"I've spent £44,000 so far - and counting": could rental caps ease the burden for London tenants?

Londoners are now spending almost half their wages on rent - how long will it be until the negatives of London living start to outweigh the positives?

For the pleasure of taking part in London’s skewed rental market for the past seven years, in an array of properties in Zones 2 and 3, I have spent £44,000 so far... and counting.
In the days of work experience stints combined with low-paid jobs, ensuring that I had enough money for rent regularly involved stressful tears at the cash machine. A few years into my career, I am able to pay more in rent. However, rents are higher and rising, so the standard of accommodation isn’t any better.


I mistakenly thought that paying £1,300 a month would be enough for a decent flat, but you have to fork out quite a bit more for a noticeably better property.
Half your pay
For many, the negatives of London living are starting to outweigh the positives. Recent House of Commons figures reveal that rents in the capital, at an average £300 a week or nearly half the average weekly wage, are the highest ever.
That’s before you add in council tax, bills and the extra charges every time you have to move on. Deposits, “check-in” and agency fees can easily amount to thousands.
How on earth are tenants supposed to save? Home ownership has become such a distant concept to me. I don’t see it as a God-given right, but if renting wasn’t so expensive, at least I could save and one day make it an option.
Doing the maths
Among my renting friends who mostly live in outer Zone 2, either in flats or house shares with pals or partners, it is normal for rent to eat up well over a third of income.
An inner London teacher friend says rent uses up 40 per cent of her salary, so she is short of cash every month. Another friend tells me that in four years he has handed over an incredible £60,000 to the landlord of the one-bedroom flat he shares with his girlfriend in Putney.

Is capping the answer?
Critics say Seventies-style rental caps could make the problem worse, leading to a shortage of private rental homes, including posing a threat to buy-to-let. My recent trips to San Francisco and Stockholm — both cities where rent controls have been linked to housing shortages — highlighted the potential drawbacks.
But what if there was a modified, modern version? Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Shelter housing charity, says “sky-high rents” must end, and that there is a need for longer-term tenancies where rents can’t rise faster than inflation.
In Germany, where nearly half the population are tenants, rent rises are limited to no more than 10 per cent above the local average in areas with rental property shortages.
Back home, the National Housing Federation says a long-term plan is needed to end the housing crisis rather than “short-term, sticking plaster policies”.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to cap rent increases, introduce three-year tenancy agreements and ban letting agents’ fees if his party wins power in May — changes that could make a real difference to many Londoners.
However, campaign group Generation Rent says these plans do not go far enough. It wants flexible rent caps set locally, with rents charged above the cap taxed to fund new social housing. The Green Party’s proposals include capping annual rent increases, longer tenancies and scrapping fees.
What everyone seems to agree on, including the Tories and Lib-Dems, is the need to build more homes.
As for my generation, by the time the solution comes we will all have been forced out of the city we want to live in.
Twitter: @mirandeee


My problem is I genuinely live in constant fear of getting the eviction notice. It’s emotionally and financially draining

@Shareamortgage Maybe sharers should club together and rather than pay rent, find somewhere to buy with their increased buying power

@alfamillieromeo  Please don’t lump all landlords together. I’d like long-term tenants but most don’t want to commit

@ged_adamson High rents issue doesn’t often come up in Parliament. Maybe because lots of our MPs are landlords?

@davidchow I would be happy with a long-term tenant. Not all landlords are greedy. Just want somebody who will respect the property

@WhittyAuthor Our previous landlord would not agree to a long-term contract because they wanted to hike our rent every six months

@GemmaHaimes This is all so true. The situation is tedious. Renting shouldn’t have to be another word for unstable. #6homesin4yrs

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty and Facebook