Are you a renter? How much will you have spent on letting in 10 years time?

The rising costs of being a renter

The rising costs of being a renter - Credit: Archant

ARLA have released a seemingly sympathetic report to the press, kindly informing the public that the renters among us are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

My landlord blames my cat for trashing the curtains

My landlord blames my cat for trashing the curtains - Credit: Archant

I read yesterday that first-time buyers taking their first tentative steps onto the lower rungs of the property ladder in 2016, will have apparently spent, on average, in excess of £50,000 on rent. £52,900 to be painfully precise.

The figure comes from ARLA (the Association of Residential Lettings Agents, for those of you that have never quite understood what those letters at the bottom of your letting agent’s email signature stand for) who predict that anyone embarking on the joys of 21st century independent adulthood are likely to wrack up an eventual £64,400 in lettings debt, from now on.

I don’t really understand how these rather specific figures have been calculated - I suppose there has been an average annual rent cost multiplied by a number of years the average person is presumed to rent before being able to get a mortgage. Averages are a dangerous thing, but I can certainly see what ARLA are getting at.

That being said, rents are still on the up. Go figure.

Those of you that caught my column three weeks ago will have read my ‘slight’ rant about agency admin fees - something I was charged when my lettings agency processed my lease renewal. I had a coffee with local lettings man Gregory Moulton of Let Me Properties the following week, who attempted to talk me through why these fees are implemented. Unfortunately he was playing to a hostile audience - I nodded slowly along to his explanation, still admittedly closed off to the notion that any overtime spent on a contract where only the dates need changing is not worth ninety of my well earned pounds. I actually haven’t paid this invoice yet - they can wait. Gregory and I then changed the subject to why I have never watched ‘Game of Thrones’.

So ARLA are releasing seemingly sympathetic reports to the press, kindly informing the public that the renters among us are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Their forecast that the figure will soon reach £64,400 in tenancy payments is followed by the heartwarming assertion that this will leave some of us unable to EVER buy a home of our own. Thanks for that, ARLA.

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So why, whenever my rent has increased in the past (this is the first year in four that it hasn’t been upped) do landlords chuck around the sentence “this figure is in keeping with the market value” as an explanation.

Every time I have queried my past rent rise, this is what they fire back at me. There’s not much I can say to that (mostly because I can’t be bothered). Perhaps that’s why they save that line for when the tenant undoubtedly asks why the cost has gone up.

When I moved in to my place, it was brand new. My argument, therefore, is that the rent should decrease because it is now a lived-in apartment. My cat has slightly clawed one of the bedroom curtains - yes, it’s my fault for having a cat but now that I have to live with a slightly frayed curtain surely I should pay less, shouldn’t I? It’s going to come out of my security deposit at the end of the day, let’s face it.

What baffles me more is the fact that my neighbour (whom I get on with very well and have six-weekly wine and cheese evenings with) has had her rent increased, while I have not. Our apartments are literally mirror image replicas of one another. Obviously I’m not complaining and I’ve signed the lease already - which is why I didn’t mind telling her that my rent wasn’t increased, when she asked me. She went to the landlord, obviously, asking what the ruddy hell they were playing at, only to have the old “market value” chestnut fed to her. When she asked why she had been singled out over me, their response was that her flat is “bigger and better”.

Literally - they are the same size. And better? Excuse me - is that a jab at my choice in décor?

David Cox, the managing director at ARLA, says that “the rising cost of rent in this country is a huge issue, and is preventing tenants from being able to save to buy a home. Tenants are already spending a significant proportion of their income on rent, and therefore struggling to save any money. With weekly rent likely to rise, home ownership will remain out of reach for many.”

How uplifting!

I suppose it’s not about greedy landlords and more about the economy as a whole. But what’s the solution, exactly? Don’t rent? Live with your parents for longer and save? But what about the fact that entry-level positions barely pay you enough to get to and from work in the first place? On top of that, I HAD to move out of my family home, otherwise either myself or my mother would have ended up buried under the patio. We are very close but it was time for me to fly the nest. The day I decided to rent somewhere on my own was the day we had a venomous slanging match over who put the hoover back in the cupboard without winding the power cable properly around the plastic hook thingy.

I question why renting is often looked at as a sort of failure. Just because you have enjoyed life and not squirrelled away your pennies at every given opportunity, all the while living somewhere that you don’t actually own, doesn’t mean you are a lesser human being. I love renting - I can emigrate to Bermuda tomorrow if I want to, without any ties to a property sale; and if my boiler explodes the landlord just sorts it out while I sit in the living room watching ‘Dragons’ Den’.

The report tells us that London and its more affluent surrounds (St Albans for example) already has an average renting total of £68,000 based on people moving out at the age of 18 and buying 13 years later. These 18-year-olds, wherever they are, are lucky - I didn’t move out til I was 27. I am now 32.

*Pause while I work out how much I have spent in the last 5 years*

I can confirm that these figures are accurate - and now I slightly hate myself. But (and my mother would agree) its been worth it; for our relationship, sanity and for my independence. I guess now’s as good a time as any to admit to not winding in that hoover cable...