When a tenancy comes to an end you go through the usual motions; emptying out the fridge and freezer, clearing shelves and cupboards until the contents of your life lie before you in a handful of suitcases and boxes. You give the place a good clean like it's your full-time job, though you know in your heart that your landlord will inevitably charge you all the costs for cleaning. So you say your farewells, and as the front door closes, so does this chapter of your life.
Wrong. A week later you're receiving a very anaemic deposit from your landlord, having been charged for all manner of items and false claims around the property. The dispute begins, and it is exhausting.
This episode was brought to you by the failing UK rental market system, and its back-to-back repeats until you magic up enough money to afford a mortgage on a house and finally escape the mire.
For me, it was a mattress, which my private landlord claimed I had ruined and needed replacing, despite it being an old mattress when my tenancy began. My landlord didn't even mention their intentions, they just subtracted the cost. I saw it. I argued it. I was compensated. But I only got my money back after refusing to pay half and submitting a dispute to the deposit holder.
In my case it was a dodgy deposit claim that I refused to pay for, but for others its dubious tenancy agreements pushed by landlords, like those seen in St. Andrews where their homes and life must be abandoned over the golfing season so that fat-cat landlords or letting agents can rent out rooms to short-term tenants and make a quick buck. And where this is the case, the landlord has all the cards.
Rent-seeking landlords see us as cash crops.
As a tenant, the rental system is broken. So completely are you at the mercy of entirely uninterested, rent-seeking landlords, who see you as nothing more than ripe cash crops. It is a stain on our society.
Currently, the average monthly rent sits at £1103, up 10% from 2021. In fact, rent increases have seemingly followed inflation rates since 2008, with the value of a shoe-box room increasing by dint of its mere existence in a property.
At the same time, the total real terms pay for workers in the UK has been stagnant over the same period, with a wild negative swing in income in recent months. This of course means we renters are only losing money and we cannot afford to pay rent on top of the rising cost of living costs.
We don't have enough money to afford rent and rising bills.
This year, many tenants, whose bills are included in the rental payments, will have had their landlords increase rent by upwards of 15% as early as February. You might say that's fair; energy prices are increasing, and landlords have to cover the bills somehow, yet following the announcement of the £400 energy grant did bills go down? No, of course, they didn't. And whether they ever will come down is doubtful. So what was the point of it? Landlords just pocketed the extra money.
Where bills were not included in the rent, landlords increased the rent of their houses anyway to be at parity with "market value". And because we tenants were paying for the utility bills, all of this additional rent was pure profit to the landlords.
Your landlord will be raking in so much money that they won't even need a job. Whilst we're spending so much rent on housing we might need to reconsider our job. It means less money is being saved by tenants for deposits, resulting in longer renting periods. And as more generations enter the rental market, demand increases, and so landlords increase rent prices.
On and on the cycle goes for the so-called “generation rent”.
With no end in sight, we will be renting for life.
The housing market is broken.
What new affordable housing is built is often bought up by housing companies before they are even advertised to first-time buyers, and always bought to rent.
In fact, recently, housing companies and real estate investors have begun constructing properties or buying houses with the sole intention of renting them out at above market value; such is the extent of the profit to be made.
Forget about social housing. The housing market exists to profit mortgage providers and investment bankers. It is a housing crisis.
And yet in this country, we get a bad rap from society about how we spend our money. We're told by most people that if we want to buy our own property someday, we should stop buying avocado on toast and watching Netflix, or just "get a better job".
But when our parents and landlords paid for their house, the mortgage was just three times the value of the property and their job salary was possibly half the total cost. Today the reality isn't just a bad deal, it is a sick joke. Most house prices across the country are nearing the millions and no job income can ever cover the mortgage that will need to be paid. Those claiming that we get a bigger loan or save more money because "it's an investment" are living with outdated perceptions of our country. It is a statement of fact; times have changed and home ownership is untenable for most young people.
With this new reality, we tenants should be the ones whom the government looks to help. Yet, of course, the private landlords who whine about their property take the limelight instead.
Private landlords have had it too good.
With the new Renters' Reform Bill, professional landlords were crying out that this was the final nail in the coffin; that the new regulations were unmanageable, and investment in the housing market “sector” would only decrease and possibly half. Some rent-seeking landlords with multiple profit-paying properties are even complaining that they've had to sell one or two houses to "make it more manageable".
But it's about time tenants were put above profit. And although the landlords will complain, we must put tenants first for the sake of society.
If and when it comes in, the new Renters Reform Bill will only allow landlords to increase rents once per year.
The bill will also introduce a new Ombudsman, so disputes between tenants and landlords may be resolved outside of court.
It also removes tenant "no fault" evictions.
In fact, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) are campaigning to maintain the powers to evict tenants where professional landlords believe they have a “legitimate” reason.
They are social parasites.
The reality is that even basic rights for tenants have parasitic private landlords crying out that the sky is falling. That's how good landlords have had it until now.
I'd play them a song on my violin, but I sold it to pay my rent.
However, despite all its benefits, this new bill does not make a point to place a cap on how much landlords may increase rent paid within a year, something sorely missing given the rate at which landlords have risen rents in recent times. So although the landlords may increase the rent only once per year, they will probably increase the rent considerably.
Is there anything we can do? Probably not. The whole renting system is predatory, it relies on our lack of security and preys on those too timid or uninformed to speak up for themselves. With every deposit and monthly payment, they pick away at our savings until we find ourselves too weak, and too tired, to climb the property ladder.
The best we can do is be resilient. Let's not let each landlord parasite push us around. From deposits to dodgy tenancy agreements, let's stand up for ourselves and protect our pockets from exploitation.