Housing: To rent or not to rent?

January 13, 2024
4 mins read

Rent Vs Mortgage
Lawna Elayn Tapper
An examination of the ins and outs of making one of life’s biggest monetary investments.
Can you remember the day the council gave you your first flat?  Oh joy, oh blessed day!  The carpets were musty, the curtains drab, a grotty kitchen greeted you, the toilet was in dire need of Harpic, but it was yours!  You know what I’m talking about. 
And it’s more than just having a shelter.  It’s about something deeper, something more along the lines of belonging, something belonging to you.  A home.  Somewhere to feel safe. Somewhere for you, your family and friends to enjoy being.  A home is everyone’s passion. Here, in Britain, there is still some concept of social housing, where the government provides homes for those fitting its criteria.  Then, for those who don’t, there is the private rental market.  And for those with the means, the option to buy.The foregone conclusion of growing up and leaving home and walking into your own council flat is becoming less of a reality for Britain’s youth.  So blessed are those that manage it!  The rents are reasonable, and any repairs will be taken care of, at no expense to oneself.  This being the case with all rented accommodation, why would anyone choose to buy?  This sounds like a dream. But everything has its flip-side.  If you’re an animal lover, I hope you’re only turned on by fish, caged birds or small mammals.  Those of you who like the more boisterous climbing cats, or the more vivacious barking dogs, may have a problem.  You might find yourself, at the mercy of your neighbours, seeking permission to harbour your furry friend, or making a choice to keep your pet-love quiet.The years go by and you’ve experienced several promotions at work.  Or maybe you’ve just managed to get yourself better jobs as you’ve become older, wiser and more experienced.  You’re doing okay.  You can even look around and see how much money you’ve saved, as you watch and listen to your home-owning friends cry about interest rate rises, buildings insurance and that bloody boiler that’s broken down again!You start to look at your kitchen with new enlightened eyes.  The lick of paint, that once transformed it from grotty to great, has lost its glow.  Merely redecorating seems an inadequate solution, and you now want the fitted kitchen of your brochured dreams.  Even your housing trust doesn’t know when it’s going to get funding for its decent homes programme. So, again, you’re faced with the dilemma; do you seek the landlord’s permission, hope he’ll turn a blind eye, or just try to keep the works quiet?  And then there’s the issue of, what if you move?  Even after having paid all that money, it would be tacky to try and dismantle the kitchen and take it with you.  You’ll leave it behind, knowing you’ve got nothing for having given the trust, and the next tenant, a damn nice kitchen, perhaps having borrowed money for a loan that’s not quite repaid.  So as beneficial as it is, a social home has its limitations.Even so, it has to be preferable to renting in the private market.  This is where those folk, some driven by avarice, have had the guts and found the money to buy properties.  If you don’t fit the council’s bill and have no money to buy, this is for you.  But no manner of hard-luck story will get you the keys into one of these. You’ll first need to hand over a deposit ranging from hundreds of pounds to a couple thousand. 
So if you don’t have it, put your suitcase back on top of your wardrobe, the spare bedding and curtains back in your mum’s ottoman, and stop reading now!  If you do, then this is another option.
As is the case with Tom, Dick or Daniella, who are renting from the council or any of the nation’s housing associations, the bit about the pets and the kitchen will still apply.  The good news is that you’re still not responsible for your own repairs.  The bad news is that the efficiency and professionalism, so necessary in this area, are not the certainty that it is with the council. 
your only guarantee is that you are at the mercy of your landlord, so will need to pray that he or she is good-natured and governed by a sense of integrity.  But tainted as it is with drawbacks, not being responsible for repairs is always a saving grace.However, there is another rental benefit that is conspicuous by its absence in the private market: relatively cheap rents.  These are not often reflected here.  Real life is not like a game of monopoly, and the landlords aren’t stupid!  If you own several properties, you cannot live in them all at once, yet they must all be paid for all at once.  So who pays the mortgage?
The tenants.  Clever, isn’t it.  The landlord has the deeds, will benefit from any value attributed to the property, but you actually pay the mortgage.  And because they’ll charge you more than the actual monthly mortgage, you’ll give them some extra change to fund whatever it is your landlord’s heart desires! And if your landlord decides to sell, you have got to move, ready or not.It’s also true that where councils will turn a blind eye, private landlords won’t and don’t.  Not having to tend to the thousands of homes that comprise the nation’s streets and housing estates, private landlords sometimes make the time to spot check their properties: albeit under a different pretext, if necessary. 
Editor’s note: Part 2 of this piece appears tomorrow
Lawna Elayn Tapper is a writer with Ricenpeas, an award-winning independent film production company.
Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

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