Our weekly series What I Rent looks at the reality of renting in the UK and beyond.
Each week we go inside someone’s rented property to see what they get for what they pay – and how they’ve turned their house or flat into a home.
This time we’re with Anita, 26, an account manager at a PR agency working with tech companies.
Before now, Anita lived with a friend after getting fed up of renting with strangers, but found the dynamic of having a friend as a landlord was difficult.
She then moved to a studio flat in Bethnal Green, where she lives now.
Hey, Anita! How much do you pay for rent?
£900 including hot water, gas, electricity, and a laundry room.
And what do you get for what you pay?
It’s a weird set-up. The landlord has converted the property into lots of ‘studios’ so none of us actually share.
We have a communal garden, laundry room, and living room. I’ve lived there for almost a year and have barely bumped into the other tenants but I think there are at least eight people in the building, there’s a basement, ground floor, mezzanine floor, first floor, and second floor.
My flat is a studio, just one room and one bathroom with a toilet and shower.
How did you find this place? What made you choose it?
I found this after two months of looking every day on Spareroom, Movebubble, Moveflat, and Openrent.
The properties on Spareroom were quite expensive and I felt the agents on the website were quite dodgy and weren’t offering very good deals.
Movebubble was OK but again some questionable properties, nothing much within my budget in zone 1-2 and many of the properties listed weren’t actually available.
Moveflat is good but limited flexibility and you have to go through interviews to become an existing flatshare’s flatmate.
I went with Openrent because there was lots of options, you rent directly from the landlord to avoid any agency fees or unnecessary hassle. I chose my current place as it was just about within my budget, located in Bethnal Green (I’ve lived here before and it’s walking distance to Hackney and Shoreditch), easy commute to work, includes bills, and next to Victoria Park.
Do you like the area?
Definitely, I have a really nice 10 mins walk to Bethnal Green station. I go past nice houses every day, walk through Victoria Park once a week to do my groceries and can jog around the park during the day.
It’s a really safe part of the area, there are one or two regular homeless people around the station but that’s it, and it’s easy to walk to other places in East London. I’ve lived just off Brick Lane before and on the other side of Bethnal Green before, and I didn’t feel at all safe.
The other side of Bethnal Green, under the bridge and towards McDonalds, is a lot busier. I’ve had people shouting at me, homeless people walking up to me for money, and it’s a lot more eclectic. I feel those living closer to Victoria Park are more affluent and mostly families with kids.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
Not really because I own a lot of clothes and shoes. So I asked for shelves to be built in to provide more storage for my books and general belongings.
The room is also an awkward shape so it’s hard for me to rearrange things.
How have you made the property feel like home?
I’ve tried to frame a few posters and put them in my room, bought a few plants, and lights to decorate the mirror. The shelves help to display some of my belongings.
Are there any problems with where you rent?
There were mice during the winter, which was worrying.
The girl living on the mezz is very loud when she talks so I can often hear her. Being on the ground floor and next to the living room, I can hear people going up the stairs, leaving the house, or going to the garden. My bathroom is next to the garden so I’m always a little paranoid…
Our neighbour’s pet cat likes to visit us regularly but doesn’t really leave – she’s quite cute.
A big problem is sharing the laundry room with so many people. You have to make sure you take your clothes out as soon as it’s done, and wait for the drums to be empty. Otherwise the other tenants will move your clothes without asking.
The biggest problem is that I am aware that the handymen enter the studios without asking sometimes and I think this is a big issue, so I’ve requested that I am informed before anyone wants to enter and they require my permission.
What are your housing plans for the future?
And have you thought about buying a place? I’ve been actively viewing flats and houses for a year now.
I saw a lovely flat inside a church that was up for sale, that needed a lot of work, I put an offer down but never heard back from the estate agent.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic I had some luck with viewings but this has all been put on hold as I can no longer do viewings.
I really want to own a house with a garden and parking…probably just outside of London.