To continue last week’s theme of interactivity and participation (moi? Playing buzzword bingo?) here’s another amazing, outrageous and very telling reader’s story. Our hero returned after six years in Australia, with a spotless (if foreign) credit history, impressive bank statements, and more than enough savings to pay six months rent upfront (ie enough to give the landlord a nice interest free loan.)
He returned to his home-town seeking a place to live, and approached local letting agencies, who could scarcely conceal their contempt. You see, he didn’t have a job – well not yet, but was certain he would find work quite soon.
"Jesus!” He says. “When did landlords get so choosy all of a sudden? Last time I rented it was: I'd like the place. Certainly, do you have the rent and deposit? Yes I do, here it is. Thank you, just sign this, and here's your keys."
It was suggested that he might find a guarantor, but he hasn’t stayed in close touch with anyone for the past six years, and those he does, he wouldn't want to ask. “A bit humiliating.” Is how he described it.
I’ll let him summarise the situation:
"Right. Because I don't have a job, no landlord will want to let to me. If I can pay six months in advance, plus all the fees and deposits, then I might get a place, but I'd need a UK credit check and a guarantor on top, and even then I'd probably get turfed out after six months if I'm not working? I don't have a UK credit history. You say that if I can get a guarantor, I might be in with a chance I'm forty-five years old! Who can I ask? I can show you my bank statements, and ten years of landlord references.”
With ill-disguised disdain, the agents then suggested he might be better off looking for a shared house (he isn’t aware of benefit changes, but he’ll have too much in savings to claim in any case) and might be unemployed while he looks for the work he is confident of finding.
“Within forty-eight hours of landing at Heathrow, and forty-eight minutes of arriving in Hometown, I feel a bit wobbly on my feet. Cash-rich, but unable to proffer to the Landlord Gods a cast-iron 100% guaranteed guarantee, or be granted one in return, professional but jobless, credit-rich but UK credit history poor, I was sent shuffling off to the bottom of the pile.”
Now, he is a bit out of touch, and perhaps a tad unprepared for the economic downturn in the UK – maybe he won’t find work immediately. But he’s not looking for a palace, just a flat, and can’t find anyone prepared to take him on. I suggested that he places an ad explaining his situation, appealing for a reasonable landlord, or ask if there is a ‘hard to let’ flat where he could stay for now.
Meanwhile, another reader emailed to say they’d been asked recently for a guarantor to underwrite their guarantor. I am assuming - indeed hoping - that this was a joke.
In any case, to both of you: please let me know what happens next.