Blogs Reports

Renting is Hard


Reported by Tess

Published on Friday, December 8th, 2023

Accommodation Eviction Mental Health Volunteering and Employment
Blogs Reports

Renting is Hard


Written by Tess

Published on Friday, December 8th, 2023

Accommodation

Eviction

Mental Health

Volunteering and Employment

It’s been a while since I last wrote. I only seem to write when something crap has happened, so I’ve been trying to write about something other than my life. It’s not worked so welcome to the latest edition of “oh woe is me.”  

In August my best friend died – Muffin the cat. She was 17. I knew it was coming. She gave us almost two months after we were told she had a large abdominal tumour. I thought watching her deteriorate had broken me, but it was nothing compared to the grief. Before August, I’d felt loss before but never heartbreaking grief. It floored me. And then slowly I felt myself return. I began to find reminders of her comforting rather than painful. I could mention her without crying. I felt capable again. 

Then in early October I receive an email: 

“We have decided to sell… after your tenancy agreement expires in January 2024. 

If you have any interest in buying the property, please let us know asap.” 

It hurt. A lot. A few weeks before we’d been told the rent was increasing – to say it came out of the blue would be an understatement. I had a flashback to receiving an eviction letter ten years ago. And all I could think was, “I’m going to be homeless again.” 

I was waiting for a train when I received the email. I was heading away for a week for work. I had an away day to attend, a workshop to deliver and a myriad of other things to get through. My partner meanwhile was at home and immediately had to start dropping into letting agents. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, we viewed a number of properties and were told by letting agents that we would struggle to find somewhere to move to in the time we had (which was more notice than we were legally owed). We applied for somewhere and were told that we had a near perfect application; trouble was the landlady wanted a long-term tenant who she could also evict quickly. She turned us down. That house is still on RightMove and the rent asked for has been reduced. I imagine it will stay that way for a while. 

Meanwhile, my partner and I were working out where we could move to if we couldn’t find anywhere in our town. The town is a bit in the sticks and we love it here. When the train works it’s an easy commute into Manchester. I volunteer here. We didn’t want to move. More than that there was another reason we didn’t want to move out of town – my mental health. 

I’ve been on a waiting list for therapy since March and I’m on the edge of the catchment area for the NHS team I’m waiting for. If we were to stay in the rough area, but not the town we are in, I would move over the boundary. To stay in the boundary would mean moving into Greater Manchester. The nearest part of Greater Manchester to here is painful to get to on public transport so I’d likely have to give up my volunteer position. Leave the boundary area, I’d have to go through the assessment process for talking therapy again and go back to the start of a waiting list. 

It may not seem like much of a dilemma, but it really was. My Saturdays are my day of respite. I get out of my home office, be amongst people, surround myself with musty smelling books, get cups of tea made for me… it’s often the highlight of my week. It balances out five days of looking at a screen. It matters as much for my mental health as the therapy will (hopefully… when it happens… if it happens.) 

We view more properties. We desperately want somewhere we can have another little furry friend in. There is nowhere. Not even the places the size of a shoebox or the places we couldn’t afford. Properties are getting multiple applicants so landlords can be as picky as they like. It’s like applying for a job – you have to present the best version of yourself and make all the compromises as demand far outstrips the supply these days.  

In November, I had a panic attack when someone knocked on the door. It had been years since I last had a panic attack. I’ve had another two since that, one also caused by a knock on the door, the other by a car door slamming outside the house. My concentration and motivation dropped. I started missing deadlines. I was shouting in my sleep. My partner had to schedule time to talk to me about moving house as I would panic, get angry or cry if he tried to talk about it out of the blue.  

I see a house a few streets away and set up a viewing. When I go I like it immediately – it was quirky and bigger than where we are. We put in an expression of interest. The landlord asks to meet with us. We are all set to meet them when the evening before we get a text. Our current landlords don’t think they are going to sell after all. They need to speak with their financial people but would we like to stay on? 

It’s good it wasn’t a phone call. 

We waited until the next day before we replied. We met with the prospective house landlords and they liked us. They offered it to us. Strictly no pets. 

Current landlords tell us it will be a week before they can tell us what they will do. 

Prospective landlords say they’ll wait. 

We have options but we are still in limbo. 

Today, we find out we can stay. We can get a pet. We can start preparing for Christmas. 

And now I’m writing this to try and make sense of what has happened in the last few months. It’s probably too soon to draw proper conclusions but here are some immediate thoughts: 

  • The private rental sector is a mess.  
  • Tenants have no control or power.  
  • Prices are astronomical.  
  • You can be declined for a property over nothing.  
  • You can be made to vacate a property over nothing.  
  • Even with solid jobs, clean credit, no pets, no children, local connection… you will struggle to find somewhere to live. 
  • Weighing up where you can live because you are waiting for medical treatment is ridiculous. If moving several counties away, perhaps, but into the next town? It’s wrong. 
  • Don’t underestimate the way homelessness stays with people. It doesn’t take much for all of those feelings and fears to reappear and wreak havoc in your life. Homelessness is hugely traumatic. 

Hopefully, the next time I write will be with something lighter or less personal but until a contract is signed all I can do is hope and continue eating chocolate like it’s the source of life itself.  

Written by Tess


Hi I'm Tess, I work for Groundswell and have a long history of mental illness. During a particularly bad patch I sofa surfed for a while. I have a very opinionated cat and live near Manchester, although I'm formerly from Stoke-on-Trent.

Read all of Tess's articles

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Accommodation Eviction Mental Health Volunteering and Employment

2 thoughts on “Renting is Hard

  1. Thanks for sharing this Tess, private renting is a total infuriating mess to navigate!! Always enjoy reading your thoughts.

  2. Tess, hello….

    I run and hasten to add to your assupmption whether …as if chocolate is source of life…itself…

    I can assure you, even as my GP may disagree, that chocolate is indeed source of life, the joie de vivre…
    slurp slurp…yum yum…
    i sincerely hope that you and your sweetheart are now settled in/ settling in…into happiness and everything it brings..

    sayonara…

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