We are very lucky. I feel lucky every morning when I wake up in our home. Ok, technically it doesn’t belong to us in any permanent way, but it feels like home and that is the most important thing. The moment we walked in I knew this would be the case. Our landlady had just bought it with the intention of renting to a young family at a truly affordable price. I remember standing in the garden together as she pointed at a rose bush covered in scented white flowers. She said ‘look at your beautiful 


rose!’ Even though she owned the house she called it our rose, our garden, our home. That simple use of language meant so much. 

Years of renting had really begun to grind me down: the lack of available properties, the rising prices and the shocking conditions that some landlords were offering made for grim housing prospects. On top of that, I was tired of feeling judged by letting agents simply for being a tenant or renter. There seemed to be an implicit assumption that we would not pay our rent, or would damage the property or would fail to fulfil our side of the bargain in some other way. This felt unfair in itself, without the additional, extortionate fees lumped on top of the rent. Without ever putting a foot wrong we were subjected to house inspections every three months which invariably left me feeling upset and belittled. The agents were often unfriendly, and their letters insidiously threatening in tone. They even insisted on entering the bedroom where our new born baby was asleep. When problems surfaced with a house that had a long-standing damp problem (which was painted over every year) it was very difficult to get it sorted. My husband, a skilled carpenter and builder, ended up having to fix things himself to make the property habitable.

Now, this all feels like a long time ago. We have been in our current house for over two years and couldn’t be happier. It’s difficult to explain the impact of having a secure home, and of how this has changed the course of our lives. Here are a few of the benefits we experience.

We can live in this house, if we want to, for at least 5 years without worrying about a rent increase. We can make realistic work commitments; we can remain close to family and can rest easy that our daughter will be able to stay near her friends and at the school she has just started at. We also feel more able to get involved in community projects and voluntary organisations (including Fair Housing for Frome!) knowing that this will be our community for the foreseeable future. It means we can plan for a future in the town.

Less financial stress
We are able to start saving with the hope of being able, one day, to afford a deposit on a house. That prospect still feels a long way off, but is certainly more possible now than it would have been. Things may still be tough financially, but we are in a much better position than we would be otherwise.

I relish the simple joy of being able to think: “it would be really handy to have a shelf there” and to be able to just make it happen. As my husband is a carpenter our landlords know he has the skills to do DIY jobs well and without causing damage. I also love being able to repaint the walls (tastefully and always after asking permission) so that we can create a home that reflects our own taste. Ok, so that might not be as important as other things, but it really does bring me so much happiness!! For both myself and my husband, this is the first place we’ve been able to call ‘home’ since childhood.

Some landlords offer a low rent so they can get away with offering a poor quality property and not put any effort into maintaining it. That is not the case with our home. We are confident that our landlords care strongly about the property, have good financial sense (they are still getting enough money from our rent for their needs) and also that they care about us. They trust that we will look after it as if it was our own, and that we will inform them promptly of any issues. From the beginning we jointly created a tenancy agreement between us all to make sure that everyone was clear about the arrangements and that we’d covered any potential issues that might arise over time. We review this annually over a cuppa in the garden.

Crisis support
Last year our family hit very difficult times when we lost a baby. For some time I was physically very unwell, with many hospital visits. I was unable to work and my part-time job provided no sick pay. Our daughter was a pre-schooler, so my husband had to take lots of time off work to care for us both. We witnessed how easily this kind of tragedy can render families homeless. Thankfully, we did not have to worry about losing our home. Our landlords offered us reassurance about our housing and gave us the option of a break in our rent payments. We felt strongly that we wanted to continue paying for as long as we could, but since they also made it clear there would be no issues with them should we need to claim benefits to help cover our rent during this period, this is what we decided to do. We were so grateful to have their support and understanding through such a difficult time.

Having a home that is rented to us long-term and at a fair price feels like such a luxury. As I watch many other friends struggling with their housing in Frome and elsewhere, I wish that others could share our good fortune. I hope that perhaps some current and prospective landlords might read this and consider the incredible impact they can have through offering a tenancy agreement that is different to the norm: that they will consider what might happen when they truly offer renters a home.

Mel Dalton
September 2019

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