Collage by Natalie Moreno
Remember when all you needed to get a flat was a month’s rent in advance, a deposit, and some evidence that you were earning enough to pay for it? Cracking the rental market today is more like an episode of Takeshi’s Castle: You and 20 other desperate people racing to win the prize of spending most of your monthly income on a flat with a shower that’s within spitting distance of both the bed and the ‘fitted kitchen’ (a row of three cupboards with a microwave on top).
As if it weren’t depressing enough that rising prices mean you’ll likely never own your own home, the competition to rent today often requires begging landlords and estate agents to pick you from the list of hopefuls, whether in the form of a letter, an awkward meeting over coffee, or worse. We spoke to renters about the lengths they’ve gone to convince landlords that they are ‘worthy’ enough to rent their property.
Ash, 26, from Brixton, invented a dog to seem more relatable to his letting agent after he looked them up on Facebook. He says, “Our letting agent was called Flora, and I found her on Facebook and saw what dog she had. I said at the viewing, ‘My parents just got the cutest little Australian Shepherd,’ and she was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got one, they’re amazing.’ And I was like, ‘Waaaaaat?’” It worked! “She was so receptive after that.”
Stalk your letting agent to copy their personality
Sam, 26, from Manchester, says he and his mates pretended they were all in relationships with each other to get a house share. He tells VICE: “Instead of saying we were four working guys, we said we were two gay couples – I’m the only gay one – and that we love a Sunday roast and a stroll.”
Play ‘the gay couple card’ to appear more settled
Tasha, 29, from London, says she was “absolutely dying inside” when she sent a bio to the letting agent, assuring them that her fledgling relationship with her roommate had longevity. She wrote: “We are technically ‘new friends’ – or so everyone likes to remind us – but time is not the quantifier for soul mates… We spend our free time watching films, going to art classes, collecting vintage furniture, laughing hysterically, and therapising each other. Your property is so full of charm and feels more like a home than we could’ve hoped for – it’s hard to imagine a future anywhere else at this point.” Let’s hope their friendship lasts at least the three-year minimum rental term renters are looking at these days.
Pretend your random roommate is your best friend
Rosa, 26, is originally from Amsterdam and living in London after doing her masters here. Being an international student proved tricky as she needed a guarantor who was a UK resident. “Luckily, I’ve got godparents that live in the UK,” she says. “But that's not going to be the case for every international student trying to find their first job in London.” Even though Rosa has plenty of ‘nice tenant’ details, she still felt the need to ham up her CV for extra kudos. She says, “The university where I did my master's degree has had me back once or twice to do a workshop after graduation. They technically gave me a contract that says visiting practitioner, but I always write in my bio that I'm a lecturer at a university.”
Exaggerate your CV
Rosa also told us she scours for details of an area she’s trying to rent to highlight her connection: "We pick a restaurant in the area, say two streets down. We will say we can't wait to live within walking distance of it – and we'll pick a random one. We push the angle that we've lived in this area for a long time and love the area. We're part of this community. ‘We’re basically already living here, so you might as well give it to us’.”
Big up your connection to the area
Do you find gushing about your endless charms impossible? There’s always good old AI. There are tales all over the internet of people using chatGPT to help with their cover letters, and Melbourne-based developer Jordi Hermoso has made it even easier for would-be renters to write the ultimate barf-fest of an application. His AI-powered cover letter writer will have you warming your socks by the toaster in no time.
Use AI to write your cover letter
As long as there are estate agents, there will be dodgy ones willing to take a backhander. An anonymous renter, 31, from Ireland, tells us they thought they were beaten to their dream house by another couple who, according to the agent, had friends in common with the owner. Soon after, the agent called asking if they could hurry to a viewing that wasn’t on the market yet. “I asked what we needed to offer to secure it, and he took me into the bedroom, where he rambled on, saying there was a way he could secure it for the asking price, but we’d ‘both need to stick to the agreement’.” Losing hope, they wondered if the agent would ask for sexual favours, but cash was more his thing. For £400, the agent convinced the landlord he could vouch for the couple as pals of his – just as he’d apparently done at the previous place.