Rental Opportunity of the Week: A Flat Actively Hostile to Human Life

Do you need to sit? Use the toilet? Sleep in a bed? Sorry, this isn't the place for you!
Cupboard over bed  in one-bed studio to rent in Sunderland
All photos: Zoopla
What is living in London like? Hell. Here’s proof, beyond all doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.

What is it? A semi-uninhabitable one-bed flat in Sunderland.

Hold on— Because this column is “on tour”, remember. To highlight the fact that the rot is starting to spread. That it is not all contained to the capital city. Even if it was, that’s a problem – people do like to look at crap flats in London and go, “Well don’t live in London, then”, as if that is the viable solution to the problem – but also, it is not a solution to the problem. Because like you can get some real shit in Sunderland, too. The solution to the problem is: Stop letting landlords offer up shit flats.


Got it Have you?

Yeah, the. The ah. The column is on tour Yeah.

And it’s because – it’s something to do with how the country as a whole is rapidly becoming basically uninhabitable, especially for single people, I mean realistically to even buy a house or flat you do have to be in a semi-sturdy couple Yeah exactly.

So like to have domestic stability in 2022 in this country you have to either be someone’s partner and also have a significant number of thousands of pounds saved as a deposit and also years of stable salary that a mortgage calculation can be made on, and even if you do have those things, all of the housing stock has been skimmed grey and white and soulless and is still fairly impossible to buy anyway, and I mean really if this is what it’s like in Sunderland for goodness’ sake then how sustainable is this system for the country as a whole for like, the next five years, maybe ten years maximum Yeah in 2033 it will very literally be impossible to buy a house I think.

Which means even more people will have to eternally rent Yep!

And that’s bad because as we’ve proven repeatedly there is no such thing as a “good landlord” Yeah the whole system has consistently proven itself not to be fit for purpose and it’s only going to get less fit when the purpose increases.


Well let’s get on with it then £450 PCM.

I think realistically UK housing stock now has one fairly significant problem and that is: People keep insisting on living in it. I really wish they wouldn’t, but they do. Listen, I’m guilty of it – hey, I’ll put my hands up! I live in a single unit of British housing stock! I have to! I need somewhere to put all my stuff, and somewhere to sleep every night where I am comfortable and dry and un-attacked! I know it’s hypocritical but I do! – but we, the people, are the one enduring problem with the housing market.

If nobody was ever going to live in it, this little place in Sunderland would be absolutely perfect: just a little room with a kitchenette in it, and a bed! Some weirdly-placed open cupboards and a bit of natural light! If no one ever, ever, ever set foot in this place, let it crumble down into dust forever untouched, then yeah. This would be a good flat then. As soon as you put one human being inside this place and they start doing their human being things – moving around freely, going to the bathroom, washing their bodies, owning objects and keeping them in place – then the whole concept starts to fall apart. Look at this:

View of kitchen with bed in one-bed studio to rent in Sunderland

Photo: Zoopla

I mean, how nice would that place be without a human being in it? You can look and see it now. It’s still and clean and comfortable. The issues start when you try and pay to live in it: the bed is in the kitchen, which we’re very used to. But also the kitchen is in the corner: You can’t, really, bend over to use the washing machine very elegantly, because the outside wall behind you is in the way. Your constant human need to have two chairs to sit down on is a problem for this flat, which is why the chairs are mounted on the wall [1] and the table they nestle beneath folds down flush against the edge of the kitchen island.

Cramped kitchen with two folding chairs  in one-bed studio to rent in Sunderland

Photo: Zoopla

Sitting down at a table in this flat is deeply inconvenient, for the flat, so it would be better if you could not do that, or do that as little as possible. If you’re one of those human beings who wears clothes, then I don’t know what to tell you. There is nowhere to put your clothes in this flat. Maybe you can just wear them all at once like that boybander

You are getting in the way again: there is a low ceiling and a derangedly ugly lampshade hanging down from it and if you are over about 5’10”, you are going to keep banging your head on that, so stop doing that at once. There is a small sofa in the corner – I don’t understand sofas of this size, because it’s slightly too big for one person (one person would be better off and more comfortable in an armchair) but too small for two people, so this is a liminal-space sofa designed, as best I can tell, for one-and-a-half people, and also it is made of that scratchy rough material they put in common rooms and Halls of Residence, anywhere where someone in the age range where they think “burning holes in things” is very fun might sit down.

Tiny sofa with bed in one-bed studio to rent in Sunderland

Speaking of burning, your irritating human need to heat and prepare and consume food – and the prohibitive insurance cost you being injured in a fire would have for the building’s custodian – means they have to keep a fire blanket just flopped into the kitchen, against the wall, just there, red and angry and ugly: Do not set fire to this building, please, the building will not thank you.


The building has heard that human beings often need to “sleep”, and so there is a bed provided – you can see it, right there, taking up all of the available room in the living room/kitchen share-space – but if there’s any way you can drop that habit and lose the bed, then the space will be a lot more comfortable and usable as a result. You have spaces to heat, sit and sleep, sure. But if you drop just one of those out of your rotation then the flat would really thank you for it. 

Tiny toilet in one-bed studio to rent in Sunderland

But where human beings’ constant need to be beneath shelter and have access to facilities comes into its own in the bathroom, which is designed more as an exercise in spite than as an actual place you can peacefully bathe: The shower opens directly into the toilet which itself is crowbarred in beneath the sink. There is no way you can do any of the Big Three in here – take a shower, take a shit, brush your teeth – without one of the other major two facilities you are not currently using getting in your way. The bathroom of this flat narrows its eyes at you and says: try me. You are getting in the way again. You are ruining this place by making it have a toilet in it. 

Sunderland is a fairly northerly university-and-people-being-incredibly-depressed-about-football town, so £450 a month is harder to contextualise, but looking around there are a lot of options to live in the city that don’t involve sleeping in a kitchen that hates you. For £25 a month more, there’s a flat that’s even closer to the city centre but has a separate bedroom and an actual human-specification kitchen/living room; for £25 a month less, there’s a ground floor flat of an actual house that you can live in instead. So this place isn’t serving any real purpose then: It basically exists as a place for a landlord to store a couple of ugly chairs they’re not currently using. Which is good, I guess: this flat is not designed for humans to exist inside. I think it will quite happily stay empty for a very long while. 



[1] Listen I have trawled through affordable-but-still-not-actually-affordable east London properties as much as you have, and so I know that actually hanging a chair on a wall can be not only very practical but very chic – very, very “French farmhouse you and your wife both separately have affairs out of one summer”, you have to say – but that is not the case here. These are some cheap plastic-and-metal fold-downs you get that remind you of something.

What is it they remind you of? No, not that. No, the other— right, that’s it. You’re at a party in your twenties. It’s not a good party and you haven’t fully embraced drug-taking yet so you’re just beer-buzzed and saggy-feeling. It’s just one of those scruffy house parties where everyone for some reason congregates in the kitchen with the blaring fluorescent lights on above you, and a few sinister men are there chain-rolling cigarettes and smoking them outside on a little low tar-covered roof with an extractor vent from a chicken shop blowing onto it.

Are you there, yet? Does this memory feel vivid and real? The kitchen door from the flat opens up directly onto the roof and though technically the roof isn’t sturdy enough to support the weight of any of you (“don’t go out there, guys”) there’s about four or five people on there, stubbing their cigarettes out into a big bucket full of browning, rain-drenched stumps. Are you with me yet? The bucket is one of those beer-branded ones they serve bottles in occasionally over summer but mostly the bars forget they even have them or use them to store bottles of ketchup in on outdoor tables, so you always feel fine about stealing one – “ESTRELLA” or something, “CORONA” in faded paint on the front – and the roof creaks stickily beneath your feet.

It’s summer and the air smells dry and of dust and it’s late but not pitch-black late, it’s maybe 2AM and the sky still has some blue in it, and you’re sort of threatened by or uninterested in every single person at this party, but you’ve still got two cans of Heineken in the fridge wrapped in a blue bag and stashed towards the back where no one can get at it and you’re refusing to leave until you drink both of those and get your £2.50’s worth of fun out of them.

Are you with me yet. A man stands from a chair to go to the kitchen and roll his next cigarette and you take a moment to turn and sit down and: yep. There it is. The seat scraped up like an old chopping board. One of the thin metal legs already beginning to fold and bend.

This is the chair. This is the chair on the wall in Sunderland. Are you with me—