‘London is starting to lose its magic’

Hayley is 34 and lives in Camden, north London with two flatmates. She works in marketing. Hayley

I’ve lived in London for eight years.  I was born in Scotland and grew up in Devon, but London is my home now.

In those eight years I’ve lived all over London. I’ve moved seven times so far and now I’m about to move again.

I started off in a £500 a month room and then moved to a £450 a month room, and I was working two jobs at the time as well, trying to save.

Then I moved because I was living with six people and it was too much so I moved in with five, which was a bit better!

Then I moved somewhere that was nice and just with two girls but I couldn’t stay long, as it was over my budget.

By chance I ended up in this beautiful flat because I knew the two guys who lived here and the girl they lived with was moving out.  It is expensive, it’s £1,800 a month for a two bedroom flat in a very noisy area.  But we love it here and the landlord has allowed us to get some cats so we feel really settled.

Our lease is up on 4 March and we had a letter from the landlord company a couple of months ago telling us they planned to increase the rent to £2,800 a month.

Our contract stated the increase would only be at the rate of inflation, but they decided to give us a completely new contract.

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It was a massive shock, particularly because they had allowed us to have pets only a couple of months before, so we thought we’d be here for quite a while.

A 51% rent increase is insane, my landlord is a property developer but I’m not sure how they came to that figure.  We disputed the increase, and after a few weeks they did drop the increase to 15%. I’m paying more than half my monthly salary on the rent as it is so I still have to move out.

This will be my eighth move in eight years.

Having moved practically every year I’ve also been looking every year, and I’ve noticed a steep increase in rent. Three years ago I could get a decent room in a nice flat for £650 a month, now it’s more like £800 or £900 for the same sort of thing.

And it’s like that all over London.  Whenever I see my friends who live in other parts of London I ask them what they are paying, and it’s the same.  Everyone is very open about it, it’s something we talk about a lot – how much money we’re paying out on rent.

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I always try to find a place with a private landlord who I can deal directly with. If you go through an agency there are so many fees: inventory fees, reference fees, the list goes on. We found one flat which came with £500 fees. That’s not money you can just pluck out from anywhere.

I feel that I’m a bit of a traveller, because I’m never able to get settled. But the biggest practical issue, aside from physically moving, is that I have to change my details with the bank and so on and in the past that has affected my ability to get a credit card, because I’ve moved so often.

The only savings I have are in the deposit, everything else is spent on bills and living.  Even if I do manage to save, something unforeseen always crops up like dental work.

Home when you’re renting comes down to being able to create a relationship with the people you live with, watching a TV series together and cooking together, that sort of thing, having that communal space that you can all use.  But on the rental market I’ve seen a big increase in landlords getting rid of the living space, turning it into a bedroom to get maximum rent.

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But then you start to lose the magic of London, you want to feel like an actual person, not like someone just coming in and living out of one room.

At my age a lot of my friends are settling down, or they’re lucky enough to have their parents help them out with a deposit to buy a place, or they’re in a very well paid job.  But for people like me that don’t have that financial back up its impossible to think about buying.

I don’t want to be sharing a flat when I’m 40 or 50. I can’t imagine myself being a tenant at that age.

I feel that it’s desperate times.

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Shelter gives free, expert advice on letting agent’s fees  and tenancy agreements.

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