Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Be Nice When Interviewing

Tenants increasingly share homes, some forever, as rents rise, benefits slashed and with little looming hope of plentiful new homes any time soon. So you need to ensure that you are compatible with your new family – for that is what they are. There is no point embarking on a new life as a vegan housemate lost like some slaughtered lamb in a household full of rabid carnivores, or a silent, yoga-postured, meditating aesthete where competitive partying is the way of life – indeed, the law.

I wrote about how the incoming newbie tenant can screw up an interview, so now it’s the housemates turn. How do you behave when looking to fill your desirable vacant room? Some things are best sorted out first. A friend visited prospective new home, and found it to be filthy, with several un-emptied bins (‘…we couldn’t be bothered to empty it,’ they offered, with truth in jest.) But, as she reasoned, at least she was forewarned, choosing not move in.

If you’re sneery, arrogant and hostile, then in turns extremely patronising, looking down on the applicant’s musical choices, their job, their hobbies, you will get what you deserve that way – a like minded flatmate, that is - a total arsehole, just like you.

But then, some other housemates interviewed a newbie, sitting in stony silence, as he rattled on of his love for clubbing and gay bars, his new boyfriend, banging house, his questions about their preferences all greeted with astonishment. If you are pious, christian abstainers, why not make this abundantly clear in the ad to save everyone’s time?

There are other faux-pas, such as taking notes, on a clipboard – shared with fellow interviewers while giggling loudly – then saying ‘…don’t worry – we’re always like this, don’t mind us.’

The fact remains that this is happening to everyone – even to older tenants, because of rising rents and benefit cuts is another occasion for humiliating applicants. One correspondent was met with sniggers, ‘notes’ being taken and shared, and the question ‘…exactly how old are you?’ snorted by chortling twenty-somethings. One of those things that they will remember with horror, when as adults, they fall from the housing ladder through poverty, divorce, bad health or terrible luck, when the words ‘Exactly how old are you…’ won’t seem so funny.

The nicest story was the happy house, where prospective new co-tenants were met with coffee, smiles and homemade cake, shown around, asked gentle questions to ascertain how they’d fit in, and made to feel welcome, not as if they were being held in custody suspected of murder.

Best of all, was the friend merrily sipping tea and chatting with potential flatmates, eventually told they were waiting for one other resident to appear.

Finally he arrived, and was introduced to her with the words: ‘…meet Herpes Dave.’ She was half-way into asking ‘But why is he called…?’



RenterGirl said...

SEO spammers - I will ALWAYS delete your comments. ALWAYS.

sheloveslondon said...

After a few not-so-brilliant experiences in the past (being told upon arrival that you're one of twenty people looking round, housemates not coming out of their rooms to meet the prospective newbie, estate agents getting a whole group of people to view at the same time to increase competition), this time around flat hunting I was really impressed with the places I looked around.

Both instances I was invited in with big smiles, offered a cup of tea, and nattered away for half an hour in the kitchen before seeing the rooms themselves.

Makes such a difference in deciding where to live.

Matt Wardman said...

>why not make this abundantly clear in the ad...

Mainly because it may be illegal, and you're inviting a police complaint and all the ensuing shenanigans by doing so.

Not sure about veggies and vegans, drink-like-a-fish, or general rowdies types.

Is it discriminatory to specify that a housemate must be comfortable with you having nmeat in the fridge?

Under existing law - no idea. Probably depends who you ask.

That one may be OK, but "no gay boyfriends" would be unlawful for the same reason as "no boyfriends" plus discrimination.

You would have to play a game of blind man's buff in the interview, then find an excuse.

RenterGirl said...

Matt - that was a new form of spammer - they mimic trolls, if you can believe it, so as to sneak on to posts. Deleted.

You could say 'christian house' or similar, or vegan house. You can't and rightly, in my opinion, decree sexual preferences, but you can provide clues, as above.

Matt Wardman said...

I think it's more complex than that - if "Christian House" was judged to be code for "not gay" then I think that would fail in court.

I'd say it's also different depending on the advertiser.

Adverts for lodgers, whether coming from the property owner or a (imo) tenant, can specify what they like as the lodger is sharing the family home.

Adverts by an owning landlord, a tenant subletting, or (imo) housesharers advertising for a sharing tenant, are bound by discrimination legislation.

eg there is an ad for a "vegan/vegetarian woman" on the vegan village w/s at present for a flatshare.

I'd say that specifying "woman" is clearly unlawful, and that "vegan/vegetarian" is questionable, as it can fall under the category of "belief" in the 2010 Equality Act.

No idea whether there would be a difference between specifying veggie or not-veggie.