Grim studio apartment in London’s Earl’s Court on offer at a staggering £1,122 a month — yet it will be snapped up within days – a sure sign of a housing market in meltdown
- The grim studio apartment in Earl’s Court has grey mould on the ceiling
- Britain is running short of properties to rent and leaving people scrambling
- Rents rocketing, up nearly 20 per cent year-on-year in cities including London
Even for a hardened flat-hunter, it is a dismal prospect.
The bed appears to be in the kitchen. The shower stands next to the sink and a patch of grey mould blossoms on the ceiling.
The only lavatory is down the hallway, shared with other residents.
This grim studio apartment in London’s Earl’s Court is on offer at a staggering £1,122 a month, yet I know it will be snapped up within days – a sure sign of a market in meltdown.
With landlords preferring to cash in on AirBnB and short-term lets, or selling-up completely, Britain is running short of properties to rent, leaving families and young workers alike scrambling to put a roof over their heads.
Rents are rocketing, up nearly 20 per cent year-on-year in cities including London, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol.
Housing charity Shelter reports a 39 per cent increase in evictions from rental properties in the past three months
And one recent survey suggests that almost four in five tenants have found themselves priced out in the past year.
The bed appears to be in the kitchen. The shower stands next to the sink and a patch of grey mould blossoms on the ceiling. Pictured: The flat in Earl’s Court
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has established that some would-be renters have been urged to take part in ‘beauty contests’, writing personal letters to the property owner listing, for example, their hobbies.
Most are being told to pitch their offer above the asking price or to accept contracts two or three times the normal length to secure a property, so cut-throat is the market.
Some have been advised to offer three or even six months’ rent up-front.
The shortage of properties is in part down to the current record house prices, which have encouraged landlords to sell up. Sixteen per cent of all homes sold this year were previously let.
Flat for rent in Castletown Road, London, W14£1,150 pcm, £265 pw (pictured)
There has also been decline in the buy-to-let sector thanks to the steady abolition of mortgage interest tax relief on properties for rent.
Anny Cullum from ACORN, an organisation that champions tenants’ rights, accused US-based AirBnB of fuelling the crisis.
‘Some landlords are choosing to take their house out of the long-term let market and make a lot more money in holiday lettings, leaving renters with a dwindling housing supply,’ she said.
She says her own experience is typical.
‘Our house in Bristol was a state, with mould on the walls, and I thought: ‘I can’t have my baby growing up in this environment’,’ she said.
‘But anything similar was twice as much as our rent of £900 a month, so we had to move to Gloucester, 35 miles away from the vast majority of our support network.’
Anny Cullum, pictured, from ACORN, an organisation that champions tenants’ rights, accused US-based AirBnB of fuelling the crisis
The market is at its most difficult London, where, in the first quarter of the year, rents hit a record average high of £2,193 per month.
Research from property site Zoopla found that central London rents have increased by nearly 20 per cent in a year compared to growth of about 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2019.
But rents are soaring across the country with research from SpareRoom, a flatshare website, suggesting that rents in 40 of the country’s largest 50 town are now at record levels.
Private tenancies have traditionally involved one-year contracts. But in an email to prospective renters seen by this newspaper, an adviser with the Chestertons agency suggested they agree to three-year tenancies with an 18-month or 24-month break clause.
‘The longer the better!’ he wrote. ‘Please try and stretch that extra month or so.’
He advised flat-hunters to write a small biography about themselves saying why they wish to rent the property.
‘Small things like this help massively!’ he explained.
Polly Neate, Chief Executive Officer of Shelter, said: ‘This is a crisis that is forcing people into impossible choices.
‘If people end up unable to afford their rent, they will be evicted and forced into homelessness.
‘We are going to have people who simply cannot find anywhere to live who never thought that they would end up on the streets.’
‘One of the problems is that many people in private renting have no savings, so they don’t have any back-up when things get hard. They have no other option but to borrow.’
Flat for rent in Barons Court, London, W14 £1,205 pcm, £278 pw (pictured)
Housing is already a political battleground.
Polling shows that the Conservative party has suffered a collapse in support from the young adults in what is known as ‘Generation Rent’
Earlier this year, pollster and former No 10 advisor, James Johnson, told The Mail on Sunday that the Tories were behind by double digits among middle-class people in their twenties and thirties who were renting – as opposed to owning – somewhere to live.
They told Johnson that being frozen out of the property market was ‘blunting their aspirations’.
H e concluded that these young renters had helped depriving the Conservatives of their majority in 2017 by voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, in the hope he would help their predicament – and that the issue might cost the Tories the next election.
‘By asking for several months of rent in advance, you are essentially locking people out of being able to rent a place if they are on a low income,’ said Miss Cullum.
‘One in four working families live in private rented accommodation. Not many will have a few thousand sitting in the bank.’
‘There’s a big housing crisis in this country – but not everyone is losing out.
We had to beg the landlord to choose us
Yuki Kishimoto (pictured)
When Yuki Kishimoto and her boyfriend, Jack, were asked to submit a cover letter with their offer to rent a flat in South London for £1,350 a month, she was taken aback.
The TV producer, 31, who was born in Japan and has lived in the UK for 15 years, said: ‘We had to present ourselves to the landlord and explain why we liked the flat, why we were suitable for the flat and tell him about ourselves.
‘We wrote four paragraphs explaining our jobs, talking about the sports club we belonged to and describing our hobbies.
‘It felt like we had to beg him to pick us.’
‘I house hunted five years ago and the situation was very different.
‘You didn’t have to make an offer and send a cover letter.
‘Back then, it was first come, first serve.
‘Now you are being compared with other potential tenants and the landlord has all the power to pick whoever they want.’
I had to pay £3,500 upfront
Chelsea Baladad has had to pay three months of rent upfront to secure a studio flat in Bristol for £997 a month.
The engineering student, 20, is moving to the city for a placement for her degree at the University of Bath.
She said: ‘I got my placement quite late and the flats in Bristol are ridiculously expensive.
‘The building I’ve been looking at has studios for £845 a month.’
Chelsea Baladad (pictured)
But when Chelsea enquired she was told there was only one studio available for over £100 more a month and that she would need to pay three months of rent in advance, plus a deposit of £500, to take up the tenancy.
The student has had to go into her overdraft and plans on asking her parents to give her money to cover the £3,500 sum.
She said: ‘The agent didn’t explain why I needed to pay three months of rent upfront but said that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get the studio.
‘I’m going to ask my parents for help and I will use all of my overdraft.
‘I just have to do it otherwise I won’t have anywhere to live.
‘But I do really worry about bills going up in the winter.’
My landlord put up the rent by £600
Ralph Barreto (pictured)
Student Ralph Barreto will be returning to his parents home in Ruislip, Middlesex, next month after his landlord raised his rent by 30 per cent.
Ralph has been living with two friends in a three-bedroom flat in Euston, London.
It was originally on the market for £1,750 last summer and Ralph and his friends secured the flat after offering to pay £2000 a month.
But they were told by the agency managing the property that the rent would be raised to £2600 for the next 12-month tenancy.
Ralph said: ‘We all looked at each other and decided that we were not going to pay that.
‘We were gobsmacked.
‘It is not worth that – the flat doesn’t even have a living room.
‘It literally went up by almost £1,000 – from £1,750 to £2,600 – in one year.’
After failing to find a similar flat nearby, Ralph has decided to move home for his final year of university.
‘I check RightMove and Zoopla every day, but there’s nothing.
‘We are being pushed out of the area.
‘I might as well live at home with my parents rather than pay extortionate rent that I can’t afford.’
But he has pointed out that living 15 miles away from the UCL campus where he studies philosophy will hamper his experience of university.
‘I have a large family so it is going to be difficult to find the space and quiet I need to study.
‘The commute will take an hour and 20 minutes so I won’t be able to be as social as I’d like.
‘My first year was spent in lockdown so it would have been great to live close by in my third year and have those opportunities after missing out because of the pandemic.’
A three-month slog to search for a new flat
By Natasha Livingstone for the Mail On Sunday
I thought looking for a new flat would take a few days, perhaps weeks at worst. The reality was a three-month slog of sweat and tears.
When I moved to London with friends in September 2020, we’d found a property with ease despite entry-level salaries. This time it took us from early April until late June.
We began looking for a new place when our landlord raised the rent to £2990 a month, a 7.5 per cent increase, despite chronic leaks and wobbly door handles.
Confident of getting a better deal, we set up alerts on the property website Rightmove and checked it daily. But when we enquired about the flats we saw, they’d gone.
After a month of zealous searching we put an offer on a flat we had ‘viewed’ by video.
It was a little dingy despite a good location, so we went slightly under the asking price at £1950. A mistake.
Delivering the bad news, a sympathetic estate agent said: ‘The market is really crazy at the moment.’ New properties were going for up to £250 over the asking price.
The next flat was a similar story. With 25 people viewing the property, we were pressured to increase our offer. In the end, it went to someone who agreed to live there for three whole years without so much as a break clause.
This depressing cycle occurred until late June, when we, too, accepted a long lease.
We beat five other offers to secure a place for £2150 with a 36-month lease and an 18-month break clause. Even then were lucky.
Another renter offered £2400 but missed the deadline.
The truth is that, worn down by the process, I’d agreed to pay more for a lot less than before. Half per cent of my salary will be spent renting a box room with no wardrobe.
I thought looking for a new flat would take a few days, perhaps weeks at worst. The reality was a three-month slog of sweat and tears. Pictured: Natasha Livingstone
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