Tuesday, 24 September 2013

DIY Makeover

It relentlessly grim up here in the world of a lifetime of rented housing. Things are worse than ever before - really bad. People still face eviction under the bedroom tax, and there’s not enough one bedroom flats in the private or public sectors, and the benefit cap, rising homelessness coupled with pointless cruel benefit sanctions. It's horrible.

Now you might know that in my 'other' job, I write for a living. Part of that involes outlining proposed articles to harassed, overworked section editors. One of my pitches, you will be unsurprised to hear, concerned how to furnish and decorate a rented home, given the restrictions of nasty furniture supplied, landlords who insist on the dread magnolia, the 'Accursed Short-Term Travesty' and lack of money.

I was commissioned - hooray! But then a following email apologised - another writer was already commissioned, with the article to run within days. Damn. The article which eventually ran was a challenge; I read with amazement. It was written by an interior designer/decorator who seemed not to rent, who recommended turning books into a 'focal point (I'm banging my head on the desk as I write this...) by stacking them in a single pile so high that removing one book from this vertiginous stack would cause certain death.

She also suggested, if memory serves: 'Why not cheers walls up with a bright colour?'

Why not indeed?

Because the owner/letting agents won't effin' let me paint that's why!

Now I read the papers with some distress, seeing no news of rent controls, and Labour promising to end the bedroom tax as if we should be grateful, not appalled they took so long…but here are my tips:

1 You can paint the walls - as long as they are restored to their former colour and condition before you move on. It's best to ask, because during the dreaded, pointless 'inspection' (where especially in London, agents stormtroop their way around looking for any excuse to give notice and raise rents) your creativity will be noted and you could be given notice – no reason is required.

2 If you have any money buy a new mattress and...a four poster bed. You heard me: a four poster bed. They're available online, and will keep out draughts in unheated bedrooms.

3 Buy plants. They're bright, they're alive they're cheap and you can take them with you.

4 Novelty shelving - if you have money - 'lifts a room' and you can take it with you.

5 Rugs and mats. Make the place seem your own.

6 Cover shabby sofas and unsprung chairs with blankets, if the landlord won't replace or remove them.

I think we'd all be better off if property was by let as unfurnished by default. It would be expensive to begin with, but you'd collect furniture etc as you moved around. And you wouldn't need to put your mattress on wooden pallets, because you were certain your next home (and there will be a next home) has a rickety base the landlord won't replace.

I know it's not much, but it's the best I can do. This is so depressing.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't that what Brightmhouse is for? Dhhhhhh!

RenterGirl said...

Very satirical.

Anonymous said...

Oh thanks ever so much !

Best wishes ,from the dark lord of the renal portal who's name we may not speak

Emma said...

There was a ridiculous article in the Guardian recently about the same thing - if I recall correctly it began by introducing us to a pair of tenants who had painted the bedroom black, retiled the kitchen and installed a wood-burning stove, and all this encouraged by their 'laid-back' landlord. Meanwhile, on planet earth ...

Anonymous said...

One of mine has just moved out after eight years while there they have re tiled the bathroom installed a wet room ,taken up the front lawn and put down decorative slate hedge replaced with wall complete with metal railings and double metal gates onto a new block paved drive.
Oh and a large shed in the back garden.
I am happy has improved the place ,would ave been happy for them to stay but they wanted to move on.
Many I think don't want to think of renting as their home just a stepping stone to 'better' things
Sorry to say wrong mind set

space cadet said...

"Many I think don't want to think of renting as their home just a stepping stone to 'better' things"

A bemusing comment to add at the end. You sound like a cool landlord that let them live freely, and make it home. Do you resent them leaving now?

space cadet said...

What's wrong about their mindset exactly?

Christine Hewitt said...

Dunno think I would be happy to go with magnolia rather than traffic light green and amber, rag rolled pink, blue and yellow, pocked wall damaged with a hammer and no paint (this was tenants repairs), anaglypta over painted white on pink but that was a council flat.

Tracie said...

I'm fortunate here that I can decorate how I wish. That is one benefit of renting via a housing association. I can also change the décor as I like.

Having said that decorating is not always cheap especially since rents can be expensive if some areas. Particularly for a short term let.

I personally would look at using ornaments to personalise a short term rent.

Tracie said...

I'm fortunate here that I can decorate how I wish. That is one benefit of renting via a housing association. I can also change the décor as I like.

Having said that decorating is not always cheap especially since rents can be expensive if some areas. Particularly for a short term let.

I personally would look at using ornaments to personalise a short term rent.

Caroline said...

I think unfurnished is the way to go. Our home is rented and is referred to as "partially furnished" in the tenancy agreement.

This means it has a cooker, a fridge freezer, carpets and curtains.

The cooker (a good one but old) eventually died (due to age not abuse) and was replaced with the cheapest, nastiest one the landlady could find. We offered to buy our own but she said no.

The fridge freezer is on it's way out (it's about 30 years old) and is about as energy deficient as it could be. Will she allow us to buy our own and get rid of the useless one? No.

The big draw back with unfurnished is that cookers and fridge freezers are fairly expensive. No grants are available now to those with no income to buy such things. The extortionate HP deals on the high street are way out of reach of many on surviving on benefits.

When we moved in, in 1990, it took four coats of paint throughout the house to cover up the nicotine stains on the walls. Back then, sealant paints weren't so good. We were told that we had to pay for it and the work would be inspected (it never was)

We have decorated many times since, not once have we been reimbursed. Last year we painted the exterior, as other neighbours were starting to complain about the state of the exterior walls. We are the only renters in our little road and many neighbours think that we shouldn't be living in this road unless we can afford to buy.

We didn't bother asking the landlady to pay for the exterior paint (£150 - the cheapest) because she has a trick of raising the rent every time a major repair or maintenance needs doing.

When the large wooden window/door frame at the back fell to bits it was replaced with a new double glazed unit, hurray we thought. Then two days later the letter informing us of a huge rent rise arrived. This has happened more than once. The cost of the window/door has been covered many times since, by us, in rent paid.

The rent for this place is low compared to the rents in the rest of the village for similar properties, so for us, it's often cheaper to do maintenance ourselves and pay for it and not tell anyone. We do work to a better standard than the cowboy buffoons the landlady's agent send around to do repairs.

We are lucky in that nowadays, we don't get the ridiculous and intrusive inspections. I will never forget having some spotty oik in a nylon suit and pointy shoes, with a whole chemist's worth of hair product on his head, standing in my bedroom, making notes about my curtains and asking me if I'd got written permission to change them. I showed him the old ones, I keep them in a box in the attic. He said I would need to write to the agent and seek written permission to use my curtains. The ones supplied with the house fell to bits the first time we used them, brittle with age. They were first put up in about 1975. I sent him away with a verbal flea in his ear and spent a month worrying that we'd be thrown our. As luck would have it, he was sacked not long after, he'd assaulted another tenant.