Saturday, 12 September 2009

Mastering The Space Time Continuum

The rules governing any move to a different city are complex – a strand of theoretical physics where explanations are trippy and weird. In summary: letting-agent time operates in a different zone (or rather, an alternative reality) to time in the tenant’s dimension. Meanwhile landlord and removal-man time are different again.

To maintain order in this continuum, relocating renters must synchronise their plans. It’s very tense. I tried to find a new flat well in advance this time around, but most properties are advertised when they are already vacant, and landlords expect you to move in immediately.

That causes problems with the timing of deposits and notice. My last landlord was kind enough to initiate the Deposit Protection Scheme refund before I left, as having seen the flat he knew it was in good nick. Even so, I still had to wait a few days, a delay which meant someone was sitting on the money I would have placed on my new flat.

There’s also the fact that I was technically homeless (I’ve written before about the problems this causes.) Friends who would have let me stay had a much loved relative in hospital, and a fretful sofa-surfer was not what they needed, so I made arrangements to stay in a cheap accommodation, which ate up money I cannot spare. That ticking clock again, as delay in finding somewhere cost me dear…

So I had to hurry letting-agents, without seeming desperate. Once they scent the blood of homeless woman, they go in for the kill, offering the worst leaking shed, and expecting you to be grateful, thereby wasting more time.

Meanwhile, I kept working without landline or internet access, which for a writer is a nightmare. Mostly though, I coped, until the agency got confused (hmm…) about exactly when I was due to collect the keys.
The ferocious she-lettingagent growled: “Where were you – my time is money. Don’t waste my time.”

I pointed out that she had missed a message rearranging the appointment to suit my equally important and valuable time, to no avail. There was no room at the inn. I called my friends, whose relative had rallied; they are kind, and let me stay.

Another factor warps this continuum, and that’s bills. There’s a five day meter reading delay. The tenants of my new flat had left storage heaters on full blast before I moved in, and I wasn’t going to pay for that. Previous occupants sometimes try and bamboozle their replacements into paying for their final days energy use, which can add up.

To avoid chaos, the moving process must happen in the correct sequence: give notice, have meters read, move out of old flat, collect refunded deposit, find new flat, pay deposit, travel across space to new city, collect keys, find removal firm, move in.

Unfortunately, Rentergirl’s General Theory of Relocation says: whatever you need to happen within a defined time-frame will be screwed up completely. There is an explanatory equation somewhere, but even with a Nobel prize up for grabs, it will remain unsolved. The greatest minds all agree; time in the renting universe defies logic as we understand it.

(NB: In memory of ‘Davey,’ who died a year ago.)



Anonymous said...


you are pretty good,but a bit too negative.

Neil80 said...

Flying the flag for the Yo-Yo generation I've never actually had to move from flat to flat. It's enough hassle when there is no chain involved so I can well imagine what it's like trying to make a seamless transition from one tenancy to another. Friends who have been in that position seem to always need to rely on a family member or a friend whether it's a place to crash or somewhere to store some stuff.

BTW what are your thoughts on John Denham's statements about the need to limit HMOs, aimed in particular at curtailing student areas, that were in the press over the weekend. I know it's something you've mentioned before, but it seems as if there might be some movement.

Shoe said...

One of the killers I find personally is a) landlords generally delay in refunding your deposit until after you've moved out, meaning that you have to put together the new desposit in advance and b) bills do take a few days to come after you've shut off the utilities.

To make things more complex in Ireland we don't yet have an equivalent of the deposit scheme, instead we have a more comprehensive Private Rented Tenancies Board, to which you can apply on a range of issues, not just witholding rents (its paid for out of a compulsory 75 euro registration fee which a lot of landlords charge directly back to the tenant, but it does cover you for up to 4.5 years). The other difficulty is temporary storage, which can be expensive even if you don't have a lot of stuff, if you are not moving in/out on the same day. Lastly is those nasty little "charges" that landlords levy - its perfectly legal here to charge tenants cleaning fees, regardless of the condition of the flat. In my case its only 40 euros, but still unfair but legal.

What I did when I lived in London was lived a few weeks in a dodgy hostel in Hendon full of creepy gay men. It wasn't cheap but it did sort the problem out. The weird thing was that the place was full of guys who were more or less living there permanently, and there was a lot of wild druggery at weekends. Plus the guy who owned the place was a bit of a psycho.

RenterGirl said...

Anonymous; I tell it like it is, and I am full of joy...

Neil80; something needs to be done about the studentland thing, but what? They live where they do for the same reason other do: it's cheap and accessible. The eductaing people away from home for the first time is essential, as it encouraging not to be so grumpy.

Shoe - there's a post to follow on that very subject...It is a nightmare, and you have to be organised, solvent, and calm.

Thanks for reading!

Neil80 said...

My worry would be that local politicians, always with an eye on the next bandwagon approaching, would use the new powers to excess. Choking off the supply of Student Housing would then cause it's cost to spiral upwards making Uni even less affordable.

The scary thing is, thinking about it, the only soloution I can come up with are those garish portakabin modules!

Matthew McKinnon said...

Your quantum theories of relocation made me think: do you ever feel, with the endless incompetence/nastiness/bureaucracy you encounter, like you're living in a Douglas Adams novel?

CMS said...

Shoe - creepy men are creepy men. Does it matter if they're gay?

RenterGirl said...

Last week, I was in the middle of a Douglas Adams novel gone bad, and melded with Kafka, with an air of Pinteresque menace. It shouldn't be that way...

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shoe said...

Actually now that I recall, once myself and a friend had a landlord who was a bit of scam artist, so being afraid of losing our deposits, we let it run down rather than pay the last month.

Nobody called us, and we left a forwarding address, paid every last bill etc.

Some weeks later a cheque came in the post for me.

We didn't really know what to do (we had both moved on together to a new place which my friend had bought herself).

So after 2 months, we'd still heard nothing. Another month later, we cashed the cheque and went on holidays on the proceeds! It felt good for once to get one over! We never heard from them again.

RenterGirl said...

Some kind of karmic justice for the community chest accepted on behalf of the people who never get their rightful deposit returned.
Thanks for reading.