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Artist evicted by London landlord cuts rent by commuting from Argentina | London


An artist who was made homeless after being evicted by his private landlord in London has started effectively commuting from Argentina where the rent is so much cheaper that it covers the cost of air fare.

Andy Leek, 38, whose Notes to Strangers works are pasted on to walls and junction boxes across more than 20 British and European cities, has moved to Buenos Aires where the rents are several times cheaper and he travels back to the UK roughly every two months for work. The flight costs less than a monthly train season ticket between Bristol and London.

His move is an extreme, and carbon intensive, example of what happens when people are priced out of the UK’s rent hotspots, and comes as the average UK private rent increased by a record 9.2% in the last year (11.2% in London), according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, released on Wednesday.

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It is the highest annual increase since 2015, when the data series began and equivalent to an “eye-watering” £2,500 rise in the average annual rent bill in London, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

“I have so much love for London but I am so angry with it,” said Leek, who pastes up handwritten A4 notices with encouraging messages such as “wrong decisions still move you forward” and “I wish you would keep some of your kindness for yourself.”

“I think a lot of people feel that way. The more the housing crisis completely hamstrings us, the more people are going to live in Glasgow, Manchester or far-flung corners of the world.”

In recent years, the soaring cost of renting has driven more and more people out of the capital. New analysis for the Guardian by Hamptons, shows that in the first three months of 2024, 36% of London renters who decided to move house left the capital, up from 27% in 2012. The number quitting the city in the last year dropped slightly towards pre-pandemic levels.

Leek, a former art director at an advertising agency, earns money by selling versions of his Notes to Strangers works, taking special commissions for brands and public speaking. He paid £1,000 a month for a flatshare in Brixton, but had to sofa surf and sleep on floors after the landlord evicted him and he could not afford London’s rising rents, which are up 30% since 2015, the latest ONS figures showed.

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In Argentina, he is making a documentary about an emerging rock group, which focuses in part on the even deeper cost of living crisis there, where extreme inflation means prices rose more than 50% in just the first three months of this year.

He said he “feels kinship” with the band, Los Titeres – which translates as the Puppets – whose progress is being hindered by having to work day jobs and who cannot afford to make high-quality recordings.

“This is an impossible situation when groceries double in price,” he said. “How are you meant to live? It’s a heightened version [of what is happening in the UK]. I went shopping with the lead singer and she was doing the maths [on the prices] in her head. You walk around the supermarket and you feel pain.”

Since moving to Argentina Leek has paid as little as £400 a month rent for an apartment and flown back to London four times saying: “It works out far cheaper than staying in London, dealing with the hassle and not getting by.”

His relocation 7,000 miles away is far more extreme than most people who are deciding to leave Britain’s most expensive rent hotspots in London. Private renters leaving the capital are now most likely to move to Epping in Essex, Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and Tonbridge and Malling in Kent, according to Hamptons’ research among its wider network of Countryside agencies. Other popular destinations for ex-London renters are Watford, Luton and Slough.

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