Friday, 9 April 2010

Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed...?

All tenants have a bizarre and tenuous relationship with the people who sleep in our bed. We are serial divan-hoppers, and I have no idea who’s next for my mattress.

Certain situations seem a lot more intimate than they really are, but renting nomads enjoy undeniably close but fleeting contact with people they rarely meet. These enigmatic wraiths loom over us, wielding a disproportionately large level of power, and are able to blight or enhance everything from credit ratings to social lives. It’s all down to the people who move into your new home, or the people who step into life, into your bed (if not your shoes) after you vacate.

The woman who moved into Nice Heights – my old home (sigh – it really was lovely) is a pain, which upsets me because the landlord was excellent, and I suspect she’s stuffing things up for him as well. Relocaters pay the Post Office to forward mail (that’s a laugh – buy a lottery ticket – you’ll have more luck) but usually ask the new occupant to forward anything that still goes astray. Despite leaving a huge SAE and my new details, she never redirected my post. I even toyed with pointing out that: “…interfering with the post is criminal offence, young lady,” no missing letters arrived. I asked the landlord to remind her.

Perhaps she couldn’t be bothered, but her omission caused multiple difficulties, notable a burocratic nightmare with several businesses (including a utility company who wouldn’t/couldn’t grasp that I had moved, no matter what I said or did). I don’t know why she didn’t forward my letters - she simply chose not to. It’s awkward, because I showed her round, and thought at the time that she seemed a bit distant – even cold, but my landlord was convinced she was nice, and who was I to argue?

Sometimes it’s like walking across a grave, hearing eerie echoes of troubled lives. The former occupants of my current home did a runner not just from my flat, but also from credit card and utility companies. I inherited their old number, and was for weeks subjected to automated calls at all hours, demanding that they get in touch. Their mail was persistent, and angry.

Then a real person from one company called, and I “…pointed out their mistake.” But it all seemed so desperate, and the sight of several letters from the DWP indicated that they had really fallen on hard times. I returned all their post to sender, despite the letting agents telling me to throw the correspondence in the bin, even ripping up a letter in my presence. To this day, I still find forlorn, misdirected circulars from catalogues, or charities.

But things needn’t be so difficult. In another flat, the previous occupant left a note wishing me all the best and gave her number in case I needed anything or fancied meeting up (realising I was new in town.) She’s now a good friend.

Incidentally, somebody once found rentergirl by googling: “Should I leave balloons in the flat for the new tenant?” FYI - The answer is …yes.


Burbage said...

You're right that the Royal Mail's redirection doesn't do what you'd think. And that successors to tenancies are usually unwilling.

I don't know if it would work now, but for a few years in the early nineties, my correspondence address was care of my local bank. Twice a week I'd pop in and pick up my post from the customer enquiries desk.

I did this first when I was 'between homes' for a while and was renewing my passport. I can't remember, but I think the passport office suggested it. In any case, it worked so well I kept it running till I had to move to somewhere bankless.

I didn't get a single complaint from anyone about not having a 'proper address', and the bank didn't mind much, either. The worst that happened was when a frowny manager tried to sell me a 'secure envelope' but I was so frothingly polite about it that I never saw him again.

RenterGirl said...

That's a good idea, but I doubt that people would do that now - even some of my friends have refused to accept mail when I've been between homes or living where my post went awol (ie in Dovecot Towers.)

Shoe said...

There are online services now that can change a batch of service addresses together for you.

That however, can be wiped out if you go for paperless banking/billing as much as possible. It is forlorn alright to see the sea of mail for long since gone tenants.
My ex partner bought a house which had been rented and by a tenant who had absconded owing large sums to the local credit union, so we got a lot of her hate mail for a while. The sad thing is how people tend to think that not reading your mail when fallen on hard times is actually a solution to a difficult problem, not realising it has huge consequences for years to come.

Neil80 said...

Nothing like putting your feet up after the stress of moving only to be greeted by a flurry of threatening letters; baliffs, debt collectors, utility companies and TV licensing.

RenterGirl said...

It is actually horrible to be sleeping in someone else's bed. Mattresses are cheap, they should be replaced with every new tenant. The post is a nightmare. The carpets have dodgy stains, and as for the toilet bowl...

Anonymous said...

Help! I need advice from fellow renters. I live in a flat with quite a few problems, mostly due to the landlord being a cheapskate really. We are renting through an agency, who just took over managing the property as we moved in, so they aren't the ones to have made some of the awful decisions in this property.

From the moment we moved in, we've had a cascading series of faults in the flat - the agency has actually been fantastic about it and helped sort things out, but it doesn't change the fact that the flat is a bit of a lemon and has serious problems.

First, we had a bad problem with water supply to the bathroom - the pipe was somehow blocked, they had to install a new pipe, the whole thing took weeks.

Second, the heater in the second bedroom broke in late January. The fault is with some part, the electrician was crap, then the manufacturers didn't come to fix it on time... I don't even need the heater anymore, but it still doesn't work. Also, for the same amount of time the heater in the bathroom was broken, it was only replaced a month ago.

The problem with the heating has made the issue of damp in the flat much, much worse. The bathroom, where the damp is worst, is also the corner of the block. Okay, so damp, fine, bleach the walls... The problem is, as the year has unfolded, we've discovered that in fact the entire batroom, except for a small bit around the shower which is tiled, is covered in wallpaper. Including directly above the shower. We didn't realise at first as it was painted over, but now some of the wallpaper is starting to come off. We've done everything we could for the flat, and I know the agents themselves are fairly annoyed with the landlord for doing really shoddy work on the flat and want to redo the bathroom and kitchen once we move out, but I'm scared of losing the deposit. There is nothing that we could have done to prevent this that we did not do. Advice?

RenterGirl said...

First of all, I am so sorry to hear about what has happened. I am not a qualified lawyer or anything, and can only give informal advice. I would speak to the local Environmental Health Office. Damp and things like are in their remit. There is also the Tenancy Relation Officer at the council to consult. Also - try and speak to the Citizen's Advice Bureau, or your local law centre. Send letters recorded delivery (you put this politely in writing, haven't you?) and include some estimates of how much it costs to fix the matter yourself, having the bill sent to the landlord. Hint - a high price can concentrate the mind, once they have accepted they have to do the repairs (which they do.) Finally (and I HATE it when people say this to me) but it doesn't sound like a luxurious palace. Do you have a good reason to stay - like it's close to work or the end of term is nigh. If not, I'd be looking elsewhere, which I understand is costly and a pain. All the best, don't be scared, and please let me know the ending.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for advice! Definately will deal through it like that, you're right, it's ridiculous. I can deal with them not fixing it, I honestly don't care so long as they don't charge me for it. We're definately moving in September, waiting for our lease to end and for another friend's lease to end as well, and then greener and properly-heated pastures! I'll tell you how it goes!

Obsidian said...

The Royal Mail can barely manage to send mail to the place I've live for over a decade, asking them to forward it... Probably be quicker to ask anyone send you a letter to stuff it in a bottle and toss it into the sea!

Shoe said...

Actually funny you mention the mattress. I have a theory a normal matress lasts maybe 10 years (less sometimes), the average rental matress is expected, like the rest of Grannys broken furniture, to last for about 30 years.

Although its also kind of scummy too to see landlords who have bought the cheapest bed and then later on natched it up with a non matched matress. The problem is that its so acceptable to put the cheapest, completely non lasting substandard furniture into rentals, they generally die within 2-3 years.

I currently have a broken toilet seat. I didn't think such a thing was possible.

My First Home said...
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