Go big or go home…

Posts Tagged ‘rental

Regular readers, ambushed listeners and those who provided sanctuary will remember that our bloody buggering London flat tried to burn down at Christmas.

I think we can say that fate (that malicious and imaginary card shark) dealt us a bad hand. The fire screwed everything except our letting agent. The letting agent was screwed by the bus that drove through its offices.

But we’re smart cookies, right? Smart cookies can play a bad hand well, especially if an army of friends and family step in to make three months of dual home ownership manageable.

Wrong. We played a bad hand really, really badly.

Two weeks ago there was finally light at the end of the tunnel. A friend of a friend was in situ, acting as caretaker in return for very low rent, and ready to move out at a few days’ notice.

Another friend of a friend, S, was waiting to view the place. We were happy to offer her cheap rent given that we knew her, she knew us, she was likely to be an amenable tenant, and our mutual friend would be on hand to mediate.

Finally, we had a potential tenant via the letting agent – the first they’d produced in four months of showing the property. Sticking with the agency would leave us (slightly) better off financially, but the tenants wanted us to remove the bed. And the sofa. And have the place ready to move into within three days.

Our instincts told us to hold out until S had viewed the place. The agency hadn’t instilled us with much confidence anyway, having lost a lot of paperwork and sent us survey results for the wrong property – it would be good to cut the apron strings.

But they leaned on us. Hard. “You have to move now, you can’t rely on getting another offer,” all that crap. We panicked and jumped. Bed moved. Sofa moved. S viewing cancelled.

In the frenzy, favour-doing caretaker was forgotten. She was evicted in the worst possible way – removal men arrived at 11pm to take her bed, just as she as about to get into it.

We disregarded the efforts of many good friends at the agency’s say so, and now we have tenants in place, the agents are agitating.

– We didn’t leave enough keys

Why did no one from the agency ask us for extra sets at any point during the past FOUR MONTHS?

– The paint work is shabby and needs re-doing

Too true, my friends. I believe this was also the case before the contract and inventory were signed – shoulda mentioned it then.

– The floorboards are old and worn

The floorboards are indeed old, being one of the few Victorian features to survive the conversion. If you think I’m covering ‘em up with Ikea laminate to satisfy the fickle demands of the rental market then you can go suck my… oh wait, this is the non-sweary blog, right?

Gah. I know I’m being unnecessarily stroppy, but it kinda makes me feel better. Being angry at the agent lets me pretend that I didn’t treat my friends badly or make a stupid letting decision that I’m stuck with for the next 12 months.

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• A pregnant lady got on the MRT (tube) the other day and three people instantly jumped up to allow her to sit.

I have seen pregnant women get on in London and ride six or seven stops without anyone offering a seat. The standard response is for seated commuters to bury their heads deep into a newspaper, thereby excusing themselves as they “didn’t notice she was there”.

Whenever I saw this happen (for it was sadly common), I would spend the six or seven stops trying to decide whether I should intervene on the pregnant lady’s behalf. I never did.

• The banks here are retarded!

This country is supposed to be the financial jewel in Asia’s crown, but it really is the worst place I’ve banked (previous countries banked in: n=1).

My ATM and debit cards are separate entities (the second of which I had to apply for in writing), my savings account is managed with a passbook, and I had to go into a branch to get a device that allows me to bank online.

(Actually, that last bit’s unfair. The internet banking is really good, and the device is a random number generator that’s linked to my login, so it’s super-secure.)

Quick update on other stuff: Life is good, getting the keys to our flat in two day’s time, and starting work in a week and a half. More about the job to follow.

Also, I have permanent contact details now, so if you feel compelled to send me a parcel or make an expensive long-distance phone call, drop me a line and I’ll provide the means.

Yesterday was slightly stressful, but by tea-time J and I had secured ourselves a place to live.

The process was rather portentous though. It all started to go wrong when I turned up at the bank to get a cashier’s order for the landlady (in lieu of a chequebook). I’d allowed half an hour for this task, surmising that few people could have urgent banking needs at 11am on a weekday.

How wrong I was! The queue moved torturously slowly, and I was 20 minutes late meeting my agent. She was good natured about it, but I did see her jaw set into a slightly harder line when I informed her that I’d also forgotten the letter of intent.

This document – meticulously filled out by J and I that morning, and still sitting neatly on our coffee table – was the crux of the whole meeting. It is signed by everyone involved, and means no one can back out without paying at least some damages.

“It’s ok,” the agent reassured me. “I have copies. You and the landlord can sign now, J can sign again later.” So we went up, met the landlady, lied cheerfully to her: Do you have pets? Nope. Do you smoke? Definitely not! Then the moment came to hand over the cash.

“Um, this should be a ‘G’, not a ‘Q’,” the landlady said.

Aaaarrrggghhh!

My agent drove me back to the bank, and deposited me in another hour-long queue. By the time I’d got the right cheque, with the right name on it, the simple task of meeting someone to exchange pieces of paper had occupied me for four hours.

It’s done though, the flat is ours! And the cheery optimist in me thinks that if things go wrong at the beginning they’ll only get better as we progress.

The flat is lovely – two bedrooms, two bathrooms, amazing views, little maid’s balcony. I don’t have pics yet, but here’s the project from the outside:

City Square Residences

City Square Residences

And here are some photos of the surrounding area.

One of the more urgent items on our to-do list is to rent out our London flat, as we’re definitely not flush enough to keep homes across the globe.

We’ve registered with an agent, and were hoping we’d find a tenant within the next few weeks.

Until we arrived home on new year’s eve. The main entrance was padlocked and chained, and the ground floor launderette was reduced to a smouldering, blackened abyss.

There are three flats above the launderette, one on each floor. Fortunately all the occupants were out – the fire brigade said no one would have survived all the smoke – but there is water and smoke damage, and the firemen were forced to kick all the doors in.

First floor hallway, at least the corrugated metal matches the wainscoting

First floor hallway, at least the corrugated metal matches the wainscoting

Our flat mostly survived. Our front door refused to explode like the others so the firemen came in through a window (meaning we are still fairly secure – the other flats have had their entrances boarded up with corrugated steel), and the smoke damage is minimal as we’re on the top floor.

Second floor hallway

Second floor hallway

A good professional cleaner and decorator should get the place sorted fairly quickly, but I think the burned out shop and padlocked street access might put off the more discerning renter before they even make it upstairs!

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