They Do It Better Over There…
You’re probably bored of hearing me say ‘they do it better over there’.
Maybe it’s that combination switching the work emails off, feeling the sun on your back and enjoying a relaxed local tipple in a pleasant village square that prompts that sense you’re in a place where it’s just that bit better than back home.
I had that feeling on my summer holiday to Italy. Glorious sunshine, amazing food and friendly locals. While out there, I couldn’t help but strike up conversations with them about the country’s rental ‘culture’. Okay, so I couldn’t switch off from work completely…
But I returned even more convinced we’re doing it wrong over here. When I say ‘us’, I don’t mean you or I, I mean the politicians and successive Governments who continue to plough headlong into selling this dangerous perception that home ownership is the be all and end all.
Over in Italy, I learned there are strict regulations in place that encourage long term letting as a widespread residential solution for all. Landlords have to give lengthy six month notice periods if they intend to sell their property and many tenants are happy to rent the same property for many, many years knowing they cannot be ejected on a whim.
Over there, renting is seen as a sensible, secure and hassle-free way to live.
‘Ah, but look at the state of their economy,’ I hear you say. Well, let’s take Germany as an example instead then. According to the most recent figures, just 43 percent of the population own the home they live in. In the UK, that figure is more than 70 percent.
The UK rental market remains dominated by young, successful professionals for a reason. They’re fresh out of university and are encumbered with debt that will take years to pay off. The chances of them being able to save for a deposit for a house are a dim and distant hope.
But one thing that seems to get overlooked is that many also actually enjoy the freedom of not being weighed down by mortgages. They’d rather spend the money elsewhere than on bricks and mortar.
For them, rental is a lifestyle choice and not some veiled sign that they’ve squandered their chance at a financially secure future because they don’t have a miserable one bed flat in their own name.
It’s wrong that we naturally think this way and, as countless other cultures not too dissimilar to our own prove, it can be achieved if only we were to set the right mood music.
But let’s give the Government some credit where it’s due. And that’s on their efforts to try to clamp down on zero hour contracts. This is a step in the right direction, because they create nightmares for people trying to rent property.
Zero hours contracts immediately cause a referencing company to reject an applicant who could otherwise be perfect. Even if a tenant has a guarantor, there is a worry about the impact a sudden change of hours could have on their ability to pay rent. The instability it causes helps neither the tenant nor the landlord.
If we can’t start, piece by piece, breaking down the barriers to a secure rental culture, and acknowledging that renting is actually a lifestyle choice for many millions in this country, then we’ll be well on our way to having an industry that’s run by professionals, for professionals.