On 26th April, we launched a social media campaign called #ventyourrent on Twitter and Tumblr. We asked people to tell us on cardboard, a photo, or just a tweet, what they were paying in rent and what it bought them.
The plan was to get Londoners sharing their worst experiences of renting and generating some solidarity ahead of the Mayoral Election on 5th May. We hoped that seeing the posts would get people thinking about the housing market as a political issue that they could have some influence on. If they did, we had a handy guide for them.
It was the first campaign of its kind that we have attempted and we could not have done it without the energy of a crack team of volunteers*, the guidance of Paolo Gerbaudo of Kings College London, and the inspiration of Pierre-Emmanuel Lemaire, Yasmina Aoun, Cong Bi and Nicola Lotter of Central St Martin's MA Communication Design course.
It was a huge success, generating our biggest media story to date, attracting hundreds of submissions, and surely contributing at least a tiny bit to the highest ever turnout for a London Mayoral Election.
Now that the dust has settled, we decided to find out what #ventyourrent taught us.
There were a few problems that it's clear Londoners are no strangers to, including the most common complaint, damp and mould, with 24 posts (by our count):
There were 20 cases of dodgy plumbing and leaks:
Was once told 'No, what smell?' by an est. agent, who was then sick in his mouth because he'd opened it for too long to speak #ventyourrent— Thom Brisco (@thombrisco) April 26, 2016
And 15 infestations:
the worst, though was the bedsit where the shared kitchen was so full of mice you had to bang a frying pan to get rid of them before cooking— Owen Hatherley (@owenhatherley) April 29, 2016
We were pretty surprised by how many people (14) reported flimsy ceilings and other structural failings:
Renters have to deal with bullies...
bfs landlord lets himself in. when asked to knock nxt time he says 'like this?' & starts kicking and bashing door, does damage #rantyourrent— Kate Harrison (@harrisonk) April 27, 2016
...and people who genuinely endanger their lives
And if you aren't bothered about other people's woes, some landlords are ripping off everyone:
£530 in Walthamstow. Dodgy landlady raises rent & asks us to say 'she's out' if someone comes round as she is DODGING TAXES. #ventyourrent— Georgie Davies (@Georgiedavies12) May 5, 2016
Other problems included broken appliances going unfixed, no heating, no natural light, unprotected deposits, rip-off fees and unfair evictions.
For many of us, it's the sheer cost of living in London that's the biggest problem:
You know what's the worst part of #ventyourrent for me? That I'm kinda jealous that some of you are paying "low" rents.— Photini Vrikki (@iPhotini) April 26, 2016
Mouldy bedroom but ~£400 rent? Well, at least I'll be able to buy and eat some real food #ventyourrent— Photini Vrikki (@iPhotini) April 26, 2016
Even mayoral candidates vented:
And for some, it's already got too much.
Paid £725 pcm for half a Herne Hill flat which is £150 more than I now pay in Newcastle for my own 2 bed in the nicest area. #ventyourrent— Dani O (@ohagandaaz) April 26, 2016
Obviously, bad renting experiences aren't confined to London - we had people get in touch from all over the UK and we even got folk joining in from across the pond
#VentYourRent $1,500 Oakland, CA. Roof leaked, threatened with eviction, harassed daily at 6am and lied to by our landlord until we left.— Rach (@CityLightsUF) May 13, 2016
The eventual election winner got in touch with his response to the campaign
I’ll stand up for renters. pic.twitter.com/o7nfg2QFn3— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) April 27, 2016
Many of the cases demonstrate the need for reform of the rental market, but it's important that tenants understand what course of action they can take as things stand.
Whether it's reporting landlords to the relevant authorities or naming and shaming them, we thought it would be a good idea to create a new page with all of that on. We're calling it Help & Info. It's a work in progress, but we hope it's useful.
If you haven't vented you rent yet, the hashtag and Tumblr are still taking submissions.
A selection of the coverage:
*Our awesome volunteers: Chris Bryant, Chris Gilson, David King, Jay Morton, Laura Sam, Rachel Smethers, Suzanne Thomas, Reuben Young