INSIDE PERSPECTIVE: II
Autumn was the wrong time time to rent a house in South Manchester, but my girlfriend’s landlord was getting bent about me and Dan crashing at her’s. Dan didn't fancy going back down south, Amanda was living in fairly grotesque conditions with fairly awful people, and I hated the paperwork and just wanted it all to be over with. We were all a little bit desperate.
Thousands of students scrambling to get last-minute housing - fish in a barrel for dodgy landlords. We weren't too long out of uni ourselves and didn't have much more of a clue so we easily fell into the same cross-hairs. Plus me and Dan were doing the shopping - bright eyes and bushy tails always take a few years off. Next time we’ll chain-smoke and scowl while getting shown about the house and try to mask any glee we feel about the presence of a basement. Every smile adds a pound to the rent.
The estate agent, who for privacy reasons I will call Gaz, seemed confused that we wanted the place as it wasn't up to the same spec as the other one he showed us. We just thought he meant it didn't come with tellies in the bedrooms.Optimistic to a fault. He also said there was no mould, and that doors would be fitted on the kitchen and living room soon. We believed him. He seemed nice. He had offered Dan a period of indentured servitude at the offices (intern-ship, maybe, or apprenticeship).
We moved in without a hitch - we even managed to bring an old school friend of mine and someone off the internet into the 5-bed property - but a week went by and still no sign of the landlord. We rang him up and managed to arrange a fleeting visit. He told us he’d correct a few of the glaring errors (doors, fire alarms, rusty microwave, crap in the basement, large coil of barbed wire in the garden), and all was well.
After that, a few weeks of nothing. The buttons on the oven broke one day - he came round (a few days late) and recommended we poke a screwdriver into the holes. The house started getting damp and mouldy - he, eventually came and painted over it and left some pound shop dehumidifiers. The paint didn’t dry because the wall was wet, and the dehumidifiers did nothing.
Around this time we’d received a letter from some random business saying that James* the landlord didn’t own the house as he hadn’t paid his bills, and we should pay them rent, not him. We got James around to take a look, he took the letters and said he didn’t know anything about it - keep paying him. Fair enough. He seemed a bit daft but honest enough - and he was physically there, more than can be said for this random business. Stupidly, I paid him that month’s rent. That was the last we saw of James.
After this, we started getting more and more letters asking for our details, and money. I didn’t fancy giving them either, and kept trying to get in touch with James. Nothing was happening. Culturally conditioned as I am to respond to strife with apathy and decadence, I began to spend all my time at other people’s houses. The sight of letters piling up on the table depressed me, and besides, there was dancing to be done. Amanda had it covered though, I thought, she’s well on point with stuff like this.
But a few weeks later, it seems that one single tenant against the maze of agents and owners, isn't enough.
That is why I am writing this today. It turns out that I am among a majority that want change. This article on a poll for rent control is just one example of growing support for legally regulated and reformed controls for renters.
For anyone who wants to support the improvement of the sector nationally, I suggest coming to this: Rent Freedom Day, as I will be.
Author of Inside Perspective II is "Tenant X."
All Photographs are of the current state of the property.
*Please note that all names in this article have been changed to protect the tenants identity as they still reside in the property.