Rental Opportunity of the Week: Estate Agents Have a New Dirty Trick

Need to cover up the fact your studio flat has no bedroom? Disguise it with luxury shopping bags.
A Chanel and Harvey Nichols bags in a studio flat for rent in Leeds
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? Well that’s a good question because I called the estate agent up and even they didn’t know.

Where is it? In Leeds, or actually more sort of Armley. Someone who knows Leeds is now going to send me a firmly-worded email saying “it’s not Leeds it’s Armley, CUNT” and frankly I will deserve it.


What is there to do locally? To be fair to Leeds, I do actually think it’s my favourite non-capital city in the UK, based on a handful of very good blurry weekends I’ve had there and the exceptionally large naan bread they do at Akbar’s. Leeds has a lively high street and good places to eat and drink and you can make one in two of the adult men in the city fully tearful by just saying, “Tell me what Marcelo Bielsa means to you”. It’s everything a city could need. What was that good coffee shop called? I went to a really good coffee shop when I was there—

Was it Laynes? Wasn’t Laynes.

Feels like it was Laynes Wasn’t Laynes. There was an outside bit.

Laynes. Not Laynes. This is going to drive me mad. This is going to drive me potty.

People don’t say ‘potty’ enough anymore They don’t. Is it a… woke thing?

Woke thing? You know. Like, can you be “medically potty”?

No. Oh.

How much are they asking? £535 per calendar month.

We’ll start with the Harvey Nichols Dubai bags, and we’ll touch on the fake wedding photo, and then we’ll move on to the complete lack of evidence of any sort of bed or bedroom, then wrap it up from there:

A mock fireplace in a studio flat for rent in Leeds

The wedding photo (above) in the flat.

The Harvey Nichols Dubai bag thing is a trend, now, and one I would argue has trickled down from Airbnb: over the pandemic, a lot of people who were the speculative owners of grim little Airbnb flats suddenly found them unoccupied, obviously, so tried to put them on the housing market instead.

You could tell when it was an Airbnb masquerading as an actual flat by three major signifiers: The rooms were always cleanly made-up with a pair of towels rolled up on the bed (so hotel-y! So chic! But also, landlords listing a property for you to rent rather than “spend a weekend in the city” just present the mattress to you as is, raw and uncut), the listings always preferred short term rentals of three months of so (a completely ordinary and normal way people rent flats, of course), and also they hadn’t adjusted the rents from the peak weekend day rates to a flat monthly fee, so these supposed big-brained business geniuses who ran Airbnbs on the side were trying to rent studios full of single beds out for like, two grand a month.

It was funny and I hope a lot of people lost a significant amount of money. Like, I hope they had to cancel holidays and pull their children out of schools. That’s the level of loss I’m talking about. 

A kitchen with a brown armchair in a studio flat for rent in Leeds

The bags thing, though, is new. A couple of weeks ago I found this particularly depressing example at a listing in Yorkshire, where the visibly necessary air freshener block is contrasted with a slightly boot-battered Chanel bag to create a vista that inspires a particular grey liminal dread. It isn’t clear what the bag is meant to signify – that you come home from a shopping spree at Chanel, Victoria’s Secret and Harvey Nichols, then nestle down into a single bed that is also in your kitchen and reheat some beans on the two-burner hob?


But it does give a rare hint at the landlord behind the photographs: that they are someone who thinks shopping is an aspirational hobby to have, that they are so particularly out of touch with the day-to-day reality of the people they are renting to, that they are someone who keeps the shopping bags they got from buying something at the Chanel counter in Dubai airport like it’s a holy relic. The Chanel bag is there to dazzle us: we, foolish non-property owning fools like we are, will easily be distracted by the bag, and ignore the fact that the living room and kitchen are only demarcated by slightly different carpet textures because we know the person renting it to us owns either a really nice card holder or a too-expensive belt. 

The staging in this property is particularly funny. If you look closely at the wedding photo on the mantelpiece, you’ll see that it’s not actually in the frame, it’s just a photo in front of the frame, so presumably the landlord bought their own raw wedding photo to the property so they could take a photo of it in there in a lived-in manner. They’ve also neglected to take a photo of the bed or the bedroom, which most properties do need, for someone to live in them. There does not seem to be one: The door to the right of the sofa opens into a double-door arrangement that leads straight out to the shared hallway; the door to the left of the sofa can only lead to the bathroom.

A Jack Nicholson poster above a sofa in a studio flat for rent in Leeds

If you look in the mirror on the opposite wall, you can see a reflection of what is possibly a doorway that leads off the hallway, but if you sit down and work out a floor plan based on the photos we have available to us, then the only possible bedroom that might fit there is a dark windowless room that is the exact dimensions of a single bed and then nothing else. (An incredibly minute bathroom could fit here, too, but I do not know what bizarre angles the bedroom would have to go at if it exists behind the other door: this, possibly, is why there are no photos of it, despite the fact that someone has gone to such visible care to arrange a photoshoot here.)

A dresser with a mirror in a studio flat for rent in Leeds

The mirror showing a reflection of a doorway that leads off the hallway.

There is either no bedroom or a bedroom too embarrassing to photograph, and both of those options are, I feel, “bad”. Here’s the property listing, in full: “Modern studio with furniture available to rent immediately. Would suit a working individual. The room comes with its own kitchen/lounge and a separate bathroom, microwave/ grill, fridge freezer and plenty of storage”. You will of course note the complete lack of the word “bedroom” or “bed”, and the presence of the word “studio”, which suggests one room. I am reaching, yes, but: I do not think this property has a bedroom in it. I think it has a room with a sofa in that maybe they would switch out for a bed if you asked, but they’d try and make you sleep on the sofa about it first. Here is a rough transcript of a phone call I had about that: 


Me: Hey there yeah: I’m just looking at the Zoopla advert for the studio and I just wanted to ask is that— is that one room?

Estate agent’s representative who did not know I was taking notes but taking notes is not illegal, recording is: It’s more of a self-contained flat, that one. It’s got its own door in and out.

Me: OK. But… so it’s so the main room is the kitchen?

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: It’s got its own room, own lounge, bedroom, bathroom, and the only thing you’d have to share is the washer, up on the – the washer with the other two tenants.

Me: OK. Where’s the, where’s the bedroom?

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: Ah… I haven’t personally been to this one. But I don’t think it’s a separate room. I think it’s a lounge-bedroom in one. I haven’t personally been to this property.

Me: OK so… in the room with the sofa.

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: I’m just trying to remember actually. I’m just going to look at the photos because I haven’t been —

Me: No yeah no yeah no –

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: [Audibly looking at the photos and not seeing a bed] Oh no it could be… it could be that there’s a separate bedroom or the bedroom… oh. I think there’s a smaller room for the bedroom. Yeah. Yep. Yeah. Definitely.


Me: OK.

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: Yeah, there’s definitely a separate bedroom, because that’s a – that’s a kitchen-lounge in one.

Me: OK. And there’s no photos of this bedroom?

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: No not. Not on the system, no.

Me: Oh. OK.

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: OK?

Me: OK.

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: OK then.

E.A.R.W.D.N.K.I.W.T.N.B.T.N.I.N.I., R.I.: Yeah OK. Thank you. Thank you. Bye.

I think we can all agree two things from this: Yes, it would have been more flattering for myself if I invented at least part of the transcript where I perhaps fucking challenged the idea that there isn’t a bedroom, instead of just saying “okay” one hundred million times in a row; and also, almost definitely, the estate agent’s representative I spoke to completely invented a bedroom on the spot – in quite a primal and instinctive way, actually – despite there being absolutely zero evidence of one.

This is my theory: One door goes to the outside and one door goes to the bathroom. The secret third door goes to a cupboard that has an ironing board in it, and there is no additional bedroom in this studio flat. Still, there’s a dust bag for a pair of someone else’s shoes hanging over the handle of the chest of drawers. Best not to think how much of your £535 a month is paying for that, though.