London Rental Opportunity of the Week: A Ladder with a Bit of Bed Attached, in Kensington
An almost-investigation into at least four near-identical properties, all with different monthly rents.
(Photo via Zoopla, who I honestly can't believe don't clamp down on this sort of thing)
What is it? An elaborate scheme, a series of interconnected studio apartments, a crystal-clear illustration of the hollow concept of the ‘market rate’, take your pick—
Where is it? Kensington or thereabouts;
What is there to do locally? I’ve found the best thing to do when you’re in Kensington is to go to the big Whole Foods there and have a sit-down dinner in the canteen bit upstairs then fuck off out of the area as soon as otherwise possible, but I suppose you could put a Fathers 4 Justice onesie on and try and climb into the Queen’s bedroom while you’re about, I’m not here to judge you;
Alright, how much are they asking? Between £953 and £1,257 pcm.
Two days ago this tweet went viral and frankly I can’t believe it’s taken this long for one of you to flag it to me, I thought we had something, I thought we were locked in a circle of trust, why should I have to source my stories for myself, really can’t believe this—
So the property goes as follows: a front door in and a special, narrower door to the bathroom out (I always wonder where these contractors find their special, thin doors: a lot of people have called for me to put the flat I live in on this column, so they can judge what level of shit I wake up into and wade out of to work, and I’m not ever going to do that because obviously but rest assured all the doors in the place are of equal and normal width and not specially made in a factory for corner-cutting landlords); a semi-sturdy ladder up to what has laughably been referred to as a ‘mezzanine’; a bleak two-hob one-microwave freestanding kitchen section; a small and almost-lovely balcony; and then a hellscape of a bedroom shelf, the mattress raw on hardwood floor, the top of the makeshift bed a countable number of inches from the ceiling above. Wake up too abruptly? Clunk, head’s gone. Jolt awake after a nightmare? Clunk, head’s gone. You know when you wake up sometimes to an awkward, alien sound, and know you have to slither out of bed and confront it? You will be doing that on your belly, here, because there is no space to sit up and slowly grab for a baseball bat in. You do, to the flat’s credit, have a top-of-the-ceiling mounted charger point for your phone and laptop. That’s it. This costs £1,062 per month, and is bad, in Kensington.
Normally that would be the end of the story here – I would point out that whoever installed this bed-shelf seems to have used garden fencing to make a makeshift wall to stop people rolling out of bed directly onto the floor below; I would say something about how we might expect these sort of living arrangements in some sort of harrowing Panorama bust, not for grand-a-month rent earners living in Kensington; I would urge us to drag the landlords through streets tied to horses by their hair – but the shelf-flat is actually more interesting than that. It is, very sadly, a trend.
Go to the Zoopla page and search ‘to rent’ with a threshold of £1,500 a month rent, and right now you’ll find a number of these ladders-with-shelves-at-the-top-of-them places on offer. A lot of them are in the exact same building (suggesting that someone has bought one or two floors of a townhouse and converted them into as many units, as small as possible, as they can fit), all decked in more-or-less the same way (ladder, sort of a bed, small kitchenette or, if not that, a slightly-too-enormous for the space sofa), all of them tinged with a miasma of carefully planned, bloodless capitalism. Then here’s the interesting bit: they’re all being let through different agencies, meaning the price points for ‘a ladder with a bit of bed attached, in Kensington’ varies wildly: one, ‘Studio To Rent Courtfield Gardens’, doesn’t even have any photos of the room attached, just the door to the place and a green space nearby – that’s listed as the cheapest, at £953 pcm.
Next you’ve got the weirdest bed configuration one – on the base level, as much generic IKEA wood furniture that can be crammed into one space, including what appears to be a dishwasher built into one cupboard (quite how many dishes you’re generating from cooking in a single microwave, I don’t know), all loomed over skeletally by a massive metal-framed bunk, £1,018 pcm.
Then you have the nicest of the lot – ‘nice’ of course being subjective when you’re talking about a space totalling fewer than 50 sq ft and has been designed to just-about shelve a human being to live in – but they’ve done something interesting with the stairs at least, and the faux-mezzanine looks sturdy, and the furniture they’ve cluttered the lower level with is tasteful, at least, if nothing else, (though seemingly it has the exact same in-wardrobe dishwasher in there? Or is it an oven?), but then that is reflected in the price: £1,170 pcm.
This is the exact same flat again, but slightly more cluttered. £1,257 pcm, and now I’m yelling, because I don’t know what anything is, how anything works.
All of these are the same flat in the same building. Some are dressed ever so slightly better than others, but that’s the only difference, but for the rent: that oscillates, along the same corridor, in the same building, by £304, per month. This is what your property agent is talking about when he turns up at your flatshare unannounced, twiddling a pen, asking you all to come out of your rooms and sit on the sofas while he tells you market rate means he’ll have to raise the rent this month, and you’ve all got to sign a contract saying it’s alright.
It takes him half an hour to say this and someone manages to burn soup they left on in the kitchen, and the mood in the house is soured now – was just a quiet, gentle, unassuming Wednesday night before, and now you’re all thinking about how you’ve got to make another £50 a month now, either getting more money from work or cutting back just a little, just a slice but it hurts, on the things you like. One of your housemates is out and you all text it to him via the house WhatsApp group and he gets the news on a date he’s on, which is now ruined. All these thoughtless decisions crash like waves through your life. And what do they mean? What do they mean? They mean nothing, they are entirely made up: the same crap place in Kensington, the same flavour of shit sold to you at four different price points. If you ever needed more of a demonstration that every value assigned to the property market is false and pulled entirely out of the anuses of the estate agents responsible, here is it. Strap them by the hair to a horse and pull them naked through the streets! Burn them all in a bonfire of hair gel!