Flicking through the pictures, there are smart wooden floorboards, a Smeg oven and … Oh wait. Here’s the catch: The bed is in the bathroom.
Yes, if you were to roll out of bed you’d find yourself almost smacking into either the toilet or the basin.
What’s most shocking, though, is that such a sizable price tag for a less-than-ideal living arrangement is by no means out of the ordinary in London’s rental market.
Experts say the British capital is experiencing a housing crisis. A shortage of affordable homes is pricing people out, impacting Londoners’ mental health, and — in extreme cases — driving up homelessness.
As in many major cities around the world, London is feeling the strain of changing demographics. Young people are moving into urban areas rather than out to suburbs, there’s an aging population to house, and an increase in single residents, according to analysts.
Meanwhile, wages haven’t kept up with rent increases, and the price of land for building new homes has leapt.
Elsewhere in Europe, Berlin renters are also feeling the squeeze. But in stark contrast to London, the German capital has implemented a drastic new measure to halt skyrocketing prices.
‘We don’t want to end up like London’
This week, Berlin became the first city in Germany to freeze rent prices for the next five years. The price cap will affect around 1.5 million rented homes — 90% of all rental households in the capital, Berlin’s Department for Urban Development and Housing told CNN.
The cap doesn’t apply to social housing or homes built from 2014 onwards.
Scholz described the horror of a British capital “where even lawyers and doctors have to live with flatmates, because they can’t afford their own apartment.”
Just over a quarter of Londoners — around 2.4 million people — rent privately. And they’re spending an average 37% of their income doing so, a spokesman from the Mayor of London’s office told CNN.
The knock-on effects of paying “ridiculous amounts of money” on rent mean that in some cases, “people are not having children,” said Hackett. They’re “getting stressed,” have “less time to spend with their loved ones,” and “less money available to go on holidays.”
At the more extreme end of the problem, there is the prospect of “homelessness, overcrowding, and council-run temporary accommodation,” he added.
Rent controls in London?
It’s a view shared by Britain’s National Landlord Association. “Rent controls don’t work,” said spokeswoman Meera Chindooroy. “Because landlords are disincentivized to invest in the market.”
She added that under rent controls, landlords might not have the money available to improve their properties. There is also the risk of a “gray market” — landlords finding ways to get around the rent controls — Chindooroy said.
But this argument doesn’t wash with Dan Williams Craw, director of campaign group Generation Rent. “Landlords have a legal requirement to keep properties to a certain standard, and that wouldn’t change under a rent control system,” he said.
He added that currently landlords may actually “evade their responsibilities” to fix up properties, because if a tenant asks for improvements the owner “can turn around and say: ‘If I do that, your rent is going up.'” Craw said.
Paying for a ‘massive junkyard’
As plenty of people house hunting in London recently will tell you, it can be a disheartening experience.
The GLA said housing laws were not being adequately enforced by local councils, with thousands of homes plagued by exposed wiring, broken boilers and black mold.
It’s a grim scene that 35-year-old freelance photographer, Maja Smiejkowska, knows well. She moved to London from Poland 10 years ago, and has rented rooms in various shared houses in southeast London.
After living in her last place for five years, she said she knew it was time to move when the landlord refused to address a rodent problem, black mold in the bathroom, and a broken oven.
The last straw came when he announced plans to subdivide the house, creating two new bedrooms to shoehorn in additional tenants.
Smiejkowska said she already spends around 40% of her income on rent, and simply can’t afford to live by herself.
During her three-month house hunt, she came across places where eight people were living in five-bedroom homes, houses with no living room, walls “almost black from dirt” and the landlord’s possessions in every room.
“The whole garden was a massive junkyard for his belongings,” she said of one house. “I would have been paying £600 ($780) a month for his storage.”
Eventually Smiejkowska found a suitable five-bedroom sharehouse in the borough of Lewisham. But she doesn’t see herself living in London forever, given that she is unlikely ever to be able to afford a place of her own.
Among the cities Smiejkowska is considering moving to is — you’ve guessed it — Berlin.
“The rent is more affordable compared to what you’re earning,” she said, despite calling London “home” for a decade.