Happy Rent Freedom Day!

Happy Rent Freedom Day!

What does that mean? Simple – if the average UK flatsharer started the year putting all their take home pay towards rent, it would have taken till now to pay it off. That means May 12th is the first day of the year you’d be working just for yourself.

That’s a massive chunk of your life spent working just to pay the rent.

But what if every day was Rent Freedom Day?

Someone’s about to get the chance to find out, thanks to SpareRoom’s Live Rent Free competition. It’s one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ things – we’re going to pay one lucky flatmate’s rent for a whole year.

Yep, you heard right.

What would you spend the money on? The trip of a lifetime? Starting a business? Clearing your credit card debt?

These are some of our favourite responses so far!

“I would always order guacamole when I had a burrito (even though it costs more)”

“Holiday like a Z-list reality TV celebrity”

“Buy flights to South America as I really want to go to Costa Rica and hold a baby sloth”

If you want to find out what happened to the last person we gave a whole year’s rent to, check out our blog post (**spoiler alert – this link does not include baby sloths or guacamole**)

So, what are you waiting for? Enter Live Rent Free now to be in with a chance of winning. Oh, and happy Rent Freedom Day!

How living rent free changed one person’s life

Back in 2009, when we first launched Live Rent Free, we decided to give away a year’s rent to kick things off. We figured a whole year without paying rent might give someone the opportunity to do something exciting, or maybe even life changing. Thousands of people clearly agreed and entries started flooding in. We picked a winner and emailed her with the fantastic news.

Nothing happened.

We waited a few days…still nothing. We emailed again. Nope. So we took to social media to see if anyone out there could help find our winner. Still no luck.

Then, two weeks later, just as we were having the do we need to pick another winner? conversation, an email arrived.

‘I didn’t get the original no, thank you for mailing me again. Jo.’

Quickly followed by another…

‘Didn’t fully read the last email, now I’ve read the second bit… I’m sort of freaking out. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything before!’

Turns out the original email went into her junk folder but, finally, we’d found our winner. At the time, Jo lived in London (Balham, to be precise). We worked out her prize, based on the average rent in her postcode, and sent her a cheque for £7,072, along with a note asking for a bit of info about herself and what she planned to do with the money.

‘I moved to London from Manchester in order to go back to university, where I study illustration. I entered the competition on a whim then forgot all about it. I have to say when I read your email my brain stopped responding to what I was seeing, which is a bit worrying for an art student. I have no idea what I’ll spend the money on…probably  a Cintiq, which is a sort of computer screen you can draw on. Then I guess lots of nice books and beer for my friends!’

Lucky friends!

Our lucky winner, Jo

Fast forward to 2017 and we decided Live Rent Free deserved a little bit of a refresh. We’d given away over £60,000 in our regular monthly competition by then, but, inspired by our founder Rupert’s experience of finding roommates when he moved to New York, wanted to give someone else the chance to live rent free for a whole year.

While we were discussing it someone in the office asked what had happened to Jo since she won. We had no idea, so sent her a quick email to see if she minded us asking what she’d done with the money. Thankfully, we got a quick response this time!

‘I’m so happy you got in touch! It was life changing actually.

I was studying illustration at the time, and I used the money to buy a Cintiq. It’s a drawing tablet, like a big screen you can draw directly onto to make digital artwork. After I graduated I worked at a couple of studios in London, then within the year I decided to go freelance and move to Australia. I only brought one bag of clothes and my Cintiq. 

Since then I’ve been working as an illustrator, and I actually got to do some work with the company who make the tablet (Wacom) which was amazing, they kindly gave me a Companion (a smaller Cintiq you can carry around) and I also won another small one, so I’m now the proud owner of three of them! The first one is still my favourite though, I use it every day! 

I’ve attached some pictures of my workspace, see if you can spot the cat!

If you want to see some of my artwork, there are a few pieces of personal work on here http://jo- ley.tumblr.com/ 

I really want to say a big thank you to you all for the competition and prize money. I’m lucky enough to have a job I love, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without that piece of equipment, so you really helped make my dream of becoming an artist come true.’

Jo and Gambit

We didn’t need any more convincing that a year’s rent free could change someone’s life!

So, now it’s your turn. How could a year living rent free change your life? Would you travel, start a business, go back to uni or volunteer? Or would you just use the money to pay off your debts?

Enter now for your chance to live rent free for a year.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering…a year’s rent in Balham now comes to rather more than it did eight years ago – £9,449 to be precise!)

London vs New York – Which is the best city to rent in?

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If you live in a city, chances are you spend a fair bit of time complaining about the cost of living, particularly if you live in London or New York.

Both regularly feature on lists of the world’s most expensive cities for good reason. Yet both are also amongst the most creative, vibrant, diverse cities in the world.

We decided to ask flatmates in London and NYC how they live. By looking at average rents, cost of living, who people live with and how they commute, we’ve been able to build up a fascinating head to head picture of how London and New York really compare.

Let’s dive in and look at the typical flatmate in each city….

The Typical Flatmate – UK

 

So, the average Londoner earns less, is slightly younger and is more likely to have several flatmates. But how far does her money go? Let’s look at rents.

 

Renting & Affordability – UK

 

London is definitely cheaper than New York when it comes to rent, which might come as a surprise to a few Londoners. You’re also more likely to get some outside space for your money.

Those annual savings make it pretty clear that living with flatmates is way cheaper than renting on your own too!

Next we looked at the cost of living…

 

Cost of living – UK

 

Turns out that, while Londoners earn less, they also need to spend a lot less on bills and food.

Finally, the dreaded commute. How do Londoners get around and how long do we spend commuting compared to New Yorkers?

 

Getting Around – UK

 

The typical Londoner has a longer commute than her New York counterpart. Only one in three Londoners has a commute of less than 30 minutes, compared to half of New Yorkers. Looks like Londoners are more healthy though, as we’re more likely to use our commute to exercise (and we’re less likely to hop in a cab!)

So, there you have it. Which city wins? The truth is that both London and New York are incredible places to live, but the experience is a little different – Londoners have cheaper rents, bills and general cost of living, but those higher salaries mean New Yorkers tend to have more money left at the end of the month.

So, which would you choose?

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How about living in London (or anywhere) rent free?

If you don’t already, make sure you’re entering SpareRoom’s Live Rent Free competition. Every month we give away a month’s rent to one lucky flatsharer. If you don’t enter, it’s not going to be you, is it?

Government to ban agents’ fees

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There’s some huge news for renters in today’s Autumn Statement. The government has announced plans to scrap all letting fees charged to tenants ‘as soon as possible.’

That means when you move, all you can be asked to pay is your first month’s rent and a deposit. No more charges for credit checks, inventories or admin fees. Those will now have to be paid by the landlord.

Unsurprisingly, when we asked SpareRoom users earlier this year whether you were in favour of this change, 92% of you said yes. Surprisingly, 75% of landlords also agreed.

Scotland already scrapped letting fees charged to tenants in 2012 – now England and Wales will follow suit, after the chancellor’s surprise announcement today.

We’ll update you when we know more about when these will come into effect. In the meantime, tell us your experiences of letting fees in the comments below.

Deadline for Welsh landlords to register is fast approaching

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Landlords in Wales now need to become registered, according to a ruling that came into effect on November 23rd 2015 and gave people a year to register.

That means the deadline is in less than a week.

If you haven’t registered yet here’s a quick guide to the new system and what you need to do.

Who needs to register?

If you own a property in Wales that you don’t live in and rent it out on an assured, assured shorthold (AST) or regulated tenancy you need to register.

Who else does it affect?

If you act as the agent for a property you don’t own then you won’t need to register but may need to apply for a license. Click here for more info on licensing.

What about holiday lets?

If the property you rent out is a holiday let you’re not a landlord under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 so don’t need to register.

That also applies if you let someone (e.g. a relative) live in your property rent free.

How do I register?

You can register at rentsmart.gov.wales

All you need to do is create an account and follow the steps online.

You need to complete the registration yourself – you can’t get an agent to do it for you.

What does it cost?

Registration costs £33.50 if you do it online – the fee covers you as a landlord and doesn’t increase if you own multiple properties.

Applying via a paper application instead of online costs £80.50.

What happens next?

Your registration lasts 5 years – after that you need to register again. By law you’ll need to keep your information up to date in the meantime.

That includes things like changes in name, address or contact details and adding more properties to your registration.

For full details and to register online visit rentsmart.gov.wales

Move over tuition fees, rent rises are the hottest topic for students

Tuition fees have been fiercely debated in recent years. But rising rents are having just as big an impact on student debt, with the university you choose making a huge difference to how much you owe when you graduate.

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There’s been an annual rent rise of up to 10% in some university cities, meaning students are up to £600 a year worse off. However this year students aren’t just battling rising rents, they’re also affected by a private rental market struggling to cope with demand – in parts of London and Edinburgh, 5 people are competing for every room available. Overall this means that where you go to uni can have a huge impact on your housing experience and post graduation debt (no one mentions that at the open day).

For example, the difference between rent for students at Imperial College in London compared to those studying at St. Andrew’s in Scotland is a massive £792 a month. Over a three-year course the difference is eye watering – over £28,500. Even choosing Durham over Oxford could save students more than £7,000 in rent over three years.

Durham students have one of the best chances of finding a student-friendly house share, with 92% of rooms available to students – over 20% more than the national average. Durham is also arguably one of the best cities to be a student as rents in the area have actually decreased over the past year – bet you’re feeling smug now Durham students!

Check out our table below for all the facts, figures and average room rents in 30 of the UK’s top university towns and cities:

Rank University Location Ave monthly room rent Q2 2016 (£) Annual % difference between Q2 2015 & Q2 2016
1 Cambridge Cambridge £541 6%
2 Oxford Oxford £557 10%
3 St Andrews Kirkcaldy £339 3%
4 Surrey Guildford £574 9%
5 Loughborough Loughborough £350 3%
6 Durham Durham £362 -1%
7 Imperial College London SW7 £1,131 4%
8 Lancaster Lancaster £371 5%
9 Warwick Coventry £388 5%
10 Bath Bath £448 2%
11 Exeter Exeter £434 4%
12 London School of Economics London WC2 £1,034 -5%
13 Birmingham Birmingham £405 -2%
14 UCL London WC1 £870 4%
15 Coventry Coventry £388 5%
16 Leeds Leeds £374 6%
17 Southampton Southampton £436 4%
18 City London EC1 £920 2%
19 York York £400 6%
20 Sussex Brighton £511 4%
21 Edinburgh Edinburgh £469 7%
22 Kent Canterbury £418 -1%
22 UEA Norwich £401 7%
24 Nottingham Nottingham £374 4%
25 Glasgow Glasgow £390 4%
26 Heriot-Watt Edinburgh £469 7%
27 Dundee Dundee £323 4%
28 Aston Birmingham £405 -2%
29 SOAS London WC1 £870 4%
30 Manchester Manchester £414 7%

Source: SpareRoom.co.uk

As usual we’d love to hear your stories. Are you struggling with the cost of renting? Did you choose your university based on the cost of housing as much as the course? Let us know in the comments.

Flatsharing heads to the Fringe

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We’re excited to announce SpareRoom’s partnership with Rent Girl, a hilarious and brutally honest comedy about the life of a renter, written for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Rent Girl is the latest project from actress and writer Maddy Anholt and follows the success of Diary of a Dating Addict, which enjoyed a sell out run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and transferred to London’s Soho Theatre this year.

Previews start this month and run across the UK throughout July, before the show heads up to Edinburgh for the Fringe.

Here’s what Maddy has to say about Rent Girl:

Hello, my name is Maddy Anholt and I am a rent girl. I’ve been a rent girl for the last ten years in London. I worked out the other day what I’ve spent on rent in London over the last ten years. £136,000. That’s not a typo… £136,000. Pretty vomit-inducing, isn’t it?

The fact is by 2025 only 26% of young adults will be on the housing ladder. That means 74% of us will be rent boys and rent girls by 2025. Rent goes up and up and our salaries stay the same so we don’t have much choice in the matter.

But is it possible to have an enjoyable renting experience? An experience where you could leave food in the cupboards safely knowing it’d be there when you got home? Where you didn’t wake up to your flatmate watching you sleep at the end of your bed? Where you didn’t find questionable hairs in your toothbrush?

It all started in 2009 when I first came to London from a remote countryside town to try and build my empire. I put up an advert looking for work: “Young, fresh girl seeks any part-time work… excellent typing and oral skills”. You can imagine the responses I got.

Rent Girl is Sliding Doors meets Pretty Woman … was I better off taking the job as a children’s entertainer ending up with two broken toes, or should I have sold my underwear for £800 a pop to afford my rent?

Rent Girl previews opened 26th June at The Comedy Room, Camden and run throughout July. For full dates and tickets see: www.maddyanholt.com or find Maddy on Twitter @maddy_anholt

Rent Girl will be at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The Gilded Balloon, 17:30, 3rd – 29th August. www.gildedballoon.co.uk

‘Second Liverpool’ found hiding in the spare room

We desperately need another Liverpool.

There’s nothing wrong with the one we’ve got, we just need another. Right now. We also need another every year for the next 25 years. That’s a lot of Liverpools.

But let’s start with why we need one.

There’s a housing crisis. It’s a fact. We need to build 250,000 houses every year, enough for 460,000 people. That’s basically the population of…you guessed it… Liverpool.

We don’t build anywhere near that and we’re not about to. Last time we did was 1979-80.

Even if we could build a new Liverpool every year, where would we put it? Wouldn’t it just be easier if we had a spare Liverpool lying around?

As it happens, we do.

England’s homeowners have 19 million empty rooms between them. If we can persuade just 2.5% to rent them out they’d house 475,000 people. That’s basically the population of…you guessed it… Liverpool.

We could do that right now, with a decent incentive.

And we’ve finally got one.

As of April 6th people can earn £7,500 a year tax-free by renting out a room. It doesn’t just apply to homeowners – tenants can do it too with their landlord’s permission. It took us six and a half years to convince Government but they finally did it. Sounds like a decent incentive doesn’t it?

It’s a proper win-win. Tenants benefit from increased supply of affordable rooms and homeowners get a tax break to encourage them to open their doors.

Now, has anyone got a spare Manchester knocking about?

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You can find out more about the Rent a Room Scheme and how it works here.

Scary smoke alarm stats should have tenants & landlords checking their batteries

Are you among the 15% of flatsharers with no smoke alarm at home? Or perhaps you’re with the 7% of sharers guilty of removing the batteries from smoke alarms and not replacing them?

According to a worrying survey we did, only 57% of tenants told us they’re sure there’s a working smoke alarm in their flatshare. You can see the full findings in the table below. Time to check you and your housemates are safe and test that battery.

As of 1 October 2015, a new law kicked in requiring landlords to fit working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties. But a separate poll of landlords by SpareRoom revealed almost half (49%) are not aware of this change in regulation.

Going public with our findings earned us an email and a blog from the Chief Fire Officers Association who described the data as “worrying”.

Stats from the men and women in blue and yellow show that rented properties, flat shares and houses of multiple occupation are among the most at-risk properties when it comes to fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mark Cashin, Home Safety Lead for the Chief Fire Officers Association, advises: “Tenants who don’t have working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors should contact their landlord and insist that they be fitted. It’s the law.”

“The law requires that a smoke alarm is fitted on every storey of a property, and that a CO alarm is fitted in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance. It is the duty of landlords to ensure these are fitted and to test them at the beginning of every new tenancy. Houses of multiple occupation are required by law to have hard-wired smoke alarms.”

The table below shows the results of our tenants’ survey, which ran between 1 and 29 October

 

Do you have a smoke alarm in your house or flatshare? (1,060 responses)

Yes

57%

Yes but I don’t know if it’s working

16%

Yes but we’ve taken the batteries out

%

No

15%

Don’t know

5%

What’s going on in the rental market right now?

It’s that time of year again – the busiest time for flatshare hunting. There are currently 44,902 rooms available and 53,939 people looking for rooms on SpareRoom right now. When demand is up rents tend to follow suit so we’ve put together a list of average rents in the UK’s 30 biggest towns and cities.

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Before you check the list to see what’s happening near you, here are the headlines:

In August, the average room rent across the UK was £591 a month, up from £544 last year, an 8.6% annual increase.

What does this mean at a local level?

At the top of the rental scale was hipster-central East London, with room rents averaging £902 a month. After London, Reading rents were second highest at £528 per month and Brighton third at £491 per month.

At the more affordable end of the scale, you’ll see Sheffield (£343), Cardiff (£342) and Newcastle (£339) per month.

We know demand is up at the moment but just how high is it?

Edinburgh led the way in July with 22 people competing for every room advertised. Glasgow and Salford weren’t far behind at 14 people per room.

Surprisingly, competition for rooms in London, where average room rents were £710 isn’t as fierce at the moment; with seven people competing for each room in the most popular areas.

Here’s the full list:

Town/City Average monthly room rent Number of people competing for every room
London £710 7
Aberdeen £484 3
Brighton £491 7
Edinburgh £466 22
Reading £528 3
Milton Keynes £449 8
Bristol £444 15
Southampton £412 7
Manchester £380 16
Cardiff £342 8
Birmingham £417 10
Portsmouth £395 6
Northampton £387 6
Luton £423 4
Plymouth £368 2
Coventry £371 6
Leeds £351 15
Liverpool £346 5
Newcastle £339 5
Nottingham £356 5
Leicester £341 6
Derby £356 3
Preston £347 1
Sheffield £343 5
Stoke-on-Trent £340 1
Wolverhampton £357 2
Dudley £375 2
Hull £340 1
Bradford £292 4
Belfast £259 9

How does your area compare? Let us know in the comments below.