There began a three month long trauma of incompetence, lies and rudeness on a scale that makes me shiver even now to think of it. The agency I dealt with are a collection of the most stupid, disorganised and obnoxious people I’ve ever encountered. The day I get my deposit back from them (ha!) I will phone the poor clueless owner of this flat and tell him the very same.
I had packed my belongings and taken the day off work to move. The evening before, and for the third time, I phoned to ensure the key would be ready for me at the allotted time and that the flat had been cleaned. My deposit and agency fee were paid already and I was told once more that everything was ready to go. While I was waiting for the van to arrive the next morning they called and said I couldn’t move in. The tenant had gone AWOL and hadn’t moved out, in fact he hadn’t paid any rent the whole time he lived there.
I asked why nobody had thought to tell me, or warn me, about the situation. I was told it was none of my business how they conducted their affairs with existing clients. Amongst other things not fit to publish here, I told them that a) he wasn’t a client if he wasn’t paying rent, was he?, and b) how had they managed to get in to clean the flat if he was still in there? ‘We haven’t been able to clean the flat,’ was their answer. ‘So the woman who told me last night that the flat had been cleaned was lying? ‘No she was mistaken.’
And so this went on. At one point I asked them if I hadn’t been staying with my kind and understanding sister and had literally had to leave the flat that day, what would they have done? I would have been homeless. ‘That’s not my problem,‘ said devil woman. I’m ashamed to say I almost cried that day. They were bemused as to why I was even angry. ‘A verbal contract is all that’s been exchanged here,’ I was told, as she neatly overlooked the thousand plus quid they’d had from me. It was another six weeks before they could evict the guy and I was able to move in, during which time I lived out of boxes, couldn’t pay rent to my sister because they had literally all of my money, and was repeatedly told I was in the wrong.
Without getting the violins out I was plunged into something of a depression and made to feel helpless and exploited, multiplied by the fact I was experiencing a domestic crisis and was doing this by myself. So I went to the Estate Agents Ombudsman. By this stage I had over 20 unreturned phone calls to the agency. Quite literally the same hour they were contacted by the Ombudsman I was telephoned by the manager and called ‘Sir’. So contact the Ombudsman if things go wrong is my advice! I filed a complaint during my moving-in week but by this time I was so relieved to be in, so tired of being spoken to like dirt, and suffering from such bad stress (manifested as insomnia, dandruff (!!!), and bad dreams when I did sleep) that I literally couldn’t fill out the complaint form and write the letter. In the end they admitted they had treated me badly and unprofessionally, to the point they sacked the woman in question. God forgive me but I hope that bitch is still unemployed. But I made it home.
The fact is though I can’t afford to live here, but I don’t feel that, at thirty, I could make a success of sharing with strangers again, moreover I simply don’t want to. I can’t move in with my partner, and every time I get on a bus something vile happens that makes the prospect of commuting twice a day depress me to the point I feel like self-harming. So I cling on, experiencing a deficit every month in order to be somewhere that feels like home. A few months ago, prior to arranging his remortgage, the owner offered to sell this flat to me at the absolute bargain price of 112 K. But this would require deposit and fees amounting to at least six and half grand and when you owe that amount and more in unpaid debts and no savings, well, you do the maths. There is nowhere in town I could live that is cheaper than this flat, and my flat is beautiful. What am I to do?