March 25, 2023

Beth Holloway seems like the ideal tenant. The 23-year-old civil servant has a stable job with good references and a good salary. And she doesn’t smoke or keep pets — factors that tend to be detrimental in a competitive market.

But after three months of house hunting in London involving hundreds of agent enquiries, two dozen inspections and 10 property offers, she said she couldn’t take it any longer. Every time she and a friend she plans to live with bid on a property, they are outbid by others. “We have bid over £200 [the listed price] Didn’t get it because someone else offered a six-month advance. I’ve heard of people bidding over £500 or £600, or willing to pay cash up front for a year,” she said.

At other times, she has arrived at pre-scheduled viewings to find 15 people ahead of her. Or worse: She called to ask for a viewing, only to be told the property was gone, even though it was only posted online minutes ago. “We’ve just reached a tipping point,” Holloway said. “Everyone said, ‘It’s going to be difficult to rent in London’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay.’ But I didn’t realise how bad it was. It was absolutely insane.”

Holloway is among thousands of people who have been dubbed the “rental cost crisis” by activists. High demand and a lack of housing supply have led landlords and agencies to raise rents to record levels, while soaring energy prices and rising inflation mean millions are already struggling to keep up with their bills.

Beth at her graduation, in gown and stucco
‘I didn’t realise how bad it was to rent in London’: 23-year-old civil servant Beth Holloway’s graduation photo.

Figures from Rightmove show UK rents are at record highs, with some areas such as Manchester up more than 20 per cent year-on-year and London up 15.8 per cent. Tenants report landlords raising rents by as much as £700 a month, effectively forcing them to leave. Others who moved out said they checked property websites a few days later and found their previous home was relisted for twice its original price.

A survey by Realtors membership group PropertyMark found that rental agents received an average of 127 new applications per branch in July, but only 11 properties were available for rent. A record 82% reported a month-on-month increase in interest rates.

Competition is fierce for those looking for a place to live. Holloway, who works in London and therefore needs to live in or near the capital, finds finding an apartment a “part-time job” in addition to her real full-time job. Every day, during her lunch break and after get off work, she spends hours searching real estate websites and scheduling inspections, in addition to getting a flurry of alerts notifying her of new properties.

“It’s very exhausting. You’re always on the edge,” she said. “Even if you’re trying to focus on work, you’re getting email reminders about new properties or canceled inspections.”

Despite the long-term need to work in London, she has temporarily put her plans to find an apartment on hold. She said she was in a privileged position to live in Hertfordshire with her parents. But she worries for those less fortunate. “I’m in great shape and can count on it. A lot of people don’t have that.”

Research manager Max Willson, 27, described a similar experience. He lived in the same apartment for three years but decided to move “after years of rats and cockroaches and disrepair”. He turned to SpareRoom, the UK’s most popular apartment and home-sharing site, but said “it soon becomes apparent that it’s a crazy place to audition your personality”, with “hundreds of people” applying for the same room.

“A lot of people would ask and come to watch. I was encouraged to ‘make the best offer’ by hiring an agent and the place would be off the market within an hour,” Wilson said. “To make matters worse, you have to put up a deposit before you find out, so in theory you’ll be holding multiple deposits at the same time. You have to write a cover letter begging for the place. Some places suck, but ask for four figures rent.”

After two months of searching, he finally found a “very beautiful but overpriced” flat in Oval, south London. The experience left him scarred. “This was probably the most stressful period of my life,” he said.

Rents are reportedly rising faster in Manchester than in the capital. TikTok influencer Jess Geary, 25, went viral last week after an angry video that said she spent three months searching for an apartment in the city center, to no avail.she told Manchester Evening Newsand said the print ad was removed “within a few minutes.”

“This is my public service announcement to you – don’t move to Manchester,” Gillrie said on TikTok. “There are no apartments available. I’m on the phone every day, I haven’t slept, I haven’t eaten.”

For those without a safety net, rising prices can have devastating consequences. Homelessness rates in two out of five local authorities are now higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to the Department of Upgrades, Housing and Communities. Homelessness charity Shelter said inquiries from people seeking advice on emergency rent support had increased by 177 per cent since the start of the year, from 8,195 in the January-March period to 22,677 in the three-month period at the end of July. people. People receiving housing benefits, who often struggle to find rental accommodation in the first place, are at greatest risk.

Shelter West Midlands strategy head Vicky Hines said the energy price cap was raised to £3,549 a year in October, which meant things would get worse as people weighed rents and the cost of living. People will be forced to live in temporary accommodation, she said, like a family she knows who had to leave their property due to disrepair but couldn’t afford anywhere else, so they were placed in a two-hour drive from their children’s school temporary residence. She added that she is “frightened” of what will happen in the coming months.

Sophie Delamothe, from the campaign group Generation Rent, called on the government to take urgent action, including the introduction of an “immediate rent freeze” and a moratorium on no-fault and rent delinquent evictions. “There was action during the pandemic, so why not now?” she said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the worst yet.”

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