London Rental Opportunity of the Week: an Enemy of the People in Earl's Court!

Square footage doesn't meet the recommended amount for a single-bed property? Doesn't matter! Put it on the market for £1,500 anyway!

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15 May 2019, 12:08pm

A "posh-shit" flat. Photo via gumtree

What is it? A studio flat by way of a mezzanine level i.e. a one-bed with a big shelf;
Where is it? Earl's Court, home to the most confusing does-it-have-a-fucking-apostrophe-or-not question in all of London. Obviously it should have an apostrophe (the Court belongs to the Earl, or at least did, some time in history, so the apostrophe should be there to denote that). And yet. "Earl's Court" is the official name of the district. "Earls Court Exhibition Centre" is the music and arts venue that defines it. I know I shag grammar, and caring is the least cool thing in the world, but come the fuck on. Why can’t someone make a statement on this? In 2009, Birmingham council banned apostrophes on street signs, and though I disagree fundamentally with the decision (it's wrong! I shag grammar!) at least someone had the nuts to come down on one side of the fence or the other. Does! Earl's! Court! Have! An! Apostrophe! Or! Not! Theresa May!
What is there to do locally? It's a west London venue-adjacent tourism-and-generational wealth hub. The two things to do are: i. wait with all your wheelie luggage in a big Costa, ii. have an erotic bath with a Duke's daughter in a mask at some sort of dreadful expensive sex party, no other activities available;
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,428 pcm.

Sub-niche of properties I’ve noticed lately and which I am nominally labelling "posh–shit", of which this an exemplar: nicely remodelled, well-finished, prime location one-bed properties that exist within a towering old townhouse and have been tastefully decorated and fitted (not just the same janky IKEA wardrobe the rest of us proles have in our rentals! Actual nice gear!) and yet, nevertheless, are absolute garbage spaces that are one step up from the unliveable. We are talking about Kensington and Marylebone and Notting Hill. We are talking about Earl's Court, and this:

1557921904776-1mez
Photo via gumtree
1557921914724-2mez
Photo via gumtree
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Photo via gumtree

So you see now how posh-shit unfolds: you have intricate cove-moulding, and fresh white-white paint and built-in wardrobing, and you have a serviceable kitchen area and a beautiful wide softly-curtained window, and you have a comfortable-looking sofa and decent appliances, but also you have to climb up a narrow ladder to get to your bed, which is a firm, sheetless cushion mattress balanced on a low wide shelf. So you have a luxe west London location and you have neighbours with Murcielagos but you also have a combined gas–electric combi box as your bedside table. You see? It’s sort of a Tale of Two Cities x Habitat mash-up: on one hand, fantastic luxury; on the other, sort of same hand, you sleep hovering a few feet above your toilet. It gives and it takes. It pushes you out then pulls you back in.

My favourite part of this listing isn’t the casual way the combined kitchen/dining room/living room/bedroom shelf is described as an "open plan kitchen living area with huge floor to ceiling window and double height ceiling", or the fact that the main decoration in the place seems to be an artfully-hung oven glove, or the fact that whoever took these photos decided to jazz up the less-than-a-single-mattress length foam mattress with two cushions and a single grey blanket to make it look in some way styled, though those are all good. No: my favourite part of the listing is the floor plan, which lists a baffling "gross internal floor area" of 34.12 square metres.

Fans of, like, the law will know the recommended minimum floor space for a single-bed property in London is around 37 square metres, so this flat is a fair few metres away from that, but please also consider this: the listed floor area is the floor area of the bottom level of the flat with the square meterage of the mezzanine level added on top of that. It basically counts the same five square metres of space, twice. And it still comes up short. This flat cheats and still loses! It’s like me at poker!

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Image via gumtree

A large part of me is quite urgently trying to say: is this so bad? And the answer, as always, is yes. Posh-shit isn’t really aimed at us (I am grouping you in the same economic mezzanine as me, and apologies for any offence caused): posh-shit is for people who need somewhere central to "crash".

As this column has mentioned before, there is a curious floating sub-sect of the London rental market who rent a sort of put-your-bag-down-and-hang-your-suit-up alternative to a hotel: a London base during the week, lavish country escape over the weekend, £1,500 a month is no skin off my nose so who really needs a kitchen. Bankers and IT heads of department and things like that. People with day-rates akin to your monthly take-home. People who spend about four hours a day in there, sleeping, and take an eight-minute shower-and-out-the-door routine then go. You and I, we rent for somewhere to live, exist, a base on which to build every other brick of our life. Them, they, the posh-shit lot, rent for a room to get changed in somewhere between the Shard / strip club / J. Sheekey routine of their lives. They basically rent somewhere to put their toothbrush and occasionally FaceTime their children from. They don’t rent as a lifestyle.

Matters, though, because every willing participant in the posh-shit economy is, knowing or not, trickling down into the real rental economy, i.e. if this shelf-with-half-a-bed-on-it is considered worthy of £1,428 per calendar month, think what your landlord reckons your place – with an actual bed frame and a bathroom separate to your kitchen – might be worth. Shit like this drags the bottom of the market up to its price-point and down to its level of quality: every time a tax-free bonus worker rents a £1,500-a-month shit-hole in Earl’s Court, somewhere, without even knowing it, your landlord sits bolt upright in a grey-dark room, coldly sweating, entering instantly into a spiralling fugue state where he re-contracts your place for an extra £200-a-month. I’m not saying: "anyone who rents this place is an enemy of the people of London", but. Anyone who rents this place is an enemy of the people of London. Don't let it be you.

@joelgolby