As I lie awake at three o’clock in the morning, unable to sleep because the new holiday makers have just arrived in the flat upstairs (damn AirbnB), I can’t help but ponder on my so-far unfortunate experiences renting accommodation in London. I am now in ‘Home No.3’ (26B),and still haven’t found a house/flat that is in a good state of repair. My boyfriend and I moved into our basement flat last September in 2014. I had just turned 21 and it was my first time living with a boy.
We had spent weeks trying to find an appropriate flat. Hours worth of searching, tears, tantrums and more stress later we finally found 26B, for just £525 each a month. This eye-watering figure would make most of my friends and family in Scotland weep. ‘£1050 a month for 27 square meters?!’ My friends (who spend £300 a month on their rent) cried. Unfortunately £1050 a month is dirt cheap here (I cringe as I write this) and even a year on, it is becoming harder and rarer to find something even in this price range.
The flat was a mess when we went to view it, dishes in the sink, empties all over the living room, dirty clothes all over the floor, and a very strange smell coming form the kitchen. The guy who lived there was somewhat of a pig in his sty. ‘That will all go, there will be a full and professional clean,’ said the estate agent, lets call him ‘Lucifer’ shall we? We were told there was another viewing in 10 minutes so if we wanted it, we had to decide quickly. Old Nick was now taking on a role similar to that of a drug pusher, showing us the ultimate temptation. If we wanted a house now, we had to say yes, but if it all went tits up, it was our problem and we were on our own. How many disgusting flats had we seen already? There certainly wouldn’t be another chance to rent a flat like this in such a nice area…or for the money we have. Seeing the potential in the flat, we signed there and then. In blood (I jest). Naive and overly trusting in Lucifer we believed the flat would be restored to a decent state, we skipped off back up to Scotland for a holiday, very happy at the prospect of living in our new flat. This was our tiny half of a basement! We couldn’t believe our luck. We didn’t have room for a freezer, dryer, sofa or chairs but it was ours and it had a patio and we loved it.
Fast forward to move in day. Arrive at flat. Curl nose up at the reeking, stench of damp. Look round living room. Cry. It hadn’t been cleaned. It hadn’t been fixed. There was mould everywhere, the wood work was rotten, the window frame was broken, the locks didn’t work, the toilet was brown, the shower door was hanging on its hinges, there was a thick layer of dirt and dust in, on and behind everything and the previous tenant/professional cleaners had thoughtfully left us a nice little assault course of broken glass all over our patio. There were yet more, not-so-empties in and around the boiler cupboard. Cheers.
The landlady said she was ‘mortified’ and to send her a list of repairs, she would then get straight on them. A year later, and after weekly emails, we have had 4 workmen in to give her quotes. Workmen that we had found and gone to the effort of contacting. Our boiler subsequently broke in April where we were stuck without heating and hot water for three weeks, while our landlady went on holiday. It still hasn’t been fully fixed and we have been without out heating since April. Our cute little first home together has turned into nightmare, literally draining the life out of my soul. Every time something brakes or goes wrong, I break down into a pit of despair, it’s my new 21st Century version of melodrama.
How did it get so bad? How did you let her get away with this for so long? I hear you cry. The truth is I have no idea. We sent her weekly emails, called her regularly but being in full-time education and in Uni all day everyday, its hard to keep tabs on and make formal complaints to environmental health about rogue landladies. Especially for a hermit like myself who cringes at any kind of social confrontation.
Through all this, the thought that makes me most sad, is that we are still incredibly lucky and fortunate. There are people being taken advantage of and living in much worse conditions than myself. At least we have a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in every night.
My hope is that you read this blog post and don’t fall into the same, naive trap that I did. This leads me to my first rule of survival here, stand up for yourself, don’t let anyone take advantage of your good nature and most importantly-don’t be anyones tube, especially if you’re paying them for it.
Signing off for now- its cold damp and wet.
Girl in 26B