From toxic mould to dodgy landlords, Generation Rent has seen it all
For a generation regularly derided for its emotional fragility, we’ve certainly endured our fair share of hell. A decade of austerity has ushered in an era of tenant squalor, with one in three privately rented homes failing to meet decent standards, while rent prices have gone up three times faster than incomes since 2010. Damp, mould, leaking roofs, mice infestations, electrical hazards, and gas leaks have become quite literally part of the furniture for Generation Rent.
One in five of us are now renting privately, it’s no surprise that the leading parties are promising to address the rental crisis in their latest manifestos. Both Labour and the Tory party have pledged to end section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions, a policy which allows landlords to evict tenants without good reason, and is one of the leading causes of homelessness.
“What neither manifesto fully addresses is that rents are already too high”, says Caitlin Wilkinson, a spokesperson for campaign group Generation Rent. “Tenants currently spend forty per cent of their earnings on rent. To truly improve lives, more needs to be done across the board to make renting genuinely affordable, through bringing down rents to a third of local incomes.”
While there is room for improvement in both party’s manifestos, Labour is leading the way when it comes to boosting living standards. This includes ending indefinite tenancies, introducing rent caps in line with inflation and enforcing annual inspections to ensure homes are up to scratch. The party has vowed to take on ‘dodgy landlords’ by enforcing tougher penalties on those who let out substandard properties.
Dire living standards in the UK are having an impact on both our mental and physical health. Clearly, things cannot go on like this, and we’ll need to use our vote on December 12th to support a party who are promising a ‘housing revolution’, which is why Dazed are backing Labour in this election.
At this election, we are sending a message. 🗣️
🚨There is a renting crisis 🚨 and we won’t stand for it any longer.
— Generation Rent (@genrentuk) November 27, 2019
ALEX, NORTH LONDON
“I once lived in a basement flat which had a serious slug infestation, woolly black mould creeping up the walls, and a tree growing out of a massive crack in the wall outside our only window. We complained a million times until eventually, the landlord sent over a mate (who was clearly on day release) with a big rusty saw (I assume for the tree), which he then handed to me saying ‘I don’t kill living things’.
He used this line for the slugs and the mould too, so they stayed, flourishing alongside me until I left a few months later.”
“Our letting agency basically burgled our flat and stole over £5,000 worth of stuff from me and my three other flatmates when we were out for a few hours. They used to keep giving the key to our flat to random people, who’d come unannounced and do various checks out of nowhere (which is illegal without 48-hour notice), and other really sketchy stuff like that.
Around seven months into living there, they literally unlocked the door one day and stole everything valuable. Unfortunately, police couldn’t do anything cause we had no tangible evidence it was them.”
“The front door had swollen due to water absorption, making it almost impossible on rainy days to close it”
“My landlord had me and my housemate without internet for three months, and two months without the boiler working in the winter – that’s no heating and no hot water. You could see our breaths.
The landlord just kept making excuses when my housemate and I would call. The walls had a build-up of mould when we moved in and the bathroom had really bad rot which took (until) a month before we moved out for them to fix. The front door had swollen due to water absorption, making it almost impossible on rainy days to close it: they fixed that three months into the end of our 12-month contract. 0/10 would not recommend.
Also, when we first moved in, they didn’t tell us our bedroom doors automatically locked when closed and didn’t give us keys to get into the locks, leaving me sleeping in my friend’s room on the first night in. The electricity used to flip all the time, and we would wake up with the freezer having defrosted completely if we didn’t catch it in time.”
GEORGIE, NORTH LONDON
“A couple of years back I lived in a shared house. It was a revolving door of housemates who never got on – until we found one woman who was keen to make the house a home. She even built a bench from reclaimed wood for the garden and planted wildflowers.
One day, my landlord came round unannounced for inspection and my housemate didn’t know who he was. In the evening he rang me up to say that my housemate was rude and that her bench would have to go because it was ugly and didn’t meet health and safety standards.
Eventually, my landlord told me that he was going to send me back all of our deposits for the house and that I was to tell my housemate that we were being evicted and had to leave. My landlord was asking me to fake a section 21 eviction in order to get rid of her. In the end, we had a house meeting and agreed it wasn’t working out and she left.
When it came to replacing her, I asked the landlord if my boyfriend could move in. He refused, saying: ‘I don’t like girls living with their boyfriends’, and we all had to move out. What a complete waste of time.”
“(Environmental health) confirmed the property wasn’t safe to live in and was a risk to the neighbouring properties”
“I moved into a house for my second year of uni with some friends. The way my room was set up, there was a desk at the window and the bed next to the door. I swapped them around as the desk was in the way of being able to open the window.
The landlord really wasn’t happy about this for some reason, but couldn’t do anything about it. Then comes winter, the room started to get black mould everywhere – which destroyed everything under the bed too – and spread to the ceiling, right above the head of the bed.
When we complained to the landlord, he said ‘well it’s because you moved the bed next to the window, when you’re sleeping all the moisture in your breath is coming out and going to the ceiling which is condensing, so you should stop doing that’. So… simply stop breathing. This led to a bit of a stunned silence amongst my housemates.
The landlord eventually ‘fixed’ the problem by painting over it and we had to buy a dehumidifier to stop the room being so humid.”
“In summer 2009, we moved into a six-bed terrace house. As standard practice, we paid half rent over summer because people wouldn’t be residing there, but we were allowed to move our stuff in. About a week after we moved in we smelt gas and reported it to the landlord. The landlord sent someone over who confirmed the leak and advised we leave the property.
Stranded for the night, our friend’s partner at the time housed five of us in the living room of her two-bedroom flat. The landlord refused to fix the leak and said he didn’t have to because we weren’t living there anyway. My housemate got in touch with the local council who sent environmental health round. They confirmed the property wasn’t safe to live in and was a risk to the neighbouring properties.
The landlord was so mad that we had contacted environmental health. In the early afternoon, he phoned us to say that we had until five PM that day to get our stuff out of the property as he was sending people over with a padlock to lock the door. Luckily, we knew people living a few doors down the road and they helped us store our furniture at their place until we had somewhere else to live.
Sure enough, at five PM two goons showed up. They threatened us and jeered at us as we moved our furniture and padlocked and chained the front door gate. All of us had paid a month’s rent for the months of July and August for a property we were illegally denied access to.
We never got our rent or our deposits back. We later found out that the house was being used as a cannabis factory. Nice guy.”