Benefits, Private Renting, and The Ever Feared Possession Order.
Can a rented property ever become a home? It’s an important question but one we rarely think about when we look at renting. Buying a house will likely always remain an impossible dream for me; bad credit and worse health mean that the ideal of home ownership will not be mine to know. That’s okay, I made my peace with that a long time ago. It’s not an issue…or at least, it had never been one before.
I first wondered about it when my last landlord went down with the recession and plummeted as fast as my husband and I did. We were reminded, in the harshest possible way, that we were not in control of what happened to us. He needed to sell the house. Fast. So, one morning, out of the blue, he called me to tell me I had six weeks to find a new place to live.
I remember the horror, the panic, and the consuming terror. In one sentence: “I need to sell the house.”, he had made me homeless. We entered a nightmare of uncertainty and sleepless nights. My health worsened, my mental state hit the darkest place it had been in a long time. We couldn’t be housed with all four of our children: properties with 4 bedrooms were rarer than goldfish riding bicycles. My eldest daughter, then 16, moved in with my mother and, as a shrunken family of 5, rather than 6, we found a 3 bedroom house in the private sector, with the help of our local council. We were told it would be affordable, long term, as secure as it could be, and better managed than the home we had lived in for 8 long years.
We were lied to on all counts.
Our new house is, as you will know from previous posts, riddled with black mould and damp. The walls run with water. The windows don’t shut and open fully. The back doors do not lock. The roof needs flashing, there are rats in the rafters, the bath leaks into the living room…and at £800 a month, it was too expensive for us on our new, much diminished, wages and tax credits.
And today, I received the second eviction notice in 4 years. Ironic, I know, considering the year I have had so far, helping other homeless people and pointing families to the right places to go, so they may also find help. Now, it’s happened to me. Again.
This time, I looked at the paper deciding my fate, and I realised I felt nothing. Only worry about where we would go. I looked around at the walls that keep us locked away (to an extent) from the outside world, and realised it was not my home. Just a shell. It was never, had never, would never be, my home.
My biggest concern is financial. I can afford rent, but a deposit and between £300 – £400 administration fees on top of an £800 rent are well beyond my means. It may as well be a mortgage application. How can fees of £200 per person be justified? How am I meant to find that money?
The simple answer is, sadly, that I can’t find that money. We’re on a breadline. That doesn’t miraculously change because we’re facing, yet again, homelessness. Despite receiving assistance with our rent, that assistance can’t be used for a deposit, or to pay for advance rent. It can’t cover the administration fees. It can’t find moving costs. I need everything from a washing machine to beds for my daughters, as this house was part-furnished. I have to start over from scratch. It’s a scary prospect, when I thought I was in a stable situation.
I am one of thousands facing this dilemma. There’s not really any options, or places to turn to. I have an appointment with Housing Options, at my local council, but I know I only have a slim chance of a future with anything approaching security. There may be help to allow me to pay a deposit over time, but I know what I’m facing and I know how much I need to be able to pay out of my own pocket. When you are living on a breadline, it’s hard to keep a chin up, and a lip stiff. But I shall, as always, endeavour. I plan to document this journey and keep you all informed, right to the end. Whatever the outcome, wherever my family end up, I’ll be chatting to you as we go. From £1 a day living (to try and save every penny possible), to selling off anything I have left to sell (not much, my wedding ring and other jewellery are long gone), I will let you all know.
I have until November 24th to relocate, settle, and maybe find a home. It can’t all be bad. I’m not a naturally pessimistic person. If there’s a bright side, I’ll find it! I’m hoping for laughter, as well as tears. I’m hoping for a life my children will be happy to live. I’m hoping for a small space, somewhere, where I can plug myself into the mains, and write my books. I’m hoping. Hope, right now, is one thing I have in abundance.
So watch this space. We’re going on an adventure, and you’re invited to tag along.