The British are famous for complaining.
Maybe it’s something to do with the climate… grey and unpredictable, the variable British weather always provides us with a novel opening for conversations.
I found it amusing to watch my friends and family this summer – after years of complaining about wet and windy summers, we finally got a scorcher! Nevertheless, after just a few days of 30-degree sunshine those inevitable complaints started up again.
Still, some complaints are justified. Having rented flats in London for most of my adult life, I’ve got my fair share of criticisms… in the interest of being a good sport however, I’m also going to suggest some potential solutions for those who can relate to my London blues.
1. It’s Too Expensive
A recent study in the Telegraph named London as the seventh most expensive city in the world. Every time I fork over four quid for a pint, or pay the best part of a tenner for a trip across town, I find myself sympathising. The Guardian ran a feature not so long ago, which calculated how many hours of minimum wage work it takes to rent a one-bed flat in the city. The results? Well, working with a median rent price of £1000 a month, you’ll find that 37 hours of your 40-hour week are going straight to your landlord.
2. There’s Not Enough Space
Recent stats show that the average size for a UK home is 33 square metres per person. That places us much closer to the 20 square metres enjoyed by citizens of China, than to the estimate of 77 square metres per person in the States, or a whopping 89 square metres for Australians. It seems as though London landlords are dividing once grand houses into smaller and smaller flats and apartments.
3. Tenants Don’t Get Enough Rights
It often feels as though landlords have all the power. It’s not uncommon for London flats to suffer from rising damp, structural problems, poor insulation, leaking pipes or pest infestations. However, when landlords don’t respond to a tenant’s complaints, what do we do next? It falls to the courts to settle such disputes, and landlords too often have the financial advantage when it comes to hiring a lawyer.
4. The Property Market is Unregulated
There are no agencies assigned to the job of overseeing our dealings with landlords, or making sure that our rights are protected. No official body licenses landlords and estate agents, and there’s no central organisation where tenants can go to get advice. Likewise, there’s no legal restriction on how much rent a landlord can charge you, so many of them simply take as much money as they think they can get away with.
5. It Seems Nobody’s Doing Anything to Help
You’d think that in a city with a population in excess of 8 million, such common issues would be picked up on by the leading political parties… perhaps even become a rallying point, a focus for working together to improve the community. But no – it seems as though the politicians would rather fight over the votes of homeowners, turning a blind eye to the plight of those in rented accommodation. It’s almost as if an obsession with ownership leads people to overlook the many Londoners who don’t have a hold on that slippery property ladder yet.
Before I got started on my rant, I did promise to share some tips on fixing your rental problems. Well at the risk of turning this article into a shameless plug, there’s certainly a lot to be said for finding your home through a property management agency.
There may be no centralized agency for monitoring the way private landlords work, but a well-managed property will minimize spending on certain costs – and the less it costs your landlord to keep the place, the less they’re going to want to squeeze out of you.
On top of that, property management companies such as Tick Tick Check offer a range of in-house services to cater to all kinds of domestic problems – from pest control through to plumbing, and even energy performance certificates to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your utility budget.
It’s a good step in the direction of safeguarding a tenant’s home comforts… but ultimately, there’s still no quick fix for your landlord simply being a jerk.