Last Thursday, whilst sucking at an oxygen tank, sick with altitude fever after traipsing up the many flights of stairs, I realised the rubbish needed taking down. Cursing at the journey and the rain, I noticed a hand-delivered letter soggy and discarded on the floor. It was addressed to me, and had apparently been left on a first floor ledge but had been moved or made its own way down.
And guess what’s inside? A cheery letter from my letting agent. Apparently, they’re inspecting my flat between 9am and 5 pm next week. How thoughtful of them to let me know.
The letter says: “It is not necessary for you to be present.”
Erm…actually people, yes it is, since you mention it. I have no intention of allowing strangers free-rein to gambol in my lounge, poking their sticky beaks into my affairs. And they intend on doing this every three-four months “…on behalf of the landlord.”
Whatever next: summoning tenants with a whistle like the Von Trapp children, compelling us to wear uniforms and stand by our beds military fashion while saluting?
To be honest, it’s like Piccadilly Circus in here. A fortnight ago, my flat required a small repair, and I was expecting the contractor to arrange a convenient time. When I called, he said: “But I’ve already been to your house; the agency gave me the keys and I was round last Saturday.”
At least he had the grace to be embarrassed at having marched uninvited in my home, and was astonished that I hadn’t been informed. In fact, he was mortified, but not as horrified as I am. Furious doesn’t cover it, and words are inadequate. The letting agent are so keen to protect themselves and yet stomp over my rights, crushing my privacy and legal entitlement to peaceful enjoyment at every turn.
God, I was angry. The cheek of it: I have no idea who has the key to my home, how many keys exist, and (this is the terrifying part) how many copies have been made. I will allow reasonable access in an emergency, but surely frequent, random spot-checks is against the spirit of the law (I might add that an agency employee had already called two weeks ago so they know I’m not wrecking the place.)
I wonder if I’m allowed to change the locks (which I really want to do, considering the amount of unauthorised visitors who’ve had my door key in their grubby little mitts). Also, can the letting agents insist that the law is on their side?
It’s so demeaning, and I feel powerless, since I know full well that - as retaliatory evictions are widespread - dissent will lead to me being shown the door. On days like this, I loath being a tenant, I really do. I hate it because these measures are less about inspection – more about making me feel unwelcome in my own home, the one I pay rent to live in.