The true cost of London’s housing crisis on the chronically ill

IMG_3651There couldn’t be a worse time to be a renter in London.

Prices are nothing short of extortionate, the conditions are deplorable and the plethora of unethical letting agents finds any little excuse to charge you more or deduct money from the phenomenally high lump sum you pay as your deposit.

If you’re chronically ill, it get can get a whole lot worse. But for you to understand, I have to tell you a little about my status quo.

You may know that I live with a number of ailments, chief of which is fibromyalgia (though it depends on the day and which issue presents itself more prominently) & including depression & anxiety, & complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you don’t know about fibromyalgia the only way I can explain it is to think of how you feel when you have a really bad flu, when everything aches and even lifting your arm to comb your hair is exhausting. Yeah, well, that’s half of fibromyalgia, only your symptoms are perpetual. You never wake up refreshed…you don’t sleep well so your body doesn’t get an opportunity to restore itself, so you become more susceptible to getting sick and a bout of anything else can literally knock you over.


I was in a hurry to move house. The lovely photograph above is my current bedroom window. I’ve had to tape a tablecloth against it, because it doesn’t shut properly & the cold wind rages in every night when I’m struggling to sleep.

Of course I’ve complained.

The problem was exacerbated by the fact that I haven’t had heating in the first two months of moving in. I pay £800.00 every single month (for an en-suite room, yes a room, not even a one bed flat) to an agency that was quick to take my £1080 deposit +£800 rent advance, but slow to respond to my complaints. Ok, I’m actually being polite. They don’t ever reply to emails, answer calls, or return voicemails from me or other tenants. It was only mere days ago that they finally sent someone to install a cheap radiator that barely gives off any heat, after I sent two letters to them in the post.

I’m grateful, but my body isn’t. I have been sick all winter. Every morning, I wake with a sore throat, stuffy nose, and this week, my head is throbbing and chest constantly rattled by coughing.

I can barely hold up this week. I don’t know too many people with fibromyalgia who work. But I’ve managed it by taking extreme care, overhauling my diet and pushing my body to the limit. Fighting off an actual headcold, sinusitis or whatever it is plaguing me this week, because of the cold draft hitting my head every night, isn’t helping. I am so weak, exhaustion levels and pain exacerbated, head thumping, and cognitive impairments increased.

The norm for renting in London

But apparently spineless letting agents and homes in disrepair …all normal nowadays, for renting in London. Yet on top of this, I am told when I leave, £100 will be deducted from my deposit to pay for a clerk to inspect my room.

I also know someone paying a little less than me, with a bathroom full of more mould than Tesco’s blue cheese.

At my former abode, when I lived in sheer terror of two abusive girls, I was evicted after the police warned my then inept lettings agency to do something about it. Even the police were shocked & apologetic but said their hands were tied as it was a civil matter.

My health had deteriorated and my anxiety was through the roof – I ended up in hospital twice from the effects all the stress was having on my health. The first time it flared my gastritis and I couldn’t digest my food. The other time my pain levels shot up and my anxiety escalated to such frightening levels. The intensity and frequency of my night terrors increased. In my three and a half years there I paid almost £25k in rent excluding the £1410 in deposit, advance and of course, ‘admin’ fees. Yet, I went through two full winters without any heating. After all my suffering, the agency had the right to evict a vulnerable person for standing up for their rights. And being a foreigner who was jobless at the time, I was facing homelessness.

But again, this is the ‘normal’ of renting in London. Because we need housing and landlords and agencies have what we need. So we have to take whatever poo they dish out to us.

When unscrupulous landlords and letting agencies get away

Who ensures that letting agencies and landlords are compliant with the laws? Try complaining to Trading Standards and you’ll find there’s no direct means of getting onto them. You’ll have to go through the elusive Citizens’ Advice Bureau to get a complaint to Trading Standards (and if you don’t have a landline, prepare for a monstrous phone bill from calling their premium number). The Ombudsman’s Office can’t investigate if the letting agency or landlord isn’t registered with a redress scheme (as was the case when I asked for my former landlord to be looked into). So there, they can get away with murder, and they do.

Shelter rightly points out that the typical renter pays over £40.000 in a five year period, almost enough for a deposit on a house!

Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb says “Our drastic shortage of affordable homes is leaving millions of people stuck in their childhood bedrooms in a bid to save money, or in expensive and unstable private renting with little hope of ever saving for a home to put down roots in.”

If I had a childhood bedroom to return to in this country, I would have. Unfortunately I don’t, being a foreigner. So rent it is. I’m uncertain about the announced initiatives in Cameron’s housing and planning bill, now being debated. Shelter says it could potentially worsen the crisis.

But what could be worse than this? It’s scary to think about. For the chronically ill, renting can be more than just a battle for shelter over one’s head. It is also a constant fight to safeguard one’s health.

In other news, my fridge still isn’t working (it hasn’t been since I moved in January) and my food keeps going off.

Click here to join Shelter’s campaign to “show politicians how bad renting can be for many of us.”

Gentle Hugs 🙂


31 Replies to “The true cost of London’s housing crisis on the chronically ill”

  1. I’m so sorry that you are going through this! I’m sending hugs! I’m currently knee deep in a similar situation, the high cost of renting has meant that I am currently living in a run down house with five other people, mould all over my walls and a broken window. The added stress is indeed not helping my Fibro! Hugs x

    1. Thanks so much for empathising my friend. I too am sorry that you are in this situation! The funny thing is that I only recently realised how much all of this took a toll on my health. It’s hard living with fibro to begin with- everything else is just added burdens. I really hope you can find a way out soon my friend. Gentle hugs! x

  2. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Wow! No one should go through things like this to have a roof over their head never mind someone battling chronic illnesses.

  3. Oh my! What a terrible situation! I am so sorry you are going through all of this. (I was just reading today about the shortage of affordable housing in London.) I will be thinking of you. Sending hugs and prayers! Take care.

        1. Oh I’m so sorry to hear Deb 🙁 get some ginger root (finger sized, generous piece, grate and boil for 20 mins, strain and drink as few cups a day). Hope you feel better soon and will remember to pray for you. Hugs:) x

          1. Oh no! I made it through this year without bronchitis, although I usually get it every year. I slept sitting up in a chair (an armchair with a footrest) for almost 2 weeks, and I think that helped my breathing. Now I have only a slight cough at night, and of course I’m still fatigued. (That’s perpetual anyway.) I will keep you in my prayers! I hope you feel much better very soon. Take care of yourself!!

          2. Thanks so much Debs. Ive been fighting off an infection for sev weeks, with no heating then the cold draft, but it finally took over. I feel very weak. I dont think Ive ever had bronchitis before. I feel like fibro x10
            you get better soon too xxx

    1. Sadly, it’s so common in London Linda. I know so many other people suffering the same or worse! There’s a homeless man in my neighbourhood- he and his wife were illegally evicted four years ago! has he had any redress? nope! 🙁

      1. I visited London many years ago, in 1976 and again in 1977. I know it wasn’t nearly so crowded then, but even so, it was a bit much for me. Today I live in a small village in the USA, where housing costs are very low. I wish you didn’t have to live in such an expensive city. Perhaps some day you can move to a better place?

        1. Hi Linda, oh I wish I had that option. For me, London is ‘my better place.’ It has its good points but I think it’s not doing too well these days. I left my native Trinidad & Tobago 10 years ago. I studied in London and it’s the only place I’ve found where I can legally live. I’ve family in the US too, but it’ll take a decade waiting for a green card! it’s hard to spend so much time in a place only to have to uproot oneself to move elsewhere. Saying that, I’ll remain open to going anywhere that will have me where I can feel safe and get the medical care I need. I suppose for now it’s the compromise I have to make.

          1. I understand. I wish life were easier for everyone.

            One thing I thought as I read your post… if I were living in that room with the cold air coming through the window, I would change the bedding round with the pillows at the foot of the bed, and sleep with my feet toward the window. With warm socks on my feet so they would not freeze. 🙂

          2. Thanks Linda! I have thought of that as well! the only problem is sleep is tricky for me – if I change the position I sleep in I am often more susceptible to having more night terrors (as I am when I sleep in new places too). Last night I slept closer to the corner of the bed and was plagued by nightmares which kept waking me up. I know it might sound silly but I’ve had so much probs in the past when night terrors got bad (I scream in my sleep but I dont know Im doing it). It did however help to sleep with my hood up!:)

          3. It does not sound silly at all, I have had many sleep terrors, too. I have often felt that closing my eyes to go to sleep was like closing my eyes and going to hell.

            My doctors prescribed medicines for my anxiety but I still had night terrors. Then last year I stopped eating and drinking anything that contains caffeine, and now I never have night terrors! I had some headaches as my body went through withdrawal from coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. But after a week, the headache was gone, and I felt CALM and perfectly peaceful for the first time in many years!

            God bless you, I am praying for you.

          4. Ohh thank you for your understanding Linda! I’m sorry you had to suffer that too. It’s so awful to wake up and feel afraid to go back to sleep. I’m glad you no longer have to deal with this. Have you stopped caffeine entirely? I won’t mind trying this though the only time I have it is during the day and almost not at all in the warmer months. Thanks for your prayers my friend:) God bless you too x

          5. I only drink decaffeinated tea now, and I never eat chocolate or drink coffee or colas. I did not have very much caffeine before, either. I used to drink just one cup of coffee per day, sometimes two cups, and only rarely did I drink colas or eat chocolate. The one or two cups of coffee I drank was usually in the early mornings. But even so, it apparently affected my nerves for at least 24 hours! Caffeine is a drug and a few countries have banned it. I have read that some people are very sensitive to caffeine. I now know that I am one such person!

          6. Wow! yeah I don’t do colas either! Ive written articles on the effects of caffeine before but had no idea that someone people were so sensitive to it! The only time I really have it is when I have tea or the odd cup of coffee xx

          7. I also had no idea that caffeine could cause such a problem. What happened was that I got sick with a stomach virus and could not eat or drink anything except cold water for nearly a week. So, I could not drink my daily cup of coffee. I had a caffeine withdrawal headache for several days. Then the headache stopped, and I felt so wonderful and calm that I have never had anything that contains caffeine, including chocolate, ever since. No more night terrors!! No more insomnia!! I am very glad I got so sick.

            I hope that you, too, can get rid of your night terrors.

  4. I knew prices were high in London but that is astronomical amount to pay for just a room. Does that include a private bathroom or is it shared? That’s 1600$ a month here and you could rent an entire home in lots of places for that. Can you put say foam in the window to block the cold out?

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Mini:) How are you? My rent includes a private bath/toilet but even without such facilities rent in London is crazy expensive. I would move outside London if I could but finding a job isn’t that easy (harder outside London) and it’s not feasible for me to travel very far as I struggle so much with just getting to work! it knocks me out every single day but Ive no choice! The housing crisis has sent prices sky high. There is only a very tiny space in the windows. Ive suggested to the agency that they try a silicon gel to enable to shut tightly but nothing yet. Got home today and it smelled of something like glue but no evidence of work done. Typical. They send a cheap repair man who never gets the done job properly. It took him two months and incessant complaints before they fixed my heating, now Im sick with bronchitis and sinusitis, literally struggling to prop myself up at desk! sorry for moaning! but glad you stopped by and kind enough to offer advice. Gentle hugs:)

      1. I’m glad they fixed the heat and I’m sorry that you’re going thru such a horrible situation adding stress to your body & immune system. Rest as much as you can & gentle hugs.

        1. Thank you so much Mini! 🙂 the heating isn’t great (they’ve installed the cheapest possible radiator which doesnt give off much heat but it’s better than nothing! Im still thankful. Hopefully it will get warmer soon:) thanks for reaching out, it’s been very comforting:) How are you managing these days? Gentle hugs x

          1. Oh I can relate to that! glad you managed too! oftentimes it’s the simple things that others take forgranted that we really appreciate! fight on my friend:)x

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