Renters or Second-Class Citizens

The phone rings.  It's the letting agents.  "This is a courtesy call to let you know that the landlord wants to sell your flat and this is your two months' notice."

The words hang over your head, making the air oppressive .  "Courtesy call."  It's what you associate with a computer helpline ringing to check you're happy with the service provided, or with a hairdresser confirming that you will be attending your hair appointment.  A "courtesy call" to inform you that you're being turfed out of your home.  Yes, your home – no matter what landlords and letting agents bully you into believing.  For as long as you're paying rent for it, it is your home.  The home that the agent comes to check every six months to make sure you haven't trashed it.  The home for which you have to pay rent six months in advance because you're self-employed.  Where you have to ask permission before hammering extra picture hooks into the walls.  

Once you've stopped reeling from the news, a list of questions pertaining to the required move starts multiplying in your head.  You call the letting agents.  "We'd like to pop in and see you –"

"What is it concerning?"

"Well, we have a few questions –"

"Can you ask them over the phone?"

You raise your voice, "Look, is it all right to come and see you or are we not allowed to?"

    

At the letting agents' office, the individual who deals with you enunciates their syllables as though they think you can't keep up.  Their politeness has so much added artificial sweetener, it positively makes you want to retch.

You’re told that, even if you've been asked to move out, you still have to abide by the contractual obligation of giving a month's notice if you find another place earlier.  That you still have to have the flat professionally cleaned, even though it's going to be sold and not rented.  They don’t sound particularly interested when you tell them you'd like to stay on the agency's books.  You wonder why, and then it occurs to you that letting agents may consider it too much effort to notify renters if a suitable property becomes available – it's up to the renters to hunt through the internet, find properties, and hassle the agents.

Moreover, you discover that your deposit will be returned "within 28 days" of your moving out.  This not only means that you have two months to raise a substantial sum of money, but that you won't be there when the agents examine your flat, and can't protest if   they decide to deduct any "damage" costs from your deposit.

Renters in the UK are second-class citizens.  You've known this for a while, so why are you so shocked, so upset? Haven't you heard, on numerous occasions, your neighbours (who own their properties) make comments about rubbish being left around or other nuisance being caused, undoubtedly, by "the renters in No. this or that"? The law is on the side of the landlord, not the tenant.  The landlord has rights.  The tenant has obligations.  It’s back to the Middle Ages.

You walk into the other letting agencies.  They rush to you before you've had the time to close the door behind you.  "Hello, can I help you?"

"Hello, yes, could I speak to someone about rentals? –"

"What's your budget?" 

No come in, no take a seat.  

You wish you could find your next home without going through letting agents.  From what you've experienced, they actually appear physically incapable of any warmth, feelings, or respect.  From the robotic way they act towards you, they seem impervious to any sense of shame.  Remember that word? Shame.  You haven't heard it used for a while.  Shame.  It seems to have gone missing.  Disappeared.  Like honour.

You look around the flat you've cared for and made your home, your sanctuary, for the last two and a half years.  Only two and a half years.  You had so hoped you could have been allowed to stay longer.  You see all the books that need packing.  All the CDs, clothes, crockery, and all the odds and ends that can't be categorised but which make it your home.  You notice that the bathroom sink needs to be cleaned.  You reach out for the scourer then stop.  What's the point? You're moving out soon.  You go out for a walk to clear your head.  It starts to rain.  Let's go back home, where it's warm.  But, suddenly, it's not home anymore.  It's an assembly of walls, floor and ceiling where you no longer feel welcome.  Where you no longer feel safe.

Time to pack.  You tell yourself your next home will be even better.  Yes, much better.  But how long will you be allowed to stay there?

Scribe Doll

Comments 12

 
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 12 February 2017 21:53

Katia, this is heartbreaking. You have all my sympathy. The whole question is one of long-term debate in Parliament, we know, and can't be improved, if not resolved, too soon. The nightmare of finding somewhere respectable to call home has reached epidemic proportions. I am lucky at present, but the house I live in is not mine and therefore can't be bequeathed. Despite a good education and job, my son can't ever hope to buy his own home, although actually owning a property is not one of his goals, but it is still an ongoing concern.

I so hope and pray that you will find somewhere congenial very soon that offers a fairer contract. Two months notice is not enough.

God bless.

Katia, this is heartbreaking. You have all my sympathy. The whole question is one of long-term debate in Parliament, we know, and can't be improved, if not resolved, too soon. The nightmare of finding somewhere respectable to call home has reached epidemic proportions. I am lucky at present, but the house I live in is not mine and therefore can't be bequeathed. Despite a good education and job, my son can't ever hope to buy his own home, although actually owning a property is not one of his goals, but it is still an ongoing concern. I so hope and pray that you will find somewhere congenial very soon that offers a fairer contract. Two months notice is not enough. God bless.
Katherine Gregor on Monday, 13 February 2017 08:38

Actually the standard notice time is one month, so I guess we must be grateful for getting two!
Thank you for your kind wishes and prayers!

Actually the standard notice time is one month, so I guess we must be grateful for getting two! Thank you for your kind wishes and prayers!
Rosy Cole on Monday, 13 February 2017 13:20

....And my comment wasn't to overlook the cavalier treatment and discourtesy you received, but It seems very much par for the course now. Our 'blame' culture has created a litigious society, so that those who would wish to apologise and/or sympathise can't afford to go there.

....And my comment wasn't to overlook the cavalier treatment and discourtesy you received, but It seems very much par for the course now. Our 'blame' culture has created a litigious society, so that those who would wish to apologise and/or sympathise can't afford to go there.
Katherine Gregor on Monday, 13 February 2017 16:19

No, of course.

No, of course.
Stephen Evans on Sunday, 12 February 2017 23:05

Very distressing. I hope a wonderful new home presents itself soon.

Very distressing. I hope a wonderful new home presents itself soon.
Katherine Gregor on Monday, 13 February 2017 08:38

Thank you, Stephen :–)

Thank you, Stephen :–)
Orna Raz on Monday, 13 February 2017 18:22

Dear Katia, this is really infuriating, something needs to be done, I am sure that there are many people who cannot afford to buy a house in today's economy. Yet I am always impressed with your writing style and the way you turn even the dreariest of facts into a beautiful story.
Good luck in finding a better home and a better landlady.

Dear Katia, this is really infuriating, something needs to be done, I am sure that there are many people who cannot afford to buy a house in today's economy. Yet I am always impressed with your writing style and the way you turn even the dreariest of facts into a beautiful story. Good luck in finding a better home and a better landlady.
Katherine Gregor on Monday, 13 February 2017 18:58

Dear Orna, Thank you for reading and commenting – and for your kind wishes.
What can I say? Everything is cause and effect. I took certain decisions which I was younger, which have led me not to be able to afford a home of my own.

Dear Orna, Thank you for reading and commenting – and for your kind wishes. What can I say? Everything is cause and effect. I took certain decisions which I was younger, which have led me not to be able to afford a home of my own.
Orna Raz on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 09:14

Dear Katia, I am very impressed with your gracious attitude, but nevertheless you and millions of good people who do not own a home have rights. Your elected officials should be fighting for them.

Dear Katia, I am very impressed with your gracious attitude, but nevertheless you and millions of good people who do not own a home have rights. Your elected officials should be fighting for them.
Katherine Gregor on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 19:02

Our elected officials? Ha! Have you seen the lot of them?

Our elected officials? Ha! Have you seen the lot of them?
Sue Martin Glasco on Thursday, 16 February 2017 02:29

So sorry for this sad event in your life. I hope you find a new home that you love so much that you suddenly are glad you had to move. Keep us posted.

So sorry for this sad event in your life. I hope you find a new home that you love so much that you suddenly are glad you had to move. Keep us posted.
Katherine Gregor on Friday, 17 February 2017 09:28

Thank you, Sue :–)

Thank you, Sue :–)
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