After spending six months in Singapore for the Financial Times, the worst thing about returning home was doing battle once again with the London rental market.
A frantic house hunt landed me and my partner on the top floor of a semi-detached Brixton house, which the landlord had enterprisingly divided into three apartments. In the three months since moving in, we have had to request 11 separate repairs. On one occasion the lock of our front door broke, leaving us trapped inside for nearly a day. More recently, our balcony door jammed open and, despite the cold and rain, was not fixed for almost three days.
In 2019, I viewed an apartment above a Putney laundromat where the attic bedroom lacked working electricity and the tenant had resolved to live by candlelight. Two months ago, a friend was forced to call in an exterminator days after moving into a rat-infested house in west London.
These are not isolated instances of bad luck. Rather, they are indicative of conditions that are rife across the UK rental market, which grew to represent a fifth of households in the decade up to 2017. At least a quarter of renters are affected by mould, damp or coldness in their homes, according to a survey last year of 3,197 people by housing charity Shelter.
Campaigners say the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. Rather than urgently introducing stricter regulations, the government is focusing on policies to drive home ownership, an increasingly unrealistic option for many during the cost of living crisis.
Since taking over at the Treasury, Jeremy Hunt has reversed most of the sweeping tax cuts introduced by his predecessor in September. But after scrapping tax breaks for investors and corporations, the chancellor stood by one policy: a stamp duty cut for housebuyers.
Hunt said in