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A bedsit, bedsitter, or bed-sitting room is a form of accommodation common in some parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland which consists of a single room per occupant with all occupants typically sharing a bathroom. Bedsits are included in a legal category of dwellings referred to as houses in multiple occupation (HMO).
Bedsits arose from the subdivision of larger dwellings into low-cost accommodation at low conversion cost. In the UK a growing desire for personal independence after World War II led to a reduced demand for traditional boarding houses with communal dining. Bedsits are often occupied by young single people, students, those unable to purchase their own properties, or those whose occupation is of a transitory nature; the cost is typically lower than for other types of property. Someone whose employment is a long distance from his/her home may sometimes rent a bedsit to reduce the cost and inconvenience of daily travel.
In 2013, regulations came into force in Ireland, under which landlords were obliged to provide each tenant with a separate bathroom, a four-ring cooker, access to laundry facilities and other basic facilities, or risk being fined up to €5,000. This move has contributed to the increase of homelessness as no substitute at a low cost was provided by the government.
The Canadian and American equivalents to a bedsit are rooming houses and single room occupancy (SRO); however, in Canada those differ from bedsits in that rooming houses and SRO hotels generally do not provide tenants with private kitchen or bathing facilities- instead, those facilities are shared. True bedsits are rare in Canada but are found in some Maritime regions, such as the city of St. John's.
The Australian equivalent to bedsit is called flatette. In New Zealand, the terms bedsit and granny flat are used interchangeably.
A bedsit can also be compared to a Soviet communal apartment, in which a common kitchen, bathroom, toilet, and telephone are shared by several families, each of which lives in a single room opening up onto a common hallway.
In Nigeria, a similar equivalent of a bedsit is the face-to-face apartment buildings, where a group of one or two room apartments have their entrances facing each other along a walkway, which leads to the main entrance of the building in which the apartments are located. The apartments, which often have shared bathrooms and kitchen spaces, are low rent and are commonly used by the low-income residents because of their affordability.
Bedsits were once common in Dublin and other towns in Ireland, although they had been impractical to implement after the introduction of planning permission in 1963. Bedsits were banned in 2008 by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, with a phase-out date of February 2013. The Health Service Executive and approved housing bodies can still offer equivalent accommodation, which is mostly used as emergency accommodation for the homeless.
References in popular culture
Bedsits are often associated with poor people, and are mentioned in this way in "Late Lament" by The Moody Blues: "bedsitter people look back and lament/another day's useless energy spent". Justin Hayward, the song's composer and singer, wrote this in his own bed-sit at the age of 19. The song "Solitary Confinement" from The Members album At the Chelsea Nightclub, paints a grim picture of life in a bedsit room, portraying the life of a loner who has moved to the city, and spends all their time at work or at home watching television, and "eat(s) out of tins". The song likens the protagonist's existence to that of a prisoner locked in solitary confinement. Scottish folk-rock singer Al Stewart's debut album is titled Bedsitter Images. In "I Fought in a War" by Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian, mention is made of the "bedsit infamy of the decade gone before". The subject is also referenced for a similar purpose in "Legend in My Living Room" by Annie Lennox ["...Bright lights and trains and bedsit stains"] as well as the Soft Cell song "Bedsitter", about club life. David Bowie in "Song for Bob Dylan" from Hunky Dory (1971) sings: "You gave your heart to every bedsit room". The Clash song "Capitol Radio" remarks "phone in from your bedsit room".
Harold Pinter's play The Room (1957) is a classic "kitchen sink" drama evoking the squalor and social depression of the bed-sitting room culture of the time. British comedian Tony Hancock was the sole person in "The Bedsitter" (Hancock 1961) by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson for the BBC, a classic depiction of the boredom of bedsit existence. The Bed-Sitting Room (1963) is a satirical play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus about the aftermath of World War III, later made into a film released in 1969. In it, one of the characters, Lord Fortnum, mutates into the aforementioned humble dwelling after expressing fear of this surrealist eventuality. The popular 1970s British sitcom Rising Damp was set in a house converted into bedsits, with the landlord Rupert Rigsby played by Leonard Rossiter.
Tracey Thorn, former singer in the group Everything But The Girl, has written a memoir book titled Bedsit Disco Queen published in February 2013. In "Miss Gee," from W. H. Auden's Another Time, the title character is said to have "lived in Clevedon Terrace in a small bed-sitting room". In Spaced, a major conflict comes to a climax when Tim's flat is referred to as a bedsit by his rival, Duane Benzie.
- Chambre de bonne, a similar form of accommodation in France
- Garret, a low-rent attic room
- The L-Shaped Room (novel)
- Single room occupancy, the North American equivalent
- "New landlord regulations will spell the end for grotty bedsits", Irish Independent, 2 February 2013
- McKenzie-Sutter, Holly. "Lineups form outside grocery stores in St. John's, on 5th day of emergency". CTV News. Bell Media. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
- Newswatch. 14. Newswatch Communications Ltd. 1991. p. 10.
- S.I. No. 534/2008 - Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 View SI Amendments
- Miss Gee – W. H. Auden wonderingminstrels.blogspot.com
- Berard, Tom. "Emperor". SongMeanings.com. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
Katharine Whitehorn's book Cooking in a Bedsitter (originally Kitchen in the Corner: a complete guide to bedsitter cookery), first published in 1961 and a classic of its kind, remained in print for thirty-five years. It was published by Penguin Books in the Penguin Handbooks series.
- The dictionary definition of bedsit at Wiktionary