Opinion with Seb Reilly: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Seb isn't the biggest fan of Christmas

Festive cheer has arrived, decorations are up, and snowbells are ringing just over the horizon. Yes, the first Christmas TV adverts have begun showing, and the Ramsgate Garden Centre has a full Christmas display in place already, which means only one thing: Halloween hasn’t happened yet.

Those who complain Christmas arrives earlier every year are not wrong. The first festive appearances I saw in shops took place in September.

That being said, I’m not feeling particularly festive. Though I like Winter as a season, I’ve never been a fan of Christmas, at least not for myself. As a parent I see its magic, which should be entirely focused on children, but for adults it seems to bring out the tackiest tastes and the highest levels of greed. When else do you see people fighting over reduced TVs than in the pre-Christmas sales? At what other time of year do people encourage gorging upon food until beyond excess whilst stockpiling more to make sure the table is full, with no regard for others who are going hungry?

Christmas should bring out the best in us. This year, however, there are signs that some are setting a more positive example. Next week, Margate ward councillor Rob Yates will propose a motion to begin restricting the exploitation of local properties through Airbnb, in a move which is designed to begin the process of stabilising the Thanet rental market.

People in Thanet are struggling to find places to live. I know of one resident who grew up here as I did, went to school in the area, still lives locally, and is looking to rent a house. Despite having a year’s rent saved to prove the rent will be paid each month, they still cannot find a suitable property.

Airbnb was set up to allow people to rent out their spare rooms, like a Bed & Breakfast. I mean, it’s in the name. Unfortunately, an entire industry has sprung up around it, where people with means purchase properties usually rented to those with less means, or none at all, but instead of renting these properties out, some landlords are listing them as holiday lets and making five to seven times the weekly rent as they charge by the night. Whilst the business model may make sense on a small scale, when an area becomes saturated with these rental properties, there is nowhere to live for those who reside there all year.

I recently found a one-bedroom basement flat in Cliftonville being offered for rent for three months through Airbnb. It’s similar to a place I used to live in around a decade ago, but my weekly rent then was the advertised nightly rate now. Out of interest, I looked at how much it would cost to rent it for the entire three months, and the monthly figure was almost three times the average monthly rent for similar properties in the area.

This isn’t an issue of locals against outsiders, and definitely not a rant at people moving into the area. Thanet has been a transient place since before the Romans invaded Britain, and continues to be. Though I was born here, previous generations were not, and I know many other so-called “proper locals” have similar stories. We are nomadic people that have settled by the sea as the constant changing of the tides prevent our view remaining still. People move in and out, and that is a good thing.

Unfortunately, the benefits of population turnover have slowed, as Thanet has jumped the proverbial shark. Once a popular and desirable location for a new lifestyle, with people moving in and focusing their efforts on the restoration, regeneration, evolution, and adaptation of their new homes, it has now become sought-after. That shift means vampires have moved in.

If you buy a property and rent it at the going market rate, long term, you will make a profit. You will also increase the yields on your property investment, if that is your thing. There has been plenty of opportunity for that. The problem with some landlords, however, is the reasoning ‘Why charge the going rate when we can charge more? Why rent out long term when we can run a holiday let?’

Prices are set by supply and demand. As more people have moved to the area, and local employment has grown, the demand for rental properties has increased. At the same time, the supply has rapidly and dramatically diminished due to greed. That means the few rental properties which remain are harder to come by, and therefore more exclusive. That makes them more expensive.

Gordon Gekko said “Greed is good” but he was the bad guy, and so no matter how eloquent his speech or charismatic his delivery, he should not be a role model. He was after money, of course, but modern big tech companies are less interested in that. The current commodity of concern is numerical.

Big technology companies don’t care about government restrictions or laws, let alone end users. There is no way they will care about those who can no longer afford to rent properties in the areas where they reside, where their jobs are, where their families are, where their lives are. They are looking at growth, at data, at numbers on spreadsheets. They don’t change practice even when laws change, unless the fines will be bigger than the profits they can make. It’s all about the figures.

I applaud Rob Yates’ efforts, but I feel they are not enough. What they are, however, is a start, so if you can, please write to your local councillor and ask them to support the motion. If not for yourself, then do it for your neighbours who may be struggling to make ends meet as their rents go up, or your friends who can no longer afford to live where they did before, or your children who will not be able to move out because rents are too high, and even if they can they will have no way of saving for a mortgage deposit as all their cash will go to their landlord. Do it for the community. Do it for those who need it.

I really hope the council proposal starts a process which has positive impact across Thanet. Perhaps I’m trying too hard to believe in Santa Claus, but maybe—just maybe—this is the real thing. If so, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

13 Comments

  1. Whilst I fully agree with Seb’s comments about holiday rentals forcing locals out of the rental market, this is happening throughout many parts of the country and is not good. However there are very few people who would accept less income than they are able to earn – be it through a job or through rental income. And one of the biggest problems for landlord is the concern about whether they will end up with a nightmare tenant who stops paying rent and then it becomes hugely difficult and expensive to evict. If a landlord can earn the same from a holiday rental for a few months as from a full time tenancy, the landlord at least has the assurance that he will not have long term problems.

    Unfortunately there is no simple solution to this problem. But a start would be if the government reverses the legislation passed a several years ago (can’t remember when) so that anyone on benefits and who rents a property has the rent paid directly to the landlord rather than the tenant as happens now. This has caused huge problems to landlords as so many tenants feel that rental payment is less important than many other expenses and so rent is one of the last priorities. This has resulted in a huge number of arrears, court cases and landlords withdrawing from the rental market.

    I write as someone who rented out a flat for 30 years (due to working overseas) and had some very good tenants but also a couple of bad ones who didn’t pay rent and one who couldn’t have cleaned for the two years he was there. I no longer rent out as I’m now back here, but would never consider long term again. Not that I could afford two properties anyway!!

  2. It’s all rubbish the facts are holiday let’s are holiday let’s and rentals are rentals. Taking one away does not mean the other benefits. I rent 2/3 bedroom properties long term to families I charge £475 per month for 2 bed and £525 per month for 3 bed. I also own caravans and and flats for holiday let’s and 4 cottages. I own all the properties outright no mortgages. On the rentals I prefer tenants live there as long as they like I don’t take any deposit. The fees form the holiday let’s subsidise the rentals without the holiday let income I would have to increase the rents of the rentals.

  3. Rob Yates may as well concrete over the beach, drain the see and rename it Chatham.I will be calling for his resignation on Friday.
    #robyates #antithanet #antitourism #antijobs

  4. Immoral? She’s running a business, she pays taxes, she will have outgoings (repairs, maintenance, upkeep, insurance) possibly agents fees, works (often major) between tenants, voids and additional costs when they are vacant – gas, elec, water, council tax. When something breaks it is the landlords responsibility to get that fixed ASAP.
    There is also a lot of work involved, which increases every year with the numerous legislations that are brought in every year. People can’t work for free, even landlords!
    There is a reason that so many private landlords are selling.
    She also gives her tenants subsidised rents!… and you have the cheek to call her immoral!

    Some people think landlords are as good as the devil. But for every good tenant there are also bad (same as landlords) if a tenant doesn’t pay their rent it can take over a year to get them out. That year plus they are living rent free (and most landlords are also paying a mortgage) But the landlord still has to carry out and pay for their obligations when that tenant isn’t paying, for example a tenant hasn’t paid their rent for 6 months, if the boiler breaks the landlord still has to pay to get it repaired or replaced. It is also expensive to evict a non paying tenant. They could have also trashed the place leaving you with a bill in the tens of thousands.

    As for holiday lets, of course they are going to cost more than a long term rental, they are not comparable, they’re apples and oranges!
    The guests (guests, not tenants) are paying for an all inclusive place to stay, people want a home from home with all the homely touches, a service.
    The owner is paying the gas, elec, water, council tax, broadband, TV licence, TV subscriptions, insurance, cleaning, laundry, purchasing supplies. These properties are also not only fully furnished, they are fully equipped – kitchenware, sundries, TVs, games, linen, towels, toiletries etc. All costs that in a long term let the tenant would pay.
    Then there is the booking sites fees, advertising etc. Also the repairs, maintenance and replacements are considerably higher than with long term lets.

    Also, a lot of trades main jobs are for landlords, so they are also contributing to the local economy.

    With any letting, it is not as black and white as rent is X, therefore greedy unscrupulous landlord is making X. Plus contrary to naive belief they do pay tax!

    And any landlord that bought a property from 2016 paid an additional 3% SDLT.

    Do you go to the greengrocers, buy an apple and then accuse the greengrocer of being immoral as he is selling it for more than he paid for it? Or do you appreciate that he is running a business, earning a living and providing jobs for others?

  5. Its a tragedy that this country is run by a blustering, proven lying buffoon, and con man! He thinks capitalism will solve all the countries problems, which is why there are millions of people who have the choice of heating, or eating, whilst their energy companies go bust! Pigs, poultry and other animals are being destroyed because there is a lack of CO2 gas to stun them prior to being slaughtered! Crops rot in the fields for lack of labour, which has gone back to their EU homes as they are unwelcome here. Now we have massive container ships unable to be unloaded at British ports for lack of space, because of the lack of HGV drives to move them, the list goes on and on! The NHS is on its knees, despite Johnson’s lie that if we leave the EU we will retain £350 million a week that we won’t pay the EU, that was a blatant LIE too! I know of an 89 man who is being evicted, despite being an exemplary tenant for the 6 years! We need social housing like those built after the war, by the millions like then!

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