Tuesday, 9 November 2010


All day long, I hear the sound of water: drip…drip…drip. Sometimes, rain seeps down from the dislocated drainpipe, but the sound is more pervasive than that.

I’ve never been happy in this flat – just never felt comfortable or settled. It’s okay - not in the nicest area, and is (on some levels) affordable. But it’s never felt like my home, and I’ve always felt unnerved. This flat is old – really old, and I am (choking on the words) pining for a newbuild.

The landlord was half-hearted in every way, and what were once niggles are becoming major vexations. Some things are silly: in the lounge he placed an enormous cheap mirror, but then painted around it so I can’t remove it. Why would you do that?

The windows won’t shut properly or stay open in the summer, and were never resealed; occasionally a grey pool of invading water collects on the inside ledge. I asked the letting agents, but they ignored me – in the winter I can see daylight through the gaps in the frames. It’s cold and any heat leaks out to generously warm the street below. The front lock has no ‘shield’ and winter pierces the hallway with wounding, frozen spears.

In theory, the flat is furnished, but the bathroom lacks a towel rail or cabinet, while several of the landlord’s own CD racks crowd my only cupboard. This might seem like an odd way of expressing things, but it’s so male – as if the man fitting it out and shopping for furniture was so averse to female fripperies that he eradicated anything deemed an extra. Like a wardrobe. And he placed the bathroom mirror so high up I need a stepladder. I also wonder why it was that the landlord provided just two dining chairs – one for me, and one perhaps for my imaginary friend?

Weird little weevils have appeared in my kitchen cupboards, and I think that’s caused by damp. The first bloom of black mould has (inevitably) appeared on the bathroom ceiling, but nothing will be done, and damp will slowly chew the body of what could be a lovely place to live.

In other rooms it’s a fact that nothing was renovated or renewed – everything was painted over. The heating consists of storage heaters which devour my money, and in other rooms massive, ancient heaters which have no thermostat or timer, and either belch out heat for hours (there is no temperature control) or else I am waiting for the air to defrost. There is no heater in the bathroom.

I know there are grants available for these things. There is a green agenda. But I will be moving on eventually – maybe even soon, and I know too well that nothing will be done.

Newbuilds are fragile, threadbare and flimsy, but at least they are usually energy efficient and warm. Perhaps I should go back to Dovecot Towers? I am actually pining for a newbuild - have I gone completely crazy? Perhaps that drip…drip…drip has driven me mad.


Anonymous said...

Hi there

I’ve added a link to you on my new property blog. Could you add one in return?


Much obliged.

Michael O’Flynn

NewcastleStu said...

Not all newbuilds are built equal though.

My current new-ish build rental (built around 2000-03) is bloody freezing and the electric heater in the bedroom works by some bizarre logic that I'm yet to work out (there is no 'constant'/'override' option) so sleeping in clothes is fun!

That said my previous south-facing newbuild was always lovely and warm even when it was chucking it down outside, I was always wearing shorts and t-shirt indoors.

I'm hoping to find the 'goldilocks' zone with my next place.

RenterGirl said...

Newbuilds play with your mind and mess with your expectations. the coldest flat I ever did sit in was a new conversion. I shiver at the thought.

Chris said...

I don't mean to sound insensitive but you could:-

- move the mirror and paint the wall (if it really bothered you that much)

- get some expanding foam or filler and fill in the gaps around the window frame

- put in your own towel rail (hey, why not go mad and put in two of the things)

- take out the CD racks

- move the bathroom mirror

Of course, you can and should ask the landlord to attend to these things. But if he won't or can't be arsed why not ask the question 'Why don't I just do it myself?'

I hope the anser isn't "but I'm so female."

Sorry if I come across as a bit grumpy.

RenterGirl said...

It irks me when people like you say - when confronted by the lack of furniture/proper provision in a rented property - tell tenants to do it all/buy it all themselves. We pay extra for furniture, have often been promised these things will be provided as (I was with the windows) and are penalised with deposit deductions if we alter anything, like painting a wall and not matching the paint exactly. Here, the mirror has actually been stuck to the wall. I have been told the CD racks must stay, and so they take up valuable space in the storage cupboard I pay money to use. Oh the towel racks? Guess what genius boy, I bought them. But guess what again - if I screw anything onto the walls, and since I will be taking them with me, I will have to cover nay marks left. I thought of all this - but that's because I am female. And no you don't sound grumpy. Just bit of an arse.

Brent Private Tenants rights group said...

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RenterGirl said...

Thanks! I met someone from your group I think at a Shelter conference about a year ago. Keep up the good work!

Chris said...

Now, now Ms Anderson - no need to be rude.

All I'm suggesting is that you should feel free to do those little jobs to make the place you live in more liveable.

Go on, take out those sodding CD racks. (Provided you put them back when you leave, your landlord should have no basis to object; stick them under the bed or on a wall in the meantime)

As for a towel rail, I wouldn't go drilling through bathroom tiles unless i was happy to leave the rail in situ when I left - but if it's just a matter of putting a couple of drill holes in a plastered wall, I can't see it's a big deal.

I have enjoyed reading your blog for a while now. My own perspective is that I was a tenant for many years (over 15 years, I think) before I got married. One year I did get sick of looking at my landlord's awful wallpaper and polysterene ceiling tiles and so I redecorated. Granted it was just a couple of rooms I lived in back then and there was no thumping deposit to worry about - my tenancy pre-dated these new-fangled assured shorthold things.

These days I'm no longer a renter: it's marriage, mortgage kids, etc.

RenterGirl said...

Chris - things have changed since you were a renter. Tenants have deductions taken from their deposit for crimes like putting up pictures. I know of a tenant who left a new unused kettle with a note saying the next tenant might like it. Result? £50 fee for 'disposal.' And what is it with you and those CD racks: there is no room for them anywhere. And I have to hang on to them.

Chris said...

I agree that the less scrupulous landlords will, inevitably perhaps, see the end of the tenancy as their last chance to screw the tenant out of whatever they can. You get this same attitude with commercial leases for business premises (and I don't like it even in those circumstances). £50 to dispose of a new kettle is clearly undefensible (but, conversely, I've known of situations where the tenants have left behind a stack of old mattresses, leaving the landlord to cart the things off to the dump). Hopefully with the dispute mediation service available under the Deposit Protection Scheme the landlord won't be able to get away with charging £50 to put a kettle in the nearest dustbin - if indeed he did really throw it away - but that's not to say that unscrupulous landlords won't keep trying it on.

Greedy landlords will always be a problem. Not that your landlord is necessarily one of those - it may be he's just lazy. If the wind were whistling in around your window frames you'd think he'd want to get that fixed - after all, the property is his investment. But he doesn't live there and you do: you're suffering the immediate ill-effects and he isn't. He'd probably be delighted if you were to fill the gaps (as it would, of course, save him the trouble and expense of hiring a workman to do it or having to come round one weekend and do it himself). If he's halfway sensible he should at least be willing to reimburse the cost of the materials if you do go ahead and do it yourself.

Speaking of greedy landlords did you hear that thing on Radio 4 a few weeks back about landlords who had properties in Stratford E15 which they were planning to let out for several thousand pounds for the two weeks worth of running, jumping and chucking stuff that is the modern Olympic Games. This would, of course, necessitate evicting their present tenants [who presumably are on ASTs on which the initial 6 months/12 months term had expired]. One charming lady said she would however let her present tenants have the chance of staying put - if, of course, they were able to stump up the 3K per fortnight that she thought the property was worth over the two weeks in the August 2012.

And vis-a-vis the CD racks, hey you mentioned them first!

RenterGirl said...

Chris - are you determined to have the last word? landlords pay letting agencies 15% of the rent to organise repairs. They don't repair things. Landlords take rent from tenants. Why the hell should tenants spend time doing repairs? Tenants PAY FOR REPAIRS.