OpenRent Community

*Shocked* by the way (potential) tenants are treated in the UK

#1

Hi there, I’m Daniela, 45, originally from Germany. I was a tourist in this beautiful and lovable country for almost 30 years before I had the guts to leave my country and live here. I got my NINo quickly and found good work in the 12th week after arrival. Ever since things went downhill - because never in my life I would have assumed that renting or rather trying to rent in the UK would make me feel like a criminal on probation. Like a third class person. Like dirty scum, to be brutally honest.

Coming from Germany, I am used to renting because this is what we do. Owning your house is an exception for doctors or CEOs or something. 80, 85 % of people rent all their lives. Depending on how popular the area is, sometimes people look longer for the right flat or house, others look shorter. I rented two flats in my life, one for nine years, one for eleven years. Both I found through a small advert in a local paper. Both times I went for a viewing and got my yes pretty much the next day. I signed an open end tenancy contract - and that was it. No hassle, no referencing, no demands, no negativity. A contract between grown-up people who want to do business together like grown-up people. In peace and hopefully for a long time.

I assumed it would be here the same way because British people are known to be friendly as well as full of humour.

But oh no, and it comes as a huge shock how tenants are looked at here. The wording in adverts (no DSS!, no children!, no students!, no pets! - I’m actually just waiting for: No blacks!, no Jews!, haven’t seen those ones but wouldn’t be surprised, really), the constant demands (for example, you have to earn such and such monthly salary otherwise you are not worthy to live here, no matter if you think yourself that you can pay the rent), the overall negativity (the tenant can’t do this, the tenant can’t do that, can’t can’t can’t). Sometimes I wonder if landlords are afraid of us measly tenants. They certainly don’t really want us in their house - why rent it out then???

I think I sort of understand now how black people must feel when they are disciminated because of their skin colour. I am discriminated because of my wall colours. I am a fully trained painter/decorator working now as a legal secretary in a big international law firm (Am I trustworthy because of that? Who knows…).Despite my clerical job I consider myself to be a (hobby) artist. A white wall is a canvas for me and I love living in well designed spaces where wall colours, furniture and fabrics create a perfect composition. In Germany that is no problem, as everyone paints their interior the way they like and when they move out, they paint it white again (or whatever colour the landlord likes best). No problem. Over here that doesn’t seem to be an option. Being creative apparently “damages” the walls or even the whole property, because what if I “disappear” (original quote out of an agent’s mouth in my face)? The landlord would be stuck with “these painted walls”! OMG! Wait a moment - where would I “disappear” to? Aliens abducting me? Sorry, that is ridiculous. All I want is to live my life as I want to. That’s all. No hassle, no mistrust, no discrimination because I don’t have enough money to buy.

If a landlord reads this and has a reasonably priced 2 bedroom house with garden or garden flat to offer in Bristol BS1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 8, who is cool, relaxed, grown-up and not afraid of a reliable, friendly but creative tenant and who loves the motto “Live and let live”, then please contact me ASAP. I will honour your house and garden as if they were mine. For further info about me and photos of the wall decor in my previous flat (on IG, scroll down to the beginning), please visit Twitter and/or Instagram, I am @cariadferch.

Thank you for your attention to this rant. I had to vent. Or danke schön, as we say in Germany.
Dani

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#2

Hi Dani, Unfortunately, this is a typical experience for renters coming to the UK.

You raise a very interesting question: Why do tenants in Germany have more rights and a better situation than tenants in the UK?

It’s all to do with how each the UK and Germany implemented Keynesian policies after the Second World War, and then how quickly and to what extent they shifted to the new neoliberal paradigm!

The UK moved quite quickly in the neoliberal direction with Margaret Thatcher. Meanwhile in Germany, a more corporatist approach to Government existed. This was able to veto many of the neoliberal policies that would have made the German rental market resemble the UK’s today.

The key neoliberal turning points in UK rental policy were:

  • the introduction of buy to let mortgages, allowing regular people to invest in housing with tenants paying off the investor’s loan through their monthly rental payments
  • the Housing Act (1988) which created a new kind of limited tenure tenancy that meant landlords could easily evict tenants
  • strict limitations on the amount of borrowing the Government would allow from Local Authorities, limiting the amount of social housing that was being built, pushing some people into home ownership and others into the private rented sector

What is your favourite thing about renting in Germany? What policies do you think the UK could learn from?

Sam

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#3

Yes - it is depressing how tenants are treated but before Sam (as an OpenRent staffer) gets too sanctimoniuous about this let’s look at an example advert on RIghtMove for a flat that is being Marketed by OpenRent:

Quite a few of those exclusions Dani is shocked by are right there in that advert and the deposit is huge!

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#4

Hi Tony,

Hopefully my previous response will be enjoyed as a thrilling overview of policy decisions, free from any sanctimony!

The point you raise is another challenging, important policy area.

It’s best for tenants and landlords that tenants don’t waste time applying to properties that they would never have a good chance of letting (due to, e.g., lack of income). But it’s a bad situation that some tenants are de facto excluded from much housing due to lack of income or restrictions on who landlords can let to (e.g. mortgage terms that require employed tenants).

OpenRent is one of the few sites in the UK where tenants can explicitly search for thousands of properties to let that accept pets or are ‘DSS’-friendly. That saves tenants time and frustration by cutting out a lot of the usual leg-work (phoning up, dealing with agents, etc.).

Is the solution to the problem simply to ban landlords from signposting these requirements on adverts up front? This could just lead to tenants having an even worse time when finding properties.

Or is the solution to change the private rented sector through new legislation, technology and investment, so that more rented properties are suitable for real life tenants: people like @daniela_faber who want to make their house a home; people claiming benefits who can no longer find social housing do the third point, above; people renting with families who need a tenure far longer than just 6 months.

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#5

“The mortgage lender on this property does not allow letting to unemployed tenants” would be more honest.

I still don’t accept the pet or children exclusion though and a 6 weeks’ rent deposit is a real barrier to many people too. I would be very happy to support longer ASTs. 3 years is already possible by the standard route - above that requires the let to be done by deed. BUT in places like Oxford sometimes people want a short let because they are around a defined length of time. For that reason I’d not want to ban short ASTs.

Another thing that would help is more education for tenants about their ability to complain to their local authority about poor repairs or lack of repairs and the fact that if they have done that they are protected from Section 21 eviction. I am saddened by how few tenants know their rights and how to use them.

Thrilled of Oxford :smile:

Tony

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#6

Hi Tony, yes I agree with most of what you say.

6 weeks’ rent is a lot of money and there’s a lot of work going on at the moment on how to help tenants with the upfront costs of renting.

I hear this argument a lot. Sure, some students or professional tenants may prefer (1) a short but insecure tenancy to (2) longer tenancies that tie them down.

But no one is talking about the third option that would obviously be every tenant’s most-desired option: (3) a secure tenancy that they can end whenever they want to (with appropriate notice, e.g. 3 months).

Yes absolutely - it’s shocking how few tenants have a sense of their rights, and it’s something we’re really trying to help with through out help centre and this forum :slight_smile:

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#7

This resonates so much with me… I’m currently looking for a flat in London and I haven’t found it yet, but I’m totally burnt out with the process. Why does everybody assume I have no idea how much I can afford? Why do you think I’d destroy everything in the place I’m living in? What people have with this “disappearing” nonsense?!

When I moved to London, I knew finding a flat here will be challenging and was prepared for that. I didn’t realize how costly it can be (not the rent, but all others costs - huge deposit, several hundreds of agency fees), but ok, I’ll handle that. But I totally wasn’t prepared to be treated like trash. I have a very good job, some savings and I don’t have any children or pets. Still, finding a flat in reasonable location is emotionally draining and seems not so far from impossible to me right now. I can’t even imagine what people in less comfortable situation go through…

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#8

I have to agree with you, I am from Milan which is as international as London, lots of models and design students and we treat people with respect.

The fact is that the UK is built for greed, also it is funny as you assume I am renting because of need when for example in my case is because I do not even dream about to buy in a place like London… however the bottom line is that here there are no rights unless you are upper class all together, it is a honey trap.

Do not take me wrong some landlord are great and are grateful for people paying on time but yes I am glad to see the market crashing with rents going down as more and more people are leaving the city and very few are coming because it has become a gigantic scam!

Of course let’s also say that there are some particular people who are not trustworthy however like in your case you work in a law firm obviously you are not a criminal and I am a private pilot hence I am not a criminal either.

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