Unless you’ve been living under a rock - and no one would blame you if that’s all you can afford - you might have noticed that we’re in the midst of a housing crisis. Soaring property prices, rising costs of living, and stagnant salaries have reduced home ownership to a mere dream for most. In fact, home ownership in the UK has hit a 30-year low -- and this isn’t a phenomena isolated to the capital.
With buying left out of reach for the majority of young people, more and more of us are left to fend with an equally dysfunctional rental market.
Need to vent your rent? You’re not alone. Here are 10 common problems to be aware of as a renter:
1. Cost of Rent
There are lots of words to describe the experience of renting a home in London, and not one of them equates ‘cheap’. Latest figures put the average rent for a London flat at around £1,676 a month, having increased 30% over the past four years (source). This positions London as one of the most expensive places to rent in Europe; renting in countries like Germany and Holland is 50% cheaper than it is in the UK.
If that’s not shocking enough, it’s also cheaper (by nearly £5,000 a year!) to commute to London from Madrid than it is to rent a flat in Camden Town (source).
To make matters worse, you don’t necessarily get much for your money in London either. In fact, it’s actually cheaper to live in a 4-star hotel in two-thirds of European capitals than it is to rent the average London flat -- probably a lot nicer too: research from Citizen’s advice has found that one in three rental homes in the UK aren’t fit to live in!
2. Cost of Setting Up Rent
To add insult to injury, setting up a rental contract normally comes with a hefty price tag in its own right. If you go through a letting agency, expect to be several hundred pounds out of pocket after agency fees and holding deposits, plus charges for referencing, credit checks, and inventory check-ins and check-outs.
3. Utility Costs
As if the price of rent wasn’t bad enough, unexpectedly high utility costs are the bane of any renter. By the time you’ve factored in gas, electric, water, and internet bills — plus the dreaded council tax! — it’s not unusual to see your monthly outgoings increase by a couple of hundred pounds. Worse still are the inevitable ‘hidden’ costs, such as connection (and eventual disconnection) fees.
4. Inflexible Contracts
Money problems aside, another major issue with the rental market is a lack of anything beyond the standard 12 month lease. More often than not, the best case scenario in London is a 6 month break clause — which still requires the typical 2 month’s notice, giving you a 8 month minimum tenancy. Looking for something more short term? Good luck.
5. Impossible Criteria For Renters
Imagine you’re lucky enough to find a place you want to rent — and are able to afford the myriad of associated costs! Throwing a spanner into the works is the letting agency’s reference check, seemingly impossible to successfully traverse. If you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, intern or otherwise can’t prove long-term fixed income, things can get tricky. For many young people, getting a parent to act as guarantor is an option… but not if they’re retired. Back to square one.
6. Unwanted Furry Friends
Problems with pests are more common than you’d hope. Perhaps it’s not surprising, given that you’re supposedly never more than six feet away from a rat in London. On the bright side, you can always try this free cat rental service to deter rodents.
7. Unresponsive Landlords
The boiler is broken. Again. Despite a deluge of increasingly strongly worded emails, text messages and voicemails, you get no response from a landlord that appeals to be AWOL. Cold showers it is.
8. Joint Liability
More often than not, when you enter into a flatshare or houseshare, the terms of your contract will see you liable for the entire home — not just your portion of the rent. Living with other people as joint tenants means you're all responsible for the whole rent, even if someone moves out or decides not to pay.
In the interest of maximising profit, it’s not uncommon to see overcrowded houses for rent in London, where the living room has been converted into a bedroom. This can completely change the dynamic of a houseshare, taking away a useful social space and leaving people feeling on top of eachother. New-build apartments aren’t much better, seemingly getting smaller and smaller every year.
10. Anti-social Houseshares
There’s nothing worse that moving into a houseshare full of hermits and feeling like you’re living with strangers. Being part of a community and living in a social way is proven to be good for your health — and vice versa. A loneliness epidemic is said to exist amongst Britain’s young people, making it vitally important to have a good social dynamic in the place you call home.
This all sounding like too much hard work? At The Collective Old Oak, we’re pioneering a new way of living built around community, quality and convenience. An all-inclusive monthly bill covers rent and all utilities, plus access to numerous onsite amenities and events (from live music to classes, film nights and guest speakers). Old Oak members live in self-contained serviced studio apartments, but also have access to a variety of well-designed shared spaces, including a games room, spa, library, themed dining rooms, and an onsite restaurant and bar.
Want to learn more about co-living? Book a tour
Written by Grace Waters