We are moving! This is a phrase often said with cause for celebration but you don’t have to put the champagne on ice for this one. If you’ll excuse the pun (one has to laugh in these moments for fear of falling apart), I thought I’d update you on life lately and my frustrations at the London renting market.
A Brief History
I have lived in London since September 2013. In five years, I have lived in five houses which, if you do the math, means I am on the move all the time. We may as well live in our cardboard box collection at this point – what is the point in unpacking? My first home from home was my student pad which was all very good if you didn’t acknowledge the fact that the building was sinking into the ground and the time my wall panelling fell off and was left to lay on the lawn for weeks. My second home was a rather run down maisonette which graced us with two attempted break ins, one serious case of mould poisoning, a flood in which oil, spaghetti and waste eventually overflowed our bathtub and a gas leak that killed our pet hamster.
The third home was a drastic improvement – though it was also drastically overpriced for what it was which turned out to be a cell to go crazy in. Our fourth home was the sanctuary we had been waiting for. A three-storey Victorian house of dreams (and nightmares since it was haunted). We had a delicious 1080sqm for a modest £1450 a month. We loved it so much we were going to spend years there. So where did it all go wrong? Between the estate agent lying and making assumptions and the landlord selling it from under us, we were left with a hard decision to make – fall into a grey area temporary contract or move years earlier than expected. Needless to say, I’m very tired.
It’s not about the money, money, money
Jessie J was wrong though because it very much is. If you weren’t already offended by the price tags on bog standard London rentals, you will be at the deposits. Would you like to know how much it costs us to move each time? I’ll tell you. £3,600. That’s for deposits, holding fees, agency fees and referencing fees. That’s without your first month’s rent in advance – no matter how far in advance you’re paying. And that only secures your new property. Wave goodbye to more money as you fork out your old agency’s fees, check out fees, cleaning fees and anything they dock from the £3000 deposit you gave them. Since moving costs the average Londoner thousands each time, the least we can ask for is stability. So just ask for a longer contract, right? Right?
Contracts are meaningless
Wrong! Even if your estate agent is law-abiding (which most of them are not), and they respect the time you wrote on your contract, a landlord can actually serve you notice on your property at any time throughout the tenancy, so long as it gives you two months to vacate the home. Does the offer go both ways? Absolutely – if you’re willing to pay off every month you had remaining in your contract. Annoyed yet? We’re not done. Just how long is the contract you managed to get anyway? With estate agents’ wages increasingly depending on fees and commission, they are more and more reluctant to give out long-term contracts, choosing to stick you with short-term ones that demand you pay them a few hundred quid each time you choose to renew. Is anyone else’s purse feeling lighter? Does anyone else’s stomach feel like it’s got rocks in it?
The sour goodbye
Everybody hates estate agents. It’s a fact of life – and for good reason. They’ll tell you anything to get you through the door and hand over way too many zeros but every goodbye is a bad one. From demanding I drop my legal rights to a 24 hour notice period of visitors, to interrupting the quiet enjoyment clause and charging me £700 for replacing mouldy curtains with new ones, I’ve been stuck with it all. Estate agents seem to find new ways to terrorise their tenants year upon year. I dream of a day I no longer have to suffer the London rental market and can buy a house…but, of course, I won’t own the land so what’s the stability there? What a tireless circle of faff and fees. At least we live in the best city in the world, am I right?