This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Midnight on a Monday, pissed out of my little mind, charging into the bedroom. Now is the time! It is absolutely imperative that I start planning for the future.
I plumb digits into Rightmove Mortgage Calculator for a modest little one-bed in Brighton city centre, nothing too OTT, assuming I’m single at this point [laughs to self]. One to two small dogs. Patio I’ll never use. Keep upping the time limit so the monthly repayment isn’t more than my entire monthly salary until I see in red letters: Repayment periods range from 5 to 40 years, and typically do not extend beyond retirement age. Sooo weird. Adjusting expectations: where’s a place I want to live less than London or Brighton? (Lol.) Bristol? Or Leeds. Cardiff? Maybe up North because accents are fit? But not ideal: No mates up there. No sun. Freezing cold and lonely surrounded by people you fancy, but too cold to get naked.
This is not just me. It’s really quite sad. Or rather, I am quite sad because it’s taking me longer than I'd expected to accept my fate as one of the millennials without a Pringle-diamond-socks-into-deck-shoes Dad who can help with a mortgage or a conveniently rich grandparent who likes me enough to leave me a house far away to sell that I will just conveniently not publicise on social media before falling onto the much fabled property ladder. Realistically, we have the hearts and minds of Great British Homeowners. We know we’re not getting a house until our parents die off and if we win the fight over it with our siblings. But we don’t really know it. You know? The psychological adjustment to go from ‘brainwashed since youth to believe when we’re drunk and looking at flats on our phones it involves an vibrant city centre and Ikea furniture and our Shit Together’ to ‘yeah, we’re not doing that’ is underestimated by everyone at the Times, the FT et al. who write about how our downfall in this area is inexplicably linked with our obsession with avocados.
To make it more palatable, more respectable, to ease this gross little transition along, renting needs to be overhauled. I want a situation where I’m not just a dickhead, with a £680 direct debit to another dickhead, asking for a boxroom in Brockley. I want a world where I don’t have to fight the urge to think “massive Tory” every time I say the word "landlord". I want a world where I don’t secretly hate people whose parents bought them their flat in North London. No more resentment and bitterness.
Taking for granted the fact that renting has to be made cheaper somehow – 1 in 3 tenants are now borrowing money to pay rent, which is, obviously, absolutely fucked – here are ten ideas that could be implemented to make the renting “lifestyle” less completely and utterly shite.
LET US LIVE LIVE THERE FOR LONGER
Not just one year but three, five and ten year fixed-term contracts. Moving is the single worst activity a human can engage in. We all know this. Finding short contracts at the drop of the hat is so easy. Get on Facebook and everyone’s trying to find a random body for their bedroom while they’re off to Berlin to freelance (do drugs) for a few months. Those holy grail three year situations? Nowhere to be found. Landlords must reward our pathetic, wormy loyalty by treating us like returning customers rather than acting like they're doing us a favour. It’s better for you, you idiots!
LET US ACTUALLY LIVE THERE
Labour say tenants should have "default right" to pets. Millennials happy. Renew Labour party membership. Gen X (house-owning narcs) say "snowflakes". Nah, sorry. My life would be at least twice as good if I had a dog. I would be surrounded by hot people flocking to flirt with me. I’d be less anxious and depressed because I’d be stroking and walking, walking and stroking. DO YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING MISERABLE WE ARE? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA?
In fact, let us do all the things you’d do in your own home. If we want to put up a photo-frame it shouldn’t involve a lengthy email back and forth caveated with "everything in similar condition when you leave – as per inventory".
YELP REVIEW LANDLORDS
Now! A promising start-up I will leave my job for. Who do landlords think they are? Somehow above being reviewed on the internet?
A BETTER DEFINITION OF "HABITABLE"
Yeah, sure there’s a "definition" of habitable space the law provided for that sweet, sweet 60 to 70 percent of our income. Scan your eyes over the below, the sum of which, would equal a “habitable space”: be structurally stable / be free from serious disrepair / be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants (if any) / have adequate provision for lighting, heating and ventilation / have adequate piped supply of wholesome water / have satisfactory facilities in the house for the preparation and cooking of food, including a sink with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water / have a suitably located water-closet for the exclusive use of the occupants (if any) / have, for the exclusive use of the occupants (if any), a suitably located fixed bath or shower and wash-hand basin each of which is provided with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water / have an effective system for the draining of foul, waste and surface water.
Lot of words like "adequate" and "satisfactory" in there. Lot of subjective words that will absolutely lead to disagreement. Language used by people who may or may not have featured in shortform critique series, “London Rental Opportunity Of The Week”.
DON'T INTIMIDATE ME
Jan’s daughter Nancy-Mae Cuttworth-Lees is soon back from her year abroad and will need the flat while she’s interning. “Now girls I have been thinking about letting her stay because you’ve been here a while and we’ve had issues. [There have been no issues]. If you took better care of that oven... well, I’ll have to think.”
NO "POPPING AROUND"
I live in gentle to mild filth. It’s only going to make you angry to see. It’s better for everyone involved that you don’t see my bras and socks on the floor, or the sink of crusty plates because my flatmate went away for the weekend and honestly she has more self-respect than me. If your landperson lives nearby – especially, ESPECIALLY if you’re privately renting – you can guarantee they’ve used this trick:
SMS RECEIVED: ‘Is everything ok?? Best wishes,, Jan’
AFTER DRAFTING IN WHATSAPP WHILE AT WORK: ‘Hi Jan, yes everything is fine thank you, how are you? Hannah and TJ x’
SMS RECEIVED: ‘Yes. girls was passing by and seen you’ve not been using the extraction fan and there is a BIG stain on the bathroom ceiling. Water marks where you’ve not opened the window when having shower. LONG HAIR IN THE PLUG we discussed the baking soda before. Keep on top of this.’
SMS RECEIVED: ‘Jan.’
Estate agents and landlords work on their own timeframe. If you pay rent one week late, you’re getting calls at work with threats of legal action from the estate agents. When your landlord is over at their second home in Majorca for a month during which your flat hasn’t had a working flush, and you’ve all promised to not shit at home but one of your housemates is definitely just brazenly doing it, you try reaching said landlord: silence.
Down the tech route once more to keep things civil and fair. We create some kind of app linked to our Paypal accounts they have to use that we log our problems into and they have to reply within a working day. With the threat of having to return to work after retiring at 50, just watch them leap up in response.
SCRAP ESTATE AGENT FEES
Supposedly the government is getting rid of agency fees, “after spring 2019”. Even if this isn't the government's way of saying "the 1st of never", that still gives plenty of time for them to find us. Josh and Gary, fast approaching from their Red Mini Cooper, swinging the keys to a classic little pad on their first and second fingers, charging you another few hundies for the privilege of paying hand over fist for a damp flat.
NO MORE DEPOSITS
You literally have references. Maybe you have a guarantor. Why do they need extra money? Tenants have a miserable cash flow because their last property took away their deposit because they had the gall to put up a photoframe in the living room. Now they have to somehow scrape together more.
Get Living, a London firm, is already testing out deposit-free renting. The scheme’s chief executive Neil Young said of its success: “We have great relationships with our residents and, given they are taking such good care of our homes, why should we hold six weeks’ rent?” Listen to Neil.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
A very Right On point, but seriously when I asked around for ideas to make renting better, half the suggestions were already existing real laws that "should be law!" You only know what you're entitled to when you have a Tinder date tomorrow and neither you nor anyone in your house has washed in days and now you’re Googling "how can I make landlord fix boiler" and replying on aggressive email chains with the estate agents and passive-aggressive Facebook ones in your house Facebook group. I want to be assaulted with so many pamphlets about my rights that I’m confusing them with Jehovah's Witness flyers and Pizza GoGo menus. I want to have my rights on hand so I can quote back and see them crumble. Just let me know what I should know. Make it easy. Please.
BONUS SUGGESTION: KILL ALL LANDLORDS
It’s the only way, Jan. You smug cow.