Life

Life For Rent: All the Housing Advice You Need in One Place

This may be the last column in the series, but all the solutions you need are gathered here.
February 4, 2021, 9:00am
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A housing advice column for all your renting problems from VICE UK columnist Vicky Spratt. Got a burning question? Email lifeforrent@vice.com.

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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 GET HELP FOR REPAIR ISSUES OR UTILITY PROBLEMS

HOW TO SOLVE ANY MOVING OUT PROBLEMS

WHAT TO DO IF YOU LIVE IN STUDENT HOUSING

HOW TO RESOLVE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR DEPOSIT

HOW TO DEAL WITH NIGHTMARE LANDLORDS AND LETTING AGENCIES

HOW TO LIVE WITH BAD NEIGHBOURS, FRIENDS AND HOUSEMATES

@Victoria_Spratt