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Monday 21st
posted by Joana Ramiro in Features

An informative book on the scandal which is private-sector renting doesn’t go far enough for JOANA RAMIRO

• The Rent Trap: How We Fell Into It and How We Get Out of It, Samir Jeraj and Rosie Walker (Pluto Press/Left Book Club, £12.99)

THE night after I read the first chapter of The Rent Trap I was assaulted by a series of anxiety dreams.

They were populated by rogue landlords locking me out of my own home and emails warning that my rent was now going up by 10 per cent.

Thankfully, I woke up to realise that I had been fortunate enough never to have gone through anything worse than perpetually unfixed showers.

But, to many, nightmares like mine have come true.

Samir Jeraj and Rosie Walker’s The Rent Trap is a chilling account of how the housing market in Britain is fully out of control.

Rents no longer reflect market demands, or even tenants’ purchasing power, and have become simple tools of extortion at the hands of unregulated individuals.

The authors’ analysis of the estate agents’ boom — another sphere lacking serious government controls — reveals the depths to which parasitical capitalism has plunged.

Extortionate agency fees and credit checks, deposits of over £1,500 and demands of several months’ rent in advance have become standard procedure in Britain’s private rented sector.

If anyone refuses, the search for a home needs to start again and not everyone has the privilege of time.

Another area explored by the authors is the incestuous relationship between political elites and landlord lobbies.

Over 25 per cent of British MPs currently own rented property and the Blair family, it was revealed last week, have a property portfolio worth £27 million.

The sale of council housing stock has been encouraged by councils and is happening all around the country. Some politicians profit grossly from their shares in property developing companies, grabbing once publicly own land.

The system itself is geared to keep the ever-expanding privately renting population in relative poverty and landlords in riches.

Rent controls have been fought against tooth and nail by landlord lobbies, while renters’ rights groups like Generation Rent have considerably less financial resources to press the right buttons and make them happen.

And mainstream media wilfully ignore the plight of the millions decanted, evicted and made homeless every year.

A glimmer of hope comes from the simple fact that the housing scandal is becoming more and more the breeding ground for new grassroots movements and politicised citizens.

That said, little is advanced of Jeraj and Walker’s own advice on this matter, truly a shame.

Despite the book’s subtitle, their journalistic and in-depth research yields few solutions to the problem and an appendix by solicitor Dirghayu Patel on how to take a landlord to court is the best we are left with, next to all the campaigns listed in the footnotes.

Renters could have done with a call to action — however modest — or even a manifesto.

Even so, Jeraj and Walker are to be commended for showing us in detail how royally shafted those of us stuck in the rent trap are.

But with newspapers and magazines churning out daily propaganda on how poor living standards are just the new normal, a little agitation wouldn’t have gone amiss.