Slugs coming through the floorboards. Constant surveillance. Volatility and vulnerability. We need to start being honest about the state of renting in modern Britain. As more and more millennials see home ownership becoming completely out of reach, renting is becoming the default status for most young people — maybe forever. And while they live at the mercy of landlords, completely unacceptable circumstances are becoming the norm.
“I didn’t have long to find new digs, so settled on the first room I could afford – in what might as well be the house that George Orwell built,” Daniel Lavelle writes in the Guardian. “This beige box in east London sets me back £450 a month – a steal in the capital, but if I stand in the middle of my glorified closet I can touch both sides with my fingertips. Big Brother awaits beyond my threshold, as every corner of the house is watched by surveillance cameras, surveyed by the landlord and his staff from an office adjacent to the property.”
This experience is far from abnormal. “The last straw was when [the landlord] rented our house out to a film crew,” one millennial said. “I came home from work to find [the landlord] in the flat, just pottering about,” another explains. “He used our garden for his DIY projects. He was always there, hammering away; it was just constant annoyance really.” And this treatment, though unacceptable for anyone, is no longer being relegated to just young people. With the number of middle-age renters doubling over the last decade and housing prices continuing to dance out of reach, the squalid living often associated with university are extending into people’s 30s, 40s, and even beyond.
Huge drop in home ownership over last 20 years, particularly in London – key reason is inability to save due to high rents – this is why we need a rent cap!https://t.co/Ytd5UdXLif #rentcap #London #affordablehousing #UKhousing #generationrent
— London Rent Cap (@LondonRentCap) February 18, 2018
Although it can seem like there’s a different housing horror story in the headlines every week, these situations are far more serious than just clickbait. It’s time to recognize that these are not just catchy articles or a chance to revel in schadenfreude, but the day-to-day reality of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of renters across the UK. In order to protect vulnerable tenants, the government needs to acknowledge the inequitable, bleak reality of the landlord-tenant relationship. And only then can they start to change it.