Is housing important to you?

According to the results of our recent survey, there’s no denying it is.

Here’s what you told us:

98% said that housing is an important political issue
37% said it’s the most important political issue
97% said the Government isn’t doing enough to make housing affordable
93% would be more likely to vote for a political party that prioritises housing

These are pretty powerful percentages. So powerful that spokespeople from each of the UK’s main political parties have agreed to answer your questions on housing ahead of the 2015 General Election.

Housing Election

So what would you like to ask them? Submit your question to find out what each party would do for you.

The Rules of Flatshare: The boyfriend rule

Couple on sofa

Living with a housemate you get on with can be endless fun but what happens when one housemate morphs into two? This is more common than you might think and can completely change the dynamics of the house – sometimes for the best and sometimes…not so much.

It usually starts slowly, they might stay over one night a week, but before you know it your housemate’s other half has full on moved in, often without any thought as to how you might feel about it.

Here’s how we suggest you avoid the ‘one housemate morphing into two’ scenario:

Set the record straight

41% of SpareRoom users say they’d prefer not to live with a couple. Others (11%) said they’d consider it and a third said they’d be happy to live with a couple if there was enough space in the house. With this in mind, it’s only right that you know where you stand from the very beginning.

So, when you’re looking for a new housemate, ask about partners. Drop it into the discussion when you’re getting to know the other person. If they have a partner who will stay over regularly and you’re happy with that arrangement, that’s great but you need to be clear from the outset.

Implement the boyfriend rule

This is something one of our users suggested – we think it’s genius. Simply, your housemate’s partner can stay over as many nights per week as your housemate stays at theirs. This results in a maximum of 3 nights when they’re both at yours (and if that’s the case, you get 3 nights to yourself). Fair’s fair, right?

Talk

If it turns out that your housemate’s partner is overstaying their welcome, talk about it. If you’re concerned about money, could you negotiate that they pay a split of the bills or contribute to the food shop when it’s their turn. If you’re bothered by their cleanliness or tidiness, could you ask your housemate to deal with it? Whatever your bugbear, talk about it.

Have you seen one housemate morph into two? What did you do about it? Did it make the houseshare better? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us your story.

National voter registration day

February 5th is National voter registration day.

EC_infographics_fin HR2

There are just 90 days left until the General Election on the 7th May. You may have already registered or still be deciding whether you’re going to vote. Either way, you’re probably feeling a bit confused about what you’re voting for, especially if you’re one of the 9 million people living in a privately rented home.

None of the main political parties seem to be championing the needs of renters. Yet, when we asked renters if they think housing is an important political issue, 97% said it is. A further 97% said the Government isn’t doing enough to make housing affordable and 93% would be more likely to vote for a political party that prioritises housing.

These are pretty powerful stats but they’re being ignored. Why aren’t renters being represented by politicians?

The issue is, by far the majority of people who vote are homeowners (94% of people who own their home outright are registered to vote compared to 63% of private renters) and politicians make policies for people who vote.

The result of this election could easily be swung by the votes of people who live in the private rented sector – people who make up 18% of the UK’s population – but only if they vote.

The main issue here isn’t whether you’re a renter or not, it’s about registering to vote in the first place. We won’t tell you who to vote for, that’s none of our business, but whether you’re a tenant, a homeowner who takes in lodgers or a landlord, if you don’t register to vote you won’t be able to.

Whether you choose to vote Conservative or Green or whether you choose to spoil your ballot, you’ll need to register to vote. Once you’ve done so, why not check out the housing manifestos for each party to find out who cares about you, whatever your situation.

P.S. – We’ll be interviewing each of the main political parties in the lead up to the election. We want to present your housing questions to them and get some answers. We’ve had a firm commitment from Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister and the Green Party housing spokesperson. We’re also in talks with the other parties. We’ll let you know more over the next few weeks, in the meantime, if you have a question about housing you’d like to put to politicians, feel free to let us know – either in the comments section or via Twitter or Facebook.

How to breakup with your housemates, the best way possible

At the start of January we asked about your 2015 flatshare resolutions. An overwhelming 78% of you said you wanted to move out of your current flatshare this year. Why? Some of you wanted to find a cheaper place, others wanted to find more compatible housemates and a few are hoping to rent solo or get onto the property ladder.

Those who want to get away from their current housemates told us:

“They’re too messy” 

                                             “Their habits drive me insane”

                                                                                                                  “We just don’t get on”

                        “One housemate has turned into two”

It couldn’t be clearer that many of you need to move out, pronto. There really is no time like the present so we’ve compiled some tips to help you with the inevitable; the housemate breakup.

Don’t make it personal
Strip the relationship down to basics and it’s a financial transaction between strangers. Of course it’s way more complex but if you can make it about ending the financial relationship, rather than telling someone you don’t like them, it’ll be much easier.

Show compassion
Be firm about what you need but treat the other person with respect too. If you’ve had a disagreement, try to understand the other person’s perspective. It doesn’t mean you’ll still want to live with them but, chances are, their main aim in life isn’t to wind you up – go easy on them!

Go easy
Remember most people aren’t nightmare housemates – we all behave badly from time to time, especially when we’re under pressure. Try to ease the breakup by setting a realistic move-out date so they have plenty of time to find a replacement housemate.

Don’t do it drunk
Don’t wait ‘til you’re so wound up you can’t think straight and 100% don’t do it by text or, that eternal housemate communication tool, the Post-It note on the fridge.

dumped

Talk
The biggest weapon you have is communication. Most issues can be avoided by simply talking (preferably before your housemate moves in) so you’re both clear on what’s expected. If your expectations are wildly different it’s inevitable one of you will have an issue at some stage.

Keep talking throughout living together. If there are issues, sit down with a drink and chat about them – don’t wait ‘til you’re so angry you can’t even look at each other.

There you have it – our best advice. What would your advice be to anyone needing to break up with their housemates? Have you had a bad housemate breakup? Tell us about it – either in the comment section below or on twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year. Or not…

2015

If you’re like most of us, you’ll be thinking about how you can improve yourself and your lifestyle in 2015. You may want to get fitter, find a new job or perhaps even get on the property ladder. You might also have financial resolutions – to save more or to get rid of debt.

One financial resolution we’ll bet you’re not considering is to pay more rent. Yet one in four landlords plan to raise their rents in 2015. Not the news you were hoping for, is it?

Nevertheless, many of you predicted it. When we asked you what you expect to happen to your rent in 2015 here’s what you said:

37% thought it would go up by more than 3%
13% said up by less than 3%
29% expected it to stay the same
An optimistic 22% thought their rent would go down

In reality, the news isn’t all bad. Over half (55%) of landlords won’t be increasing rents this year and 5% will even lower them.

What worries us though, is the threat that rents could rise by more than 3%. In 2014 average UK room rents rose 8%, from £505 to £546. If rents rise by 8% again next year, that will mean an extra £44 a month.

This is something you’ve told us you simply can’t afford – more than half (56%) of you say you’d be forced to find alternative, cheaper accommodation if your rent went up by up to £40 per month.

So what can you do if your rent does go up?

If your landlord suggests a rent rise that you don’t think is justified or your can’t afford:

Check your contract. If it’s a fixed term contract and the fixed-term isn’t up, the landlord isn’t allowed to increase the rent, unless there’s a clause stating so.

Negotiate. This could be an ideal opportunity to negotiate with your landlord. Perhaps ask for bills to be included in the rent or for property improvements. You can’t lose anything by asking.

Are you expecting your rents to increase? What will you do? Tell us

 

What we’ve learned about housing in 2014… from you

We carry out a lot of surveys every year on SpareRoom.co.uk, ranging from a quick Friday afternoon poll on who does the cleaning in your house, right up to our huge Flatshare Census. Thanks to all of you who took part and took the time to let us know what you think.

Perhaps the most insight you’ve given us is that 97% of you don’t think the Government is doing enough to make housing affordable.

It’s not difficult to see why. Based on the 10,300 responses to our 2014 Flatshare Census:

18% of you don’t EVER expect to buy your own home. A further 18% don’t expect to be able to buy for at least ten years.

22% of you spend more than 50% of your income on rent and 29% consider your rent unaffordable.

We also learned that 21% of flatshares don’t have living rooms and 5% of flatsharers even share a bedroom (with someone other than their partner).

It’s not all been doom and gloom though – you’ve also made us smile. When we asked who you’d rather live with, 63% of you said a flatmate who never speaks rather than one who never shuts up.

We also asked about the cleaning rota. 48% admitted the same person or people end up doing all of the housework and 20% said ‘What’s housework? We have a cleaner’.

stickynote

So, a big thank you for all you’ve taught us in 2014. Enjoy the Christmas break and we’ll see you in 2015 (with plenty more questions, of course).

‘Tis the season to be merry

SFM

It’s nearly Christmas, which means your diary is ready to burst – drinks dates with your friends, your friends’ friends and dinner dates with every relative in your extended family, including your long lost aunt Maud. Then there’s the annual office Christmas party, your pre-Christmas celebrations with housemates and suddenly it’s time to head home for festivities with the family.

With all this festive fun, you’re not thinking about a house move. This is why we’ve put SpeedFlatmating on hold for the rest of the month. We’ll be back to business as usual from the 6th January so book your place today. Until then, enjoy the merriment and have an eggnog for us. See you in the New Year!

 

 

The crazy things we do to raise money for Shelter – part II

We promised to keep you posted on the personal challenges we’re taking on board, in order to show our commitment to the Homes for Good campaign, and raise money for our chosen charity, Shelter.

Last year we told you about our indefatigable Head of Marketing, Sam, who raised over £1000 for charity by strapping herself onto a tiny board, attaching herself to a large kite in a howling gale, and setting off into the English Channel as part of the inaugural Virgin Kitesurfing Armada. More on that story here.

In September we found out that Sam and her team of intrepid kitesurfers had had their World Record snaffled from under their noses by a cheeky bunch of kitesurfers in Spain, so there was nothing else for it, and the Armada was reconvened off the South Coast in early October, with the aim of regaining the title (and raising more money for charity).

Despite an eerie stillness in the air (and a lack of wind in the forecast) over 360 watersports enthusiasts turned up just after dawn on Saturday 11th October, eager to make history by participating in the world’s largest parade of kitesurfers. If only the wind would play ball, it would be quite a sight. A rainbow appeared over the beach as they registered – was it a fortuitous sign?

rainbow

As the morning progressed without the slightest breath of wind, the crowd became restless, worried that the attempt might have to be abandoned. At noon the announcement went out that they should don their wetsuits and assemble their kite equipment on the beach ready for launch at 1pm. Incredulously, everyone got ready, but by 2pm there was still not a breath. Lewis Crathern, the professional kitesurfer headlining the event was keen to encourage optimism, interviewing participants live on the beach, broadcast over speakers to the throng, asking if they believed the wind would come.

kites on beach

Impatient watersports enthusiasts took a dip in the calm sea, after baking in the unseasonal October heat, or took to paddleboards to patrol the bay casually in anticipation. Then suddenly, the wind got up and it was go go go. Near chaos ensued as every eager participant was keen to get out on the water as soon as possible before the light wind dropped. Suddenly fifty, a hundred and then two hundred kites were in the air – a magnificent sight.

kites on water

Sam got caught up in the confusion, another kiter had set up his kite over hers and she was unable to launch at the same time as her buddies. They were far off on the horizon by the time she set off, and tried not to worry they wouldn’t be around if she got into difficulty. But the windwhipped seas and huge waves of last year were nowhere to be seen. This time the sea was calm, and the biggest challenge was working the kite so that it gave a consistent pull without dropping out of the sky and into the water. The was just enough power in her kite to take her safely into the mile zone and past the safety boats. Before she knew it, she was powering past camera crews in the boats, and past the final mile marker! After a couple of tacks Sam emerged with the board on her feet and a smile on her face onto the finish beach – she’d done it. A quick coach ride back to the start and a wait to find out if the effort had been enough to be world beating.

Each participant is given a unique tracker, and the Guinness judges were on the beach to ensure that the rules were being properly followed. But although 362 kites launched, the Spanish record of 352 kiters was not beaten, as several participants didn’t manage to make it through the mile, victims of that light wind. Missing out on a world record by just 8 kiters, the crowd’s jubilant enthusiasm could not be broken – they had done their best, and in fact broken last year’s record by a hefty margin – it was a new UK record!

Sam

Sam’s raised just under her £500 target for this year – you can help boost her total in aid of three amazing charities – Shelter, RNLI and Snowcamp. Find out more about her commitment to the challenge here.

Renting out a spare room – Azaria’s story

Azaria shares her experience of renting out a spare room in her home in Swansea, South Wales.

Azaria

“I’m happy to say that taking in a lodger has been a huge success for me. I was a 24-year old graduate working in marketing when I bought my first property (lucky, I know). It’s a two bed flat in the town centre and I advertised the room on SpareRoom. Within a few days I had quite a few responses to choose between, and arranged two viewings the following Saturday.

One of the viewers decided within a few hours that she’d like to move in with me – she’s a 31 year old Mexican who’d been living in Manchester and needed to be in Swansea for work. We get along brilliantly – she’s lovely, quiet, polite, funny and clean. We don’t see each other all that often, we’re both busy people with activities that keep us out of the flat on different nights of the week.

My boyfriend moved in with us in January. If anything he’s more of a pain in the butt than having a lodger – if he could be as clean and considerate as she is, we’d never argue again!

So I’ve gone from living by myself to living in a happy busy household of three adults, and it all works out just fine because we’re considerate and respect each other’s space. I’d recommend a lodger to anyone who’d otherwise be living by themselves – even if you’re not in constant conversation, sometimes it’s just nice to have that extra person for company, and of course the financial side doesn’t hurt either!”

Azaria benefits from room rents in Swansea averaging around £350 per month, which means that all of her rental income is tax free, thanks to the Rent a Room Scheme.

If you’d like to make your spare room work for you, post a free room ad now, and start getting enquiries.
Place a free ad

Or, to find out more about your tax free rental allowance under the Rent a Room Scheme, download your free guide.

Renting out a spare room – Tilda’s story

Tilda shares her experience of renting out a spare room in her home in Wood Green, North London.

Tilda on the right, with her flatmate (or lodger) Gemma
Tilda on the right, with her flatmate (and new-found best friend) Gemma

“I have a two-bedroomed flat in Wood Green, and whilst I could have covered the mortgage on my own, I knew things would be a lot easier with the income from a lodger. So I advertised the room on SpareRoom and got lots of replies. Gemma was one of the first to call up, and when we spoke on the phone, there was just something about her – I knew immediately we would hit it off. She was the first to view the room and I called her to let her know it was hers, but made her wait for the news, as I’m a big fan of dramatic pauses.

I’m no great shakes in the kitchen, so Gemma does most of the cooking when we’re in together. She’s practically banned me from the kitchen, but that’s no great loss as she’s a much better cook than I am. Her food is amazing!

Now Gemma’s really become part of the family. My brother got us both into boxing training, but Gemma laughs at me because I can’t punch. And my mother, who lives across the way, has been known to hang out with Gemma in the garden, the two of them chatting away and drinking wine until late.  I get a lot more than just the rent out of this relationship. I wouldn’t have met my best friend, if I hadn’t rented out my spare room.”

Tilda benefits from room rents in North London averaging around £680 per month, which means that nearly half of her rental income is tax free, thanks to the Rent a Room Scheme.

If you’d like to make your spare room work for you, post a free room ad now, and start getting enquiries.

Place a free ad

Or, to find out more about your tax free rental allowance under the Rent a Room Scheme, download your free guide.