Over this past year, I have been asked by several newspapers (notably The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph) as well as elsewhere in the media for my dreams, wishes, hopes for (and views on) renting in the UK.
I am keen on increased regulation, but in Grant Shapps, we endure a Housing Minister so witless that he imagines the solution to homelessness and overcrowding is for people to live on boats. Or else buy houses (especially if they are built on unprotected informal play areas and the greenbelt.) Simple! If only we’d all thought about this, we wouldn’t be in such a mess.
Even building societies refer to ‘generation rent’ – condemned never to own a home. I hate renting, for so many reasons: a rented home does not feel like my own, I can’t rely on staying longer than six months, I can’t afford to buy even though rent is usually lower, or no more than rent.
What would make everything better? The answer I give whenever I am asked is this: for a change in culture to end the sensation that we tenants are vermin infesting our lord and master’s fragile porcelain piggy-bank. A change in mind-set so that we can stay as long as we need or desire, unless we (the tenants) change our minds.
Much is spoken of the rental Shangri-La that supposedly exists in Germany, where legend has it that tenants are treated like royalty. This isn’t actually true. It is correct that tenants are welcome to stay for years rather than months, permitted to alter their houses (as long as they put the property back to its original condition on leaving.)
Renters must give three months notice, which does tend to make people feel slightly stuck, and I wonder if it movers make hasty decisions in the panic of a looming move. Overall, it is a better, safer system – unless the tenants want somewhere temporary, or do not wish to stay for years, because rented homes are just that – homes.
Back here, the solution to making life better for tenants is vigorous regulation of letting agents (I have once again found an agency that didn’t know the law) rent caps enforced by rent officers like in the old days and the severe punishment of the minority of landlords who might accurately be described as having gone rogue.
But more than anything, life for tenants would be greatly improved by not having to wonder, four months into a six month tenancy, whether rent will be increased, if the tenancy will be renewed, or even (and this has happened to me) the landlord will expect distant relatives to move into the tiny box room.
And to be allowed to stay, and to paint. It used to be that tenants were even permitted a week rents free to pay for making the home suit them (it is after their home where they live.)
So that’s it then: painting, with the expectation of remaining. And not to live on a boat. Is that too much to ask?