Magazine article The Spectator

Live and Let Let

Magazine article The Spectator

Live and Let Let

Article excerpt

When you tell people, they recoil as though jabbed with a lavatory brush. 'You mean you still actually pay rent?' is, in middle-class terms, a question akin to: 'You mean you still actually listen to Boney M?' But with this impending property collapse that we keep on scaring each other with -- just the other day, a team of expert economists predicted that prices will fall by more than 6 per cent over the next two years -- you might soon be hearing a lot more about people like me. People who rent, that is.

I will admit that the image of renting a flat is a bad one. One automatically thinks of a divorced man in his early fifties in a one-bedroomed effort with an uncovered immersion heater over a filthy sink who insanely believes that his place is a shag-pad; we also think of the pretty lady he has met at the bar who climbs the loosely carpeted communal stairs, her dismay deepening with every step.

Well, forget it. That's not the modern world of renting. Not my world, anyway.

Welcome to my world: it is a super-efficient place in which malfunctioning boilers are replaced for free, instantly. And washing machines. And Hoovers. It is a world in which terms such as 'B&Q', 'Homebase' and 'Osborne & Little' hold no significance whatsoever. Nor does that TV show Location, Location, Location. Or those advertisements for sofa suites starring that man who used to be in Spandau Ballet. As a result, there is more room in my life for other, more amusing things.

Like looking out of the window, for instance, and what a view it is! The high tide of the Thames, all those narrowboats and yachts bobbing by the entrance to the marina -- oh yes! That's the other thing about renting. You can afford to live in ritzy-titzy places that you could never afford to buy. Look at me sitting on my balcony with a glass of cider and an improving book, gloating at the middle-class day-trippers milling below.

Begone, property-owners, back to your more modest dwellings in less salubrious areas!

Slightly to my amazement, I find that I am not alone. According to an organisation called Hometrack, private rentals account for 12 per cent of the current housing market. On average, the cost of renting is 30 per cent cheaper than it would be taking out a mortgage on the same home. Also, they have found that 47 per cent of people moving now flit, albeit for a short time in between houses, into the private rented sector. …

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