Private tenants will have more electoral influence in the upcoming General Election than at any point in history. According to campaign group Generation Rent, there are 86 parliamentary seats in which the sitting MP has the vote of fewer than 35% of the tenant population. That's actually a lot of influence.
Influence is nice, but it doesn't keep the rain off your head. You still need somewhere to live and put all your stuff. But since politicians might now start treating the 3.9 million of us in privately rented accommodation as a demographic worth caring about, it's time to remember - before we head to the ballots - all those times the private renting experience crushed our souls.
Getting your previous deposit back
This is the worst bit of any tenancy and is the often start of the shame spiral that is renting a place to live. You need that money to cover the cost of moving house again, but hey, you're a tenant, so guess what? It's going to cost you your dignity. A recent survey by London removals firm Kiwi Movers found that over half of renters have trouble getting their deposit back. 52% of those surveyed lost all or some of their deposit.
When you eventually do get some of your own money back, you'll inevitably start behaving like the landlord has just done you a massive favour.
Out of date listings
A three-hour post-work Rightmove marathon yields a pitiful harvest of even passable places to view, but your ruefulness will turn to incandescent rage the following morning when you call up before work to be told - in a tone suggesting you should have known anyway - that the "it'll do until I get a new job" flat has already been let. "Sorry mate, it's gone." Just like your will to keep looking.
If competitively sucking up to a letting agent to minimally increase your chances of having a decent place to live doesn't nourish your soul, what will? The estate agents know this too and while you're busy shoving in front of complete strangers, you'll overlook the myriad flaws in the property that make it entirely unsuitable for you, before begrudgingly filling out your application anyway. Fingers crossed!
You may not know this, but trolling existed long before sociopaths in their parents' box room started threatening to kill Sue Perkins. Pre-social media, trolling was all about estate agents taunting their tenants in doublespeak via the medium of the inventory. It was a softer kind of trolling, one that only rich people in a position of power could pull off. Subtle digs like "good state of repair" would be employed to gradually wear down your faith in this massively under-regulated property market we all love.
Understanding your inventory
- Good state of repair = "Just legally compliant when it was last checked."
- Minor wear and tear = "About to disintegrate."
- Fair wear and tear = "Disintegrating as we speak."
- Sofa - "Box of springs and foam."
- Patio - "Those two slabs where you put the bins."
- Strip light - "Flickering fly graveyard."
- Walls - "Where the mold that's giving you bronchitis is."
We pay an average of £137 in fees every time we rent a new property, according to online letting agent Rentify and most of them are clearly just made up for a laugh. Credit check fee (credit checks can be done for about £2), contract re-signing fee (should be the cost of printing off a piece of paper but isn't), check-out fee (how much does it cost to be given a set of keys?); there's definitely a cabal of dastardly letting agents sitting in a volcanic lair competing to see who can make tenants pay the most obviously pulled-out-of-the-air levy.
There's something about renting a property that makes us completely oblivious to the concept of home security. Maybe it's harder to care when it's someone else's mortgage you're paying off. Doors left on the latch while we nip to the shop, ground floor windows left open, keys hidden under the bin; life's just easier when you don't care about getting robbed. Until you get robbed.
Things aren't much better in the garden either. According to lock manufacturer Kasp Security, the average shed is home to over £600 worth of stuff, but only 50% of sheds are even locked. That's how much some of us care about security.
But it doesn't need to be like this. According to a spokesman for MJ Security, providers of security solutions to none other than Whipsnade and London Zoo, one of the best things you can do to put off intruders is get some decent lights. "Rented houses typically have only basic security, but you can reduce your appeal to would-be intruders by installing just a single flood light close to an entry point." It's still smart to lock up after yourself though.
Beds against walls
Landlords like to optimise space, so if your room is big enough to accommodate a bed with room to spare on both sides, you're living in dreamland. But let's face it, your bed is up against the wall and you're not living in dreamland.
It's not until you go home to your parents' house, with all their space and warmth and cushions that you realise just how rubbish having your bed against the wall is. You've got one emergency escape route and if you're sharing, one of you is wedged in for the night, or until someone needs the loo.
Sarah Dickson, an interior stylist for design company Betta Living says sleeping against a wall can also hamper your health. "Exterior walls and even some interior walls can be damp and having your bed up against them can lead to health problems. Even in smaller rooms, it's possible to get the bed away from the wall. Invest in some elevated storage solutions to free up extra floor space and move your bed away from the walls. Even if it's just a few inches, the ventilation space will make a difference."
So you've handed in your notice so now the landlord and letting agency hate you because they've got to spend their own money and time finding new tenants. They'll express that hate passive aggressively by giving you the minimum possible notice before bringing people round. Every reasonable tenant understands the need for viewings, but having to listen to the letting agent sing the praises of a property you've been complaining about for three months is hard to stomach. She'll show them, with a straight face, the brand new showerhead that you practically had to lobby government to acquire because the old one was basically an indoor sprinkler system.
Check out inspection
It's moving day, your cousin has lent you his van for no more than three hours and it's time to get going. Precisely one hour after the agreed check out time, a 19-year-old deposit administrator from the letting agency will attend the property, take a series of poorly framed photographs before assuring you that everything looks "absolutely fine." He will then return to the office and write up a laundry list of imaginary infringements to pass on to the landlord so he can make you sweat over your deposit for a bit.
No dignity? No doubt.