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london rental opportunity of the week

London Rental Opportunity of the Week: a New Landlord Scam in an Imaginary Part of London!

Once again: the "semi-studio flat" is simply not a thing!

by Joel Golby
03 July 2019, 9:03am

Photos via Gumtree

What is it? According to this Gumtree advert, it's "A Great Value Single Semi-Studio Flat". Do not worry: I have time today to interrogate every single word of that;
Where is it? At this point I am convinced that London is pulsating and stretching with some dark magick, as if the leather skin on a dragon or dragon-like monster that stirs huge beneath us is bubbling and stretching like vile pizza dough, gaps ballooning between fixed places on the map – good places, old-fashioned places, Monopoly places – then immediately being built upon and tarmacked and colonised, and everyone there now pretends that this is normal, that this has always been there, and not just stretched out of the dust and concrete, lava melting rock into hot new ground. Anyway, apparently there is a place called "Brackenbury Village" near Hammersmith that doesn't have a single Google hit on it before 2015, so safe to say I've never fucking heard of it and you haven't either;
What is there to do locally? Every week this section of the call–response section feels like more and more of an attack. I genuinely do not believe this place exists. I do not think this area can be defined. I am not playing the game of researching what there is to do there. It always leads me to a dead SEO page on the Foxtons website that tells me there's an independent wine bar. If you’re the type of person who would move to an area due to its independent wine bar, you deserve Foxtons. You deserve what they are going to do to you;
Alright, how much are they asking? £567 p.c.m;

A caveat this week, an apology: normally I do not dip so low into this range of monthly rent. Contextually – and I say that word because I can already hear northerners, vile northerners, making gruff northern sounds of disappointment, tutting into pints of bitter, thundering down here on overnight trains, saying "world's gone the dogs" into a hot pea pie – contextually, £567 (for London!) is not so bad. I know your horrid northern rent is less than that ("Fer a full house! Fer a hundred-bed house!"), but you still haven't heard of Wagamama yet so you're sort of paying for that. For London, £567 is considered good. There are plenty of people who need to live in this city and pay less than £600 a month to do it. Some of them, by necessity or choice, need to live alone. Studio flats in Brackenbury Village fill a hole for them. Normally I will allow that hole to be filled.

But like—

worst flats london
studio flat brackenbury village

Come the fuck on. What's that? What is that?

At the top I promised we'd go through the term "A Great Value Single Semi-Studio Flat", and we will do that now. Firstly: a semi-studio flat is not a thing, it's just an estate agent-invented term that seems to have cropped up only in the last few weeks or so. A studio flat is already the smallest amount of flat a flat can be. A semi-studio cannot halve that. You’re trying to split an atom here, but instead of an explosion that razes a city it's just a little two-hob thing and some fire blankets mounted above a single bed.

Second: "great value" is wrong, because even at £567 this room in a place that doesn’t exist is technically over market value. Consider the single bed, and the complete lack of bathroom (the toilet, the advert states, is "shared". Again: not a studio flat if someone else is pissing in my toilet, is it. It's a room you’ve put a hob in.). Consider this line from the listing advert: "Bills are not included but the landlord will charge an extra £20 per week for gas, electricity, water rates, heating & hot water." Mm, OK, hmm. Not sure how great I'm feeling about a £20-a-week flat rate bills payment being made sight unseen to a landlord (famously trustworthy people obviously, but I'd rather have my own EDF login and smart meter! That’s just moi!).

The word "single" is in there because the bed is single: I cannot argue, linguistically, with that; only spiritually, because adults should not sleep in single beds. I'm also quibbling the word "flat", because the aforementioned toilet situation means this isn't: if the bathroom is shared, presumably it's in a house with four or so other rooms fitted out in this manic way, everyone locking their own doors at night and cooking in their rooms but sharing territory for ablutions; everyone somehow paying £80-a-month bills – so yes, though this room shares most of the features of an actual flat (bed, sink, oven), it's actually just a bleak room in a bleak house-share, isn’t it, and not much more than that. I'm not going to call Trading Standards about it because: 1) it’s a Gumtree advert, and 2) I'm not a snitch, but… I could, is what I'm saying.

Semantics are boring, though, aren’t they, even to someone who did a degree in them (a free idea: Ferdinand de Saussure's signifier/signified diagram would make a very elegant tattoo for a fucking nerd). The point is this shit-show of a flat. I mean, can we zoom in on this shelf arrangement:

storage studio flat hamersmith

So Shelf #1 – which I cannot believe is actually standing, as it seems to be being held up by a single angular joist – is seemingly a single wooden flap there to mount the two-hob plugin appliance (there are already two hobs embedded in the sink – special sink/two-hob arrangements are a mainstay in London’s modern shit-holes – so the addition of the secondary two-hob suggests to me that the hobs embedded in the sink just stopped working, and the landlord just replaced them with that rather than getting them fixed) and nothing else. This is made of wood. Shelf #2 is made of sideboard, (with the raw compacted wood showing!), so it makes more sense that Shelf #1 is made of what Shelf #2 is, but we're in Brackenbury Village here and nothing follows logic. Shelf #2 is held onto the wall with two visible metal brackets, but it’ll fall down in the middle of the night at some point or another, mark my words.

The rest of the flat? The usual crap: a single bed with a raw, ruined mattress; an impossibly tiny and depressing table-for-one (where do you buy a table that small, and lonely, and black? Is it a goth table? Is there a special IKEA for goths?) that seems deliberately wedged against your bed to make getting out of it in the morning somewhere between uncomfortable and annoying; a fire blanket mounted on the side of a cupboard, which is always ominous, and a fire exit strategy printed to the door, ditto; again, no visible toilet, bath or shower, but who needs that when you’ve got a sink with two dead hobs attached?; a freestanding mirror that, if it hasn’t already slid over and shattered by the time this is published, will slide over and shatter the second you move all your stuff in and lock the door.

If you absolutely need to live in London for £567 a month, I'd really rather you find a cheap house-share – whose tenants at least are honest about toilet access and splitting the bills among themselves rather than via a landlord – than move in here. It's not like Brackenbury Village exists, anyway. You’re essentially paying £135 a week to live in the Bermuda Triangle, idling there with your shit shelves and your hob and your broken mirror and the creaking bones of ships long missing, and also a little side table, in case you need something to eat your microwaved meals off. And who wants that? Who wants that.

@joelgolby