The Reality Of Being Part Of Generation Transient: ‘I’ve Lived In Five Houses In The Past 12 Months’

There are almost four million private renters in the UK - and anyone of us could be made homeless at the drop of a hat Photographs by Matilda Hill-Jenkins


by Alice Carder |
Published on

I moved to London three-and-a-half years ago and in that time I’ve had five different homes.

The most memorable was the ex-Lithuanian embassy where I lived for 14 months as a 'property guardian'. I lived in the ageing townhouse with six others, guarding it from unwanted visitors and ensuring it was kept in the state we found it in (pretty good, except for the ceiling in the basement which had caved in). The building boasted a sweeping staircase adorned in emerald carpet and a drawing room with floor-to-ceiling windows and enough room to throw one hell of a party (which we never did – ever – because it was against the rules), one large shared kitchen, balcony areas around the front and back of the house, five toilets and four spare rooms leftover to keep – well, you know – shoes. All of this for £350 a month, including bills.

The catch? Knowing I could be asked to leave any day. I was on a month’s notice, which seemed like loads of time to find somewhere new. But as the weeks passed, I grew increasingly anxious. The creepy empty bedrooms (still painted 10-year-old-girl lilac), the raised shower cubicle with grubby plastic doors that never relinquished more than a few droplets at a time and the out-of-place air vent on my bedroom wall meant that, despite being filled with my possessions, my room never really felt like 'home'.

And then last summer, I was knocked over by a black cab as I crossed the road nearby. That’s when I realised how insecure my position really was. Laid up with a shattered elbow and leg brace, I panicked that we would be asked to leave. How would I move all my things? I had no family in London to help. How would I attend viewings and find somewhere else to live in time? Luckily, we managed to stay another 10 weeks before we were asked to vacate, by which time I was just about mobile enough to cope with the move.

However, the fear I felt reflects the situation thousands of private renters in London find themselves in. ‘Endless cycles of short-term lets, soaring rents and sky-high letting agent fees mean that renters in this country can’t find the stable home they need to plan for the future and put down roots,’ Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, told The Debrief. Similarly, the Citizens Advice Bureau confirm that one in five of the enquiries they handle is now to do with housing.


In my new documentary, *No Place Like Home, *I meet the people across the city who are fighting to create safe, secure homes for themselves in London. One common theme is that the huge demand for rental accommodation creates a system that disproportionately favours landlords, leaving many of us at their mercy.

‘In the last place I lived, the boiler broke three times, leaving us with no hot water for weeks,’ explains Monique Jasper a 33-year-old security manager. ‘A pipe burst, flooding the lounge and making a huge hole in the ceiling, which was never fixed. We had damp and mice. I contacted the landlord constantly, but he just ignored my emails and fobbed me off saying he would get round to it. I was paying £580 a month, including bills, but I was barely ever there. I ended up staying with mates most of the time. I didn’t feel settled at all. I never invested in furniture for my room because it never really felt like home and I worried I’d have to move on before long.’

Monique's instincts proved correct: a few weeks later, the landlord announced he was selling the property. ‘One day, a surveyor came round on behalf of a potential buyer and deemed the place "uninhabitable". I wasn’t surprised. I’m staying with a friend again now, as I’m still waiting for my deposit and can’t afford to look for another place until I have it. I’m the ultimate backpacker. I travel light because it’s necessary in London. At some point, I’d like to establish myself here but the rental market makes it very difficult to ever feel settled, or even to unpack.'


Short-terms contracts mean many of us are moving far more often than we’d like – and often paying for the privilege. Anna Barret, a 26-year-old teaching assistant from south London, shares a three-bedroom house in Peckham for £650 a month. Six months ago, she was paying £500 just two streets down, until her landlord terminated the contract.

‘If anything, I have less space now and in a rougher area. I think our landlord realised he could get a lot more money than he was charging after the six months, so he turfed us out with hardly any warning,' she explains.

The move cost Anna £1,075. ‘If it was just once a year that would be one thing, but I’ve moved five times in the past 12 months. I lose money on every deposit I put down, regardless of how meticulous and careful I am. I feel like landlords know they can take the piss. I’ve been charged £80 for a casserole dish, which they said I lost – but it definitely wasn’t there when I moved in. I earn £27k a year – which should be enough to be able to live in a not-so-great area without having to take out a loan!! – but the moving process completely cleared me out.’

I’ve been charged £80 for a casserole dish which they said I lost – but it definitely wasn’t there when I moved in

Anna has no guarantee this won’t happen again. She says she’s tempted to leave London because at least then she might stand a chance of saving a deposit for a home but she needs to be here for work and her family live here, too.

Leaving the UK altogether is the solution some young women are opting for. After moving house 15 times in five-and-a-half years, and suffering a few horror stories along the way, Marilyn Rose, a 24-year-old web designer, recently gave up on London altogether and moved to Berlin.

'I was 18 when I rented my first place in London. The only place I knew to look was Gumtree. It was full of obvious scams, such as asking you to transfer money before you'd even seen the place. Plus,there were less obvious ones, too – for example, waiting until you got there then showing you a coffin with mould on the walls, disgusting smells and a missing front door; all for the lovely price of £600 a month,' she explains.

‘After weeks of searching, I found a tiny little flat in New Cross. The first week everything seemed fine, until I came home to find the landlady and her sons in my flat looking at my stuff. I felt scared, annoyed and alone. She said it was her flat and she could come in whenever she wanted; I didn't know any better. I would wake up constantly to the sound of very loud sex and banging in the bedroom next to me. The first time, I was so frightened I ventured into the hallway at 3am with the nearest heavy object and stood outside the room, before I realised what was happening.'

Things got even worse. ‘The next morning, a girl and one of the landlady's sons were in my kitchen eating my food and watching TV. They took their time getting ready before they left. I felt so intimidated. I spoke to my landlady and she repeated that it was her flat, her rules. As time went on, I realised she'd given all her sons keys and they would bring prostitutes back regularly. Another house I rented was being used by drug dealers. I’ve moved to Berlin now where I can afford an apartment in the centre of town for the same price I paid for those rooms in London.’

For most of us, the projected average age at which we’ll be able to buy our first home in London is 52

So what’s the answer? For most of us, the projected average age at which we’ll be able to buy our first home in London is 52. So what do we do until then? There are certainly things the Government could do to make things easier for renters. For a start, they could regulate landlords and introduce more long-term contracts.


I’m very happy in my current flat in Brixton. I share with two lovely girls, have enough room to do yoga on my bedroom floor (I can’t afford to go to classes anymore) and I feel at home. But for how long? I’ve already started selling off my clothes so I can move quickly and easily if I have to. Sometimes I think living out of a rucksack would be the best option, but deep down what I really want is a proper home.

Stability is something we all need to thrive and live a healthy, happy life. A lack of it can cause emotional and physical damage through stress and can have lasting psychological impact. Plus, we’re all young and free now, but what happens when we want to have children and they have to move schools every few months because we haven’t been able to create a home of our own to raise them in?

*No Place Like Home will be broadcast on London Live, Freeview channel 8, June 29 at 7pm. *

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

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How To Deal When Your Housemate's Boyfriend Has Basically Moved In

Follow Alice on Twitter @alicecarder

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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