Comment: Roll up, roll up, the most frustrating show on Earth
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Renting property in the circus of London is an eternally irritating game of hook a duck
Having spent months looking for a new rental property whilst writing about the state of the market day in, day out, it’s safe to say I am mentally and physically exhausted by the leviathan that is London’s private rental sector.
Much to the irritation of my London-raised friends, I have spent my first year as a graduate whinging about the disadvantage outsiders are faced with on entering London’s circus.
The majority of my graduate peers live at home; they pay no rent, bills or groceries. They’ve boomeranged back to teenagedom and save at least £1,000 more to spend on fairground pleasures. I don’t blame them; I just wish I had the luxury.
There are 31,434 households that rent privately in Camden according to the 2011 census, out of 819,085 in London as a whole. Of those, 29,706 rent through a private landlord or letting agency. And with that comes agency acrobatics, hoop jumping, money making magic tricks and more than a lifetime’s fair share of freak shows. Roll up, roll up to the most time consuming, tedious and soul destroying show on earth!
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Stepping into the big tent of London’s private rental market is like playing an eternal game of hook a duck. Every time you think you’ve got your a yellow duckling at the end of your line, someone else gazumps you to it.
The trick is never to go for the shiniest duck on Spareroom. The likelihood is that the Photoshop wizardry of the landlord has forged a palace from a pigsty. Hook it, flip it over and look inside, and the chances are you’ll be left disappointed.
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Of course, the top-hatted agency ringmaster knows all the right things to say, and unlike the, lets be frank, morally inept and useless landlords in the BBC’s ‘The Week the Landlords Moved in’ (no doubt now realising that television can make you look like a moron) most landlords aren’t liars.
But there is such a thing as embellishment. A ‘double room’ roughly translates to ‘if you took the wardrobe out you could definitely fit a double bed in there.’
Half the time you’re so dizzy from the carousel of the online marketplace of Zoopla and Rightmove that the sickly intoxication of the fairground’s sugary sweet offerings makes the mind boggle before you’ve even cast your eyes over the duck-filled pond. When finally casting your rod into the water, the dizziness results in a failure to ask all the right questions; how much are the bills, is there a washing machine, where’s the nearest Tube?
With my soon-to-be flatmate currently living abroad, it’s double or nothing, our futures resting on my hooking a winning duck. Being a pair of generation renters, our purse strings are pretty tightly knotted, and after paying the London general admission fee there’s not much left for the Magic Mouse.
Trying desperately to remember to check that it’s got the right EPC rating, a working hob and a functional shower for less than my entire circus budget, it almost slips my consumerist, millennial mind to ask where the nearest outpost for an essential hit of that sweet, healthy fat-filled avocado on toast and smooth flat white is located. That’s priority number one, of course.
If you do get lucky, you’ll have to be quick to claim your prize before another, cuter player shouts “it’s so fluffy” a little louder than you and mummy throws in an extra few coupons, pursuading the fairground worker to give your toy away to them.
Then there’s the additional fees; “it was two tokens to play, but to claim your cuddly Minion; you’ll have to stump up a little more.” Now due to be scrapped as per the Queen’s Speech, tenants’ fees are unfortunately not yet relegated to the history books for me and my battered bank account.
Hooking a duck on the private rental market is time consuming; it requires patience, doggedness and a sense of humour. Now with the forms signed, referencing-pending, I’ve finally tamed the Thames’ landlord lions. At last I’ve got my ducks in a row.