Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tenancy Culture Studies: Spaced

In this missive from the Institute of Tenancy Cultural Studies, we look at the cult British sit-com Spaced.

Starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, who also wrote the series together, Spaced is often considered to be the breakthrough for the team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright.
The series centres around young singles, Daisy and Tim, who find themselves in a situation many prospective tenants do- they can't find a home, and need to take creative licence in order to meet the requirements for a potential flat. A chance meeting brings them together and they pose as a ‘professional couple’, requiring them to learn a lot about each other in a very short amount of time.

In just 13 episodes Spaced touches on many of our favourite topic- tenants, owners, lodgers, sharehousing, security of tenure and landlords selling.
Much of the plot and humour in Spaced comes from Tim and Daisy trying to avoid being found out as two singles. In NSW, and many Australian states, there is great pressure on tenants to present themselves as perfect- that may well mean not mentioning or outright lying about pets, previous rental history, employment. No one likes being rejected, nowhere more than when trying to obtain shelter for yourself and your family. Does this pressure really make a difference to the industry as a whole- does it really matter to landlords if tenants are in a relationship, own pets, have a party, or like to cook a good curry? We know how real estate agents feel about regulation of their client investors, but the oft repeated claim that too much regulation will lead to disinvestment is not a credible one- the motivations for investing are not so neatly tied to the relationship with tenants, the government or even necessarily sound investing practices.

So in the end, the answer is no- in Spaced, as in life, what matters is that the Tim and Daisy were able to make the rent, and keep the place from falling down. The restriction the landlady had placed upon her potential tenants was unnecessary (and as it eventually turns out, unintended).
We too prefer for renters to be treated as the adults they are- capable of making their own decisions and taking responsibility for the consequences. We've spoken previously about the hurdles some tenants have to jump over in order to find a place, and the way in which usually adult activities (like the decision to own a pet) are regulated by landlords. Spaced is famed for its pop culture references, and we celebrate it today for its tenancy culture references.

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