Rent hikes, bidding above the asking price on properties, paying 12 months upfront and endless Spareroom messages – this is just the tip of the iceberg of the problems people are facing as part of London’s private rental crisis. TikTokers play a crucial role in documenting the horrendous reality of finding a studio or flatshare in the capital – after all, London is an extremely popular place for influencers and creators to live and work. On the app, #Londonrent has 13.1 million views.
Finding a place to live in London has never been easy or cheap. This took a turn for the worse in late 2021 and 2022 when prices soared due to a supply and demand issue – Zoopla recently reported rent prices have risen by 20% over the past three years (an additional £2,200 annually) and rental inflation is at 11.1%. The Office for National Statistics found private rental prices increased 4.4% from January 2022 to 2023, while The Guardian reported that Rightmove revealed the average monthly rent in London has hit £2,500 – in comparison to £1,190 outside London). The figures might vary but they all show the same hard truth: the extortionate costs of living in London.
It’s one thing to read the alarming figures and another to watch first-person accounts of flat hunting on TikTok. A creator named Bianca revealed her previous landlord increased her rent by 50% – having moved, she now pays £1,700 for a one-bed flat in zone two. Then there’s TikToker Lils, whose video of her reviewing a hostel went viral in May. Why? Due to the rental crisis, she has been staying in hostels to be able to work in London.
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TikTokers Demelza and Katie Morton’s videos both summarise the brutal reality of flat hunting. This includes bidding wars and endlessly reaching out to adverts on Spareroom and Facebook, only to receive no replies.
As TikTok has shown, the days of casually calling an agency to arrange a viewing are long gone. Now, TikTokers are taking their followers along on their journeys to find new homes – #flathunting has surpassed 17.2 million views. Lifestyle creator Maddie Borge was forced to find a new flat after her landlord decided to take back the place she was renting with her partner. Her first flat-hunting vlog reached 1.2 million views. TikToker Dazhané Leah Fleming also created a series sharing all the flats she looked at – she made an offer on one flat, only to be outbid by someone who paid two years of rent upfront.
While people are taking to socials to discuss the market, changes are being introduced to protect renters. In May, the Renters (Reform) Bill was introduced to Parliament. The legislation proposes to end no-fault evictions and make it illegal for landlords and agencies to have blanket bans against renting to tenants on benefits or with children, provide renters protection against backdoor evictions and allow people to request having a pet in the property, which the landlord cannot reasonably refuse.
Rent prices are increasing throughout the country but if TikTok teaches us anything about finding a place to live, it’s that flat hunting is like competing in The Hunger Games. As Tory Trombley put it back in August 2022: “If you’re considering moving in London… don’t.”
By Caroline Edwards, CORQ news and features writer.