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?

Should women get a discount on rent?

The housing crisis: we’re all in it together, right? Well, sort of. The results of our latest flatshare census show females are worse off than men when it comes to paying the rent.

Here are just a few of the findings:

  • Female flatsharers earn £1,995 less per year than males. In London the salary gap widens to £4,236
  • Female flatsharers spend an average of £276 more per year on rent than males
  • 15% of female sharers spend more than half their salary on rent, compared to 8% of males
  • Of all age groups, women in their 20s in London pay the largest proportion of their salary on rent, with 19% spending over 50%, compared to 10% of males

The census also suggests that male renters are more likely to live in bigger properties and properties without living rooms – both factors that will affect the rent so it’s not as simple as women getting the worst deal. But regardless of our rental choices, it’s 2015; there shouldn’t be a housing crisis and it really shouldn’t be affecting male and female renters to different extents.

What do SpareRoom users have to say?

Charlotte-Gill-circleBlogger, Charlotte Gill, says:

“The statistics are really quite startling, and paint a depressing state of play for femkind – even in a city as progressive as London. Looking at them you could say that women are not only underpaid compared to men, but also less savvy with money. Alternatively they might also indicate that women are more picky when it comes to their accommodation – and prepared to cough up a bit more to be comfortable.

“As a woman I do feel concerned about the quality of housing I will be able to afford in the future – especially as a singleton, as this makes it extra expensive! It seems far more sensible to couple-up if you can, as strategic as that sounds.”

Jamie AndrewsSpareRoom user, Jamie Andrews, says:

“We need to pursue better salary equality.”

Another SpareRoom user, Kathryn Renshaw, says:

“When I was flat sharing I made a choice to rent the more expensive room because it was a safer area and had better facilities. Making that choice is what equality is about.”

What do you think? Are women getting a worse deal when it comes to renting? Tell us in the comments below

 

Where in the landlord lifecycle are you?

Overlooking something as simple as proper landlord insurance or protecting the tenant’s deposit could mean you face penalty fines or even break the law.

Being a landlord is not easy; there are plenty of laws that govern the private-rented sector and the consequences of not knowing, or understanding them can be disastrous.

Help is at hand from deposit protection experts, mydeposits with a free Landlord Lifecycle ebook.

It explains renting, and how to get it right before, during and at the end of the tenancy, covering key topics:
• Preparing and marketing your property
• Carrying out an inventory and tenant checks
• Getting the right insurance
• Protecting the deposit
• Successfully managing your property
• Dealing with end of tenancy issues

Supported by experienced landlords…
Experienced landlord and contributor to the guide, Richard Blanco says, “I’ve been a landlord for 11 years and have heard countless stories from new landlords who’ve been caught out for not understanding their obligations, what to do or when to do it, so I’ve helped write the Landlord Lifecycle video to pass on my experiences, help others avoid the potential pitfalls and ensure a happy tenancy for all.”

Download your free Landlord Lifecycle ebook here.
Landlord-Lifecycle_booklet

This article was contributed by myDeposits.

Making fees transparent

For many tenants they are the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and the bane of their rental lives. Fees are a contentious subject, though, and ask any lettings agent and they’ll probably tell you it’s essential to be able to cover their costs. Fees have been banned in Scotland for a while and there’s an argument that says if agents and landlords can’t charge fees, then they will just charge higher rents, and there’s some evidence of this happening already in Scotland.

Whether fees are charged for admin, tenant referencing or drawing up a contract, it’s only fair that the tenant should know how much they’ll be expecting to shell out, in advance of making a commitment. The biggest single problem with fees has been the tendency for them to raise their ugly heads only at the last minute, when the tenant has already given notice on their current place, and it’s too late to back out. Stories of agents deciding to disclose the fact that there are hundreds of pounds to pay in fees, on the day of moving, before handing over the keys, are only too common.

So it’s a universally good thing that fees now have to be transparent. The recent CAP ruling came into force on 1st November and means that any party charging a fee to tenants (be that landlords or letting agents) must disclose them right from the start. That means the amount to be charged and what they cover must form part of every property advert. Tenants will now know from the start what they can expect to have to pay, before committing to a rental.

Room ads will be subject to the CAP ruling just as much as whole property ads. From now on, any landlord or letting agent advertising a room on SpareRoom will be asked to disclose the fees at the point of advertising. There’s a new tickbox to show that fees apply, and further details should be outlined (what the fees are for, and how much they typically will cost a tenant) in the ad details section.

Here’s to a new era of transparency, which should mean no more nasty surprises for unsuspecting tenants.

How to find flatmates to ‘banter’ with

One of the delights with a website as large and complex as SpareRoom is that it’s often our customers who show us interesting ways to use it that we’d never thought of, but that really strike a chord with other users.

Case in point: Map search. It’s been on the site for a while, and once we launched it we didn’t really have much to say about it. It works, showing rooms on a map rather than in a list, so you can make a beeline for ones in the precise area you’re looking in, much more easily. Beyond that we really didn’t think it would rock anyone’s world.

Until @nickw84 tweeted a link to a map search he’d created, which showed a spark of genius. He’s used SpareRoom’s map search to show all the rooms in London which included the term ‘banter’ in the ad, which seem to cluster around South West London. So whether you love a bit of banter between flatmates, or this kind of thing fills you with abject horror, you can quickly identify parts of London to head for or avoid.

Flatshares which include banter in the description


Nick’s tweet went viral yesterday, and appeared in an article about online trends in The Independent this morning. Since then, people have got busy creating flatshare maps of vino drinkers, “LOL” users and those who are anal about cleaning – apparently these are rarer the further north you go. Why not create a flatshare map of your own? Use the advanced search tool on SpareRoom to search by keyword in an area of the UK, and then show results on a map, and share with the world! You never know what insights it may lead to.

Flatmates not cleaning up after themselves? Here’s a handy solution

Living in a flatshare can be fun, sociable and affordable. Unfortunately it can also be a source of headaches, particularly when it comes to arguments about cleaning.

When we surveyed the SpareRoom community about annoying flatshare habits recently, flatmates who don’t clean up after themselves came close to top of the list. If your flatshare doesn’t have a cleaner as standard, it can be a constant source of anguish, especially if one of the flatmates feels they’re doing more than their fair share to keep the place hygienic.

Could Mop be the answer to your cleaning woes? Our friends at MOP (www.wearemop.com) are making house cleaning super simple with an online booking service for trusted, pre-checked cleaners, with no commitment to a contract. All cleaners are interviewed, reference checked, and given a cleaning test before they start to work for Mop and there’s an insurance policy in place to cover your property and liability too, giving you complete peace of mind.

Mop just covers London for now, but is planning a country-wide expansion later this year. To keep things affordable, Mop is offering SpareRoom users a £10 discount for your first booking. Book now using code SPAREROOM to get your discount – and get a trusted cleaner online in under 60 seconds.

Growing up Renting

A shocking report from Shelter yesterday has revealed the extent to which the private rental market is having a damaging effect on children’s lives.

Renting is no longer the preserve of young, childless professionals. Now that one in five families rents rather than owns their homes, it’s becoming evident that families with children are badly affected by the uncertainty and some of the worst sharp practices of the rental market.

While a few may appreciate the flexibility that renting gives them, the rental market serves families less well in its current form, preventing them from putting down roots. Renting families are nine times as likely to have moved house in the last year than homeowners, and one in ten renting families have had to move their children to a different school because they moved from one rented home to another. Moving is a major disruption to children’s lives and represents an extra expense that pushes families into debt. Shelter’s report revealed that nearly three quarters of families are struggling or falling behind with their rent, many cutting back on food and heating to stay in their homes.

Of concern to all of us is the evidence that the rental market is not only failing to serve families but in some cases, actively ripping them off. Shelter reports that 28% of families say their landlords haven’t dealt with repairs or poor conditions, and shockingly, 5% report having been threatened by their landlord. Over a half a million renters have admitted to feeling pressurized to secure a property during a viewing, with 85 000 families handing over cash at that point.

What’s clear from this research is that the rental market needs improvement, with too many getting a very poor deal. Whilst people have no choice but to rent, we must do all we can to make renting a safe and comfortable way of live for everyone. Not everyone wants to rent for the long term, but a more stable outcome for those who do can only be a positive outcome.

Read more about Shelter’s campaign for a stable rental contract

The lunacy of TV licensing – lodgers and sharers beware!

If you live in a shared house or share with your landlord as a lodger, do you need a TV licence for your own TV in your room? The rules are complex and daunting for the faint-hearted, but we think we’ve managed to get to the nub of them. Do bear with us whilst we try to explain.

Sharing with flatmates

So here’s the scenario. You’ve just moved in, say with friends or a bunch of people you don’t know. There’s a telly in the living room but you can’t all agree on watching the same programme together. So you put a small TV in your own room and watch what you like. The house has a TV licence which you pay jointly towards. You’re covered aren’t you?

No. Not exactly. It depends on the tenancy arrangement. If you’ve moved in with friends and rented the whole house jointly (on a joint and several tenancy agreement where you’re all equally liable for the rent), one TV licence should cover the whole house. But on its website, TV licensing notes an exception, “such as whether or not you have exclusive access to a toilet or washing facilities”. What difference having your own en-suite should make to your legal status regarding television watching is anyone’s guess, but if you’re not sure how this might apply to you, it’s best to give them a call.

If you’re renting just a room and you have your own separate contract or rental agreement, then it’s quite clear that you’ll need your own licence for watching a separate telly in your room.

Sharing a house with your landlord

Scenario B – you’ve found a nice place to live, sharing with a lovely family. They’ve got a spare room and you’re happy to share their cosy home with them. You’ve signed a licence agreement, which is quite different in law from a tenancy agreement, and doesn’t give you exclusive rights over any part of the house. So you should be fine to watch TV in your room, assuming your landlord has a licence already, right? Wrong.

The TV licensing website is a little hazy on the subject of living as a lodger, stating that “You’re covered by the homeowner’s TV Licence if they have one, provided you live in the same building. If you live in self contained accommodation such as a separate flat or annex you need your own separate licence.” So far, so good – you’re not living in self-contained accommodation, you just have a room, and it’s not even got a lock on the door! But wait, there’s more. “You don’t need a licence if you’re a lodger and have a relationship with the homeowner – for example, a family member, common law partner, a nanny, au pair or housekeeper.” Hang on a second, you just said it was ok if it’s not self-contained. Do I also need to be related to the homeowner or working for them? It’s not entirely clear from the wording on the site, so we asked TV Licensing for clarification. They came back and said “If you are a tenant or a lodger with an individual tenancy agreement for your room it would mean your room is classified as a separately occupied place and you must be covered by a valid TV Licence to watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV. This includes the use of devices such as a TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box and DVD/VHS recorder.” So even though a lodger is not a “tenant” in law, they do seem to require a licence to watch TV separately from the rest of the household.

What’s more a licence isn’t shareable between properties you’re living at. So if you’re a Monday to Friday lodger, and have a licence for the TV in your own home, you’d still need an additional licence to watch another TV in your weekday room, separately from the TV in the communal sitting room. Wait. There’s a single exception to even this rule. If the TV is battery powered, you don’t need a licence, but as soon as it’s plugged into the mains, thereby installing the device, you do need a licence. Have you ever heard of such lunacy?

TV licensing tell us, “Anyone caught watching or recording live TV without a valid licence can risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.” For more information on licensing and to ask questions, visit http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/. Please don’t ask us – we’re as bemused as you are!

Research into flatsharing couples

A survey by SpareRoom has found some couples are living with flatmates in order to save for a deposit. Other couples are moving back to the family home to reduce living costs, while others enjoy the social aspect of living with friends.

Researchers at the University of Leeds would like to speak to people who live with their partner and other adults.

Do you live with your partner and housemates or lodgers?
Do you live with your partner and your parents or ‘in-laws’?
Are you aged 18-35?

Taking part in this project involves speaking with University of Leeds researcher Liz Bridger about your experiences. Anyone who takes part in a research interview will be thanked with a £15 shopping voucher.

If you would like to find out more about taking part in this research, please get in touch with Liz directly.

livingshared@leeds.ac.uk
facebook.com/livingshared
twitter.com/livingshared
tel: 07583 307 760

How to solve the Housing Crisis in London

SpareRoom attended the Future of London Housing debate hosted by the Evening Standard on Wednesday 20th March, in a packed room of over 1000 attendees. Housing is clearly a subject that is close to the hearts of many Londoners and the debate and following Q&A session became quite heated – showing the passion and emotion involved.

All of the panellists, including thinkers and politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, agreed that more housing supply was needed to relieve the housing crisis enveloping London. Deputy Mayor for Housing, Richard Blakeway called for London’s share of stamp duty to be ploughed back into a massive house-building programme. Whilst the MD of Berkeley Housing proposed a simplified planning process, the former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone’s call was to provide council housing for mixed communities, so there is less segregation between rich and poor in London. Alain de Botton, philosopher and writer, suggested a blueprint for attractive, affordable design that could be repeated easily and efficiently across London, removing some of the hurdles in the planning process, whilst the broadcaster and architectural graduate Janet Street Porter called for high density building, across railway lines and over car parks, like in New York. Possibly the biggest applause of the evening went to Evening Standard columnist Rosamund Urwin’s suggestions of disbanding Foxtons, banning Kirsty Alsopp and deporting the Candy Brothers. Standing up for ‘renty-somethings’ she focused on her own case of being shut out of home ownership, and renting with family members.

Whilst many of their suggestions were valid and probably will help to resolve the housing crisis in a few years to come, if more intensive building programmes do get underway (we’ve only built half the number of homes we need for the last 20 years and have a lot of catching up to do), there was a distinct lack of focus on the here and now. With so many thousands of people on housing lists in London, and the capital attracting workers and students like never before, there is an imperative need to offer practical solutions to today’s housing crisis, before London becomes a place that no real people can afford to live and work in.

Sharing existing resources seems to be the elephant in the room that nobody would mention. Amongst the talk of pressing empty properties and even offices into homes for the needy, there is no mention of the thousands of under-occupied properties that can help to ease the crisis. This is already happening – as teenage children grow up and move away, ’empty nesters’ are starting to rent out their spare rooms in their thousands – but we need to see more of this, to make an impact. What could the policy makers do to help encourage this trend?

We would suggest a raise in the tax free limit homeowners can earn through the Rent a Room scheme for starters – it’s been at the same rate since its introduction in 1997, whilst rents have been rising dramatically. Why not make it more attractive for people with spare rooms to take in a lodger, and help to remove the pressure on the limited supply in the private rented sector, and the social rented sector too? We’ve been pushing for this with our Raise the Roof campaign for some time, and hope that the Chancellor may see fit to increase the tax benefit in his next budget, even if it wasn’t included in last week’s.

Other ways to increase supply include removing some of the hurdles involved in turning a property into an HMO. This will promote more efficient use of existing property, and help young people to find somewhere affordable to live in the here and now, rather than being told to wait for houses yet to be built.

Do you agree? What do you think could be done to help solve the housing crisis sooner, rather than later?