‘’Can we paint the walls?’’ asked my housemate whilst looking at magnolia walls graced with multiple marks, stains and chipped paint. ‘’No’’ answered the estate agent with a non-negotiable face.
It was fairly clear from that moment where we stood as tenants; mere temporary inhabitors of a building, customers, pieces in the (highly profitable) chess game of the Brighton housing market. As we went through the inventory it was obvious that we are to keep the house exactly as it stands for a whole year. It was surprising, given the £2450 monthly income generated from our rent, that the inventory listed so many broken and damaged things. Chairs that were unusable, a wardrobe that was breaking, curtains that are a prod away from falling down. Now, of course these things are rectifiable – but it is the lack of care and attention that annoyed me. This house, our new home, has been empty for a week – replacing furniture is easy and as far as my maths skills can work out, extremely financially viable.
As a tenant, I want the autonomy to redecorate my home, to repair or build better furniture, to decide whether the springs in my mattress are really worth a year of backaches. Given the permission to put in time and energy, I could happily think of alternatives that work out more environmentally sustainable and financially viable in the long run.
Now don’t get me wrong, the condition of the house is generally good enough, in a great location and I’ve moved in with a lovely group of people. But I couldn’t help but compare this rental experience to the possibilities that housing co-operatives offer. The option to replace substandard/broken items before consulting your agency who first must ask the landlord before responding. The chance to paint your bedroom and put nails in the wall to hang up items. These material advantages are useful but it is the feeling of freedom and ownership that excites me more.
No longer would your creativity be stubbed by rules dictated on a sheet of paper stuck to the inside of the kitchen cupboard, or your rent payments taken only for broken items to remain in their broken state. When my housemate’s mum visited, she looked around and said that student tenants should stand up more for themselves, especially in Brighton where the rent is so high.
-cue self promo-
So I told her about SEASALT.