Hey, Life for Rent reader. I’m glad you’re here, but I’m very sorry you’ve had to seek out housing advice. The housing crisis is shit, isn’t it? I try to avoid saying this too much because I’m generally a “solutions not problems” kind of girl but let’s indulge for a moment and feel a bit sorry for ourselves.
A baby boomer landlord once turned to me in the middle of a conversation about mould in my rented home and said, “You make your own luck.” I’m here to tell you that when it comes to housing, this simply isn’t true. You aren’t renting because you have failed. You are highly unlikely to be able to hack homeownership by taking on seven side hustles. If you think someone on your salary owns property because of family wealth, you’ll be correct nine times out of ten. The financial odds of owning a home were quite literally stacked against at least a third of young people now before coronavirus happened.
This column has borne witness to all manner of clusterfucks. In fact, at this point, it’s basically an exhaustive list of everything that’s wrong with the housing market. I think we have pretty much seen it all, which is why this will sadly be the last Life For Rent column. Each problem, each question and each struggle has, in its own way, been caused by the bad housing policies that have systematically deregulated the market and encouraged private landlords to treat renters like cash cows. Landlords who refuse to let their tenants turn on the heating. Landlords who charge pet rent. Landlords who even stalk (!) their tenants.
It’s counselled people through the breakdown of long-term relationships that have left them homeless (AKA the millennial divorce) and helped people to successfully navigate rent reductions during coronavirus. It even managed to help a reader get an Oxbridge college to change their deposit policy on student accommodation.
But the housing crisis is about so much more than politics and policy. It’s about people. It’s about what the financialisation of housing – one that has turned houses into assets instead of homes – has done to human relationships.
Yes, there are lots of faceless international plutocrats profiting from your misery; people who are quite literally dining out on the fact that you can’t afford to buy a home of your own. But I’m always shocked by the fact that lots of negligent landlords are very normal people. They might even live down the road from their tenants. Somewhere along the line, they’ve just normalised people paying them to live in an overpriced, freezing cold, rat-infested home. (Don’t worry, I’ve got solutions to those particular problems here and here.)
On top of that, the young people fortunate enough to patronise the Bank of Mum and Dad are able to glide onto the housing ladder and rent rooms to people they call “friends”, but too often think nothing of the twisted power play of asking for market standard rent because it enables them to pursue their passion for [DJing / experimental jazz / insert creative occupation here].
The rise and rise of rentier capitalism has divided Britain along the lines of housing wealth. Housing has been turned into a scarce and expensive asset, allowing those who possess it to generate profit without contributing anything significant to society as a whole. Given that housing is a human right, the fact that we are here means something has gone horribly wrong.
Sometimes it feels hopeless. I read the statistics about swelling numbers of temporary accommodation or the growing percentage of people who will be forced to live from cradle to grave according to the whims of private landlords, and my forehead feels like an elastic band about to snap. I scroll through Instagram, looking at pictures of influencer interior porn and feel mean and annoyed. But it doesn’t have to be like this. It wasn’t always like this – we all have more power than we think.
So, yes, you’ll find an annoying catalogue of renting problems on the Life for Rent page, but you’ll find an inventory of advice that actually works, too. Question everything your landlord says. Get everything in writing and keep receipts, don’t let anyone steal your deposit. Check, check and check your rights again. Negotiate no matter what, but be professional and polite even when you want to scream. Demand better. Report poor standards to the council. When there is an election, read each party’s housing policies and vote for the one that’s actually going to help keep a safe, secure and affordable roof over your head. And, above, all be kind to yourself. The housing crisis is not your fault. It never was.
Here’s an exhaustive rundown of pretty much every single problem you could encounter in our current housing crisis, with help that can hopefully make your life that little bit easier:
HOW TO FIX ANY PROBLEMS WITH RENT
- How to negotiate a rent deduction
- What to do if you’re barely covering rent and are in arrears
- How to ask for less rent if you’re out of work
- What to do when your landlord demands your rent upfront
- What happens if you don’t have a guarantor and your landlord is asking for advance rent
- What to do if your landlord wants to increase your rent
- How to rent if you’ve got a pet (part one and part two)
- What to do when your landlord demands rent for working from home
- How to claim money off rent if your property has building works
HOW TO GET HELP FOR REPAIR ISSUES OR UTILITY PROBLEMS
- What to do when your property is covered with mould or damp (part one, part two and part three)
- When your house is overrun with rats (part one and part two)
- How to get help if your landlord turns off the heating (part one and part two)
- What to do if your landlord or lettings agency refuses to pay for repairs (part one and part two)
- What to do if your ceiling dramatically caves in
- How to get your landlord to fix a broken washing machine
- What to do if your landlord won’t pay for alarms
- When your landlord doesn’t supply a gas certificate
HOW TO SOLVE ANY MOVING OUT PROBLEMS
- What your rights are if you’re being threatened with eviction
- When your landlord wants to evict you over a noise complaint
- Can your landlord evict you if you have a baby?
- What to do if you’ve been served with Section 21 eviction notice
- How to find help if you’re in rent arrears after being evicted
- What to do if your property guardianship evicts you
- What happens when your landlord decides to sell your place
- What to do if you’ve moved out but you’re still liable for rent
WHAT TO DO IF YOU LIVE IN STUDENT HOUSING
HOW TO RESOLVE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR DEPOSIT
- When your landlord or lettings agency refuses to return your deposit (part one, two, three, four)
- What to do if your ex-housemate is holding onto your deposit
- How to get your deposit back if it’s not in a deposit protection scheme
- Here’s what a landlord or lettings agency can justifiably deduct from your deposit
HOW TO DEAL WITH NIGHTMARE LANDLORDS AND LETTING AGENCIES
- How to deal with a landlord who keeps letting themselves in (part one and part two)
- What to do if your letting agent runs off with your rent
- When your landlord keeps throwing away post
- If your landlord introduces a sudden break clause
- When your landlord uses your flat as a storage facility for junk
- What to do if your landlord is stalking you
HOW TO LIVE WITH BAD NEIGHBOURS, FRIENDS AND HOUSEMATES
- What to do if your neighbours are too loud
- What to do if your neighbours say you’re too loud
- When your housemate is just an all-around nightmare
- How to deal with a neighbour sexually harassing you
- What to do if you bought property with your partner but now you’re splitting up
- When your housemate wants to throw a party but you don’t
- My friend is moving in – what should I know?
- What to do if your friend asks you to be a guarantor
- When your housemates spend way more on heating and electricity
- What to do if you’re in love with your housemate