month. This was a steal for the area but by standing in the centre of the closet it was easy to touch both sides. There were surveillance cameras located all over the house the staff and landlord watched from an office next to the property. When the tenancy was signed, the landlord claimed the reason the cameras were there was to stop any cleaning disputes. The tenant did not believe the cameras could be watched all the time but later realised this thought was an error in judgement. A few months later, the bed frame had to be disposed of because the slats were not fitted together properly and it was very uncomfortable.
Once the frame was dismantled, the tenant was going to call the council to set up a collection but one of the staff showed up at the door. This led to a type of interrogation and the staff member said the frame needed to be taken to the office. The tenant did this quickly and did not bill the landlord for the new bed even though it was a furnished room. The tenant figured the landlord would rather evict the tenant than pay for a new bed. This type of living situation has become normal during the housing crisis. Millennials have no choice but to accept appalling conditions just to find an affordable rent in the United Kingdom. This issue is not exclusive to the capital, just more pronounced there. There is nothing new about having to live in a box room in London.
In 2015, an advert listed a bedroom. This turned out to be a cupboard underneath the stairs for £500 per month. It stated they were looking for an outgoing, open minded and friendly person to join the house share. Apparently, open minded has become a euphemism for living like Harry Potter. This advert was practically luxuries in comparison to the toilet rooms being listed. In March of 2017, a Kilburn studio flat was put on the market for £520 a month with toilet only inches away from the bed. The experts referred to this as a cupboard with plumbing. A studio flat in Hendon was £546 a month, the shower was shared with the other tenants and the toilet was located in the kitchen cupboard.
Two friends from Hertfordshire have known each other since they were children. At age 23 they are sharing a room located in Plaistow, east London. Their room would be a decent size if only one person lived there. The combination of their belongings takes up the entire space. One of the roommates is a magician and his side of the room is filled with padlocks, playing cards and fake thumbs. The other side is much neater but this roommate sleeps on the floor. They share the wardrobe and the top of one side is filled with neatly arranged bottles of nutritional supplements. The arrangement is not perfect but saves them both money. They are able to treat themselves because they only have to pay half of the rent each. They are happily settled in Plaistow but when they shared a room in Seven Sisters it was a difficult time.
The pair had a neighbor who played the piano quite loudly during the evening. Tenants on the other floors were smoking marijuana and there was sexual banging from the room next door. Bunking together has affected their own sex lives. When one of the roommates was having a girl over, the other played a joke and scattered condoms, candles and flowers all over the bed. To get out of his roommates way, he spent several nights in a hostel near Camden. Unless the rent was due, they never saw the landlord. If they were late with the rent, a big, beastly man would come to their door to collect the rent. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous landlords at the bottom of the market.
The majority of tenants in Wales and England do not have a written tenancy agreement. This lack of protection is used by some landlords to take advantage. A 34 year old tenant in an apartment in Leeds was told the utilities were included. When he ended the tenancy, he lost his deposit because the landlord claimed he owed money to pay for the utilities. Since there was no contract, there was no way to prove he was told the utilities were included so his deposit was lost. A husband and wife rented another property from a man who let himself in whenever he wanted. The tenant came home after work and found him wandering around the flat. Their garden was even used by this man for his DIY projects. He was constantly hammering which caused quite the annoyance.
A written agreement is also not a guarantee the tenants will be protected from a ludicrous situation. Due to bad tenancies, a 24 year old did not want to give her surname. She left her flat-share late in 2017 because one of her roommates was exasperating. The final straw was coming home to find a film crew. She went looking at houses with her sister and located a Hackney Wick flat. It was derelict and close to a motorway. She told the woman she did not want the flat but the woman insisted she wanted them there and said she would reduce the rent if they moved in. The sisters decided to move in and paid the rent. The place looked great and had a decking balcony. The issues started when mould began creeping up the walls due to the dampness.
One sister was living on the ground floor and the skirting board started lifting off the floor from the dampness. Large slugs then began entering the room through the floorboards. The sisters made contact with the company managing the flat but they would not help. The flat was literally rotting from the outside in. They had to leave before the floor fell in. They were legally required to keep paying rent until the expiration of their contract. The sisters eventually located a Hackney flat with two bedrooms after they gave notice on the flat filled with mould. Three days before the move and after their deposit was paid, they were told by the letting agent the current occupant was refusing to move because alternative arrangements had not been made. All the letting agent would do was express guilt for the situation. One of the sisters lost her temper because she felt like the agent was ruining her life. She stated in three days she would be homeless. The only choice the sisters had was to stay at the mould flat for five more days until they could locate another place to live. They found something fairly comfortable in Brockley, south-east London.
A 21 year old freelance set designer was living in a Victorian four-story house in Clapton that tilts just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She accepted the tenancy because the rent and deposit were fairly cheap but did not have a written agreement. She made arrangements to pay her rent once a month in June instead of every week. Despite the agreement she made with her landlord, she is being harassed for missing one week’s payment. She received messages from him every couple days stating she must pay the money. She told him they had made an agreement and she had another four weeks to pay the rent. The action from the landlord was drastic. He came to her work with two other individuals, then went through all her things, threw everything into the garden and had the locks changed.
She said due to the ransacking, she lost important documents pertaining to a registration. She broke in with the help of a flatmate and was still naked while preparing to go to work. The landlord threatened to call the police and broke the door down. She lost a days pay because she was unable to go to work that day. She stated her mental health had been impacted by the experience. She is afraid to leave because the landlord has made threats to come back. She said she is a very positive individual but felt as though she had reached rock bottom. The reason she missed work was because she was too afraid to leave the house. She could not believe someone had actually gone through her things and felt like she had been violated. She needs to stay in London due to her work and is looking for another place to live. She said she will not move into another flat unless she has a written tenancy agreement and her deposit is paid through a TDP. She realised how naïve she had been in the past and said there are a lot of lessons to be learned in life. This one was learned the hard way.
There are a lot of tenants in the inner cities with no choice other than accepting the appalling living condition just to find rent that is affordable. Ed Miliband was a previous leader for the Labour party. In 2014, he killed a housing policy that would have limited rent increases and established a tenancy for three years. This policy has recently been commandeered by the Tories. The irony is Grant Shapps was their former chairman. He said the policy was nothing more than a short term gimmick and called the rent controls Venezuelan style. Whether or not it is a gimmick, the rent controls and extended tenancies only represent a short term solution. Councils are also introducing Landlord Licencing Schemes to tackle the problem of what is now termed “rogue landlords”.
Glyn Robbins has shown an estate he manages. It is a new luxury development for housing across from Quaker Court. The development is called The Featherstone and a three bedroom apartment is renting for £1.6m. He called the situation a crisis cycle and stated it would not end until council housing was restored to the policy mainstream. He believes the most important point regarding council housing is overlooked. He said it is the only rented tenure that is affordable, especially in big cities like London. Most of the private tenants would not allow these types of evictions and rent hikes. Even the government has admitted the market is dysfunctional and broken in many ways.
There is some optimism that the Labour and the Conservatives are trying to resolve the issue. In October of 2017, Theresa May made an announcement £2bn would be spent on new homes for rent and council houses that are affordable. There has currently been nothing accomplished to back up this statement. It is unlikely a council home can be secured in the near future. There are rooms available in Oldham three times larger for £250 a month with the bills included. Manchester is also right down the road. Many people are beginning to wonder if living in London is worth the cost.
Rent from a Landlord or Agent?
Renting from a Landlord
Not everybody who claims to be a landlord is legit as some of the horror stories above lay bare. Don’t just give money to anyone, landlords have certain responsibilities to the tenant. Unsure about a landlord, you can find landlords who are registered to an accreditation scheme. Contact your local authority to advise you about the accreditation schemes operating within your area.
Rent through an Agent
Make sure the estate & letting agents are accredited to protect and safeguard your money. Agents are certified by professional bodies such as NALS, ARLA, UKALA or RICS. What costs and fees do they charge and when are you required to pay them? All agents are obligated by law to provide a breakdown of all the fees that they charge in their office and website. You should also find out what independent complaints scheme they are a member of.