28 Feb 2016

My life with renting

This post may not be particularly glamorous, but I want to share some of my life experiences so far (I've lived a sheltered life so not got a huge amount of experience to draw upon btw!).
One thing I believe I can talk about with some confidence is the around renting.

Unless you come from money, or come into money or just able to be lucky and secure your own home with out ever needing to rent, I would imagine you might be familiar with the process.

For those of you who maybe venturing from college or uni and perhaps looking to live on your own (or with friends/other half) the option of renting will present itself. And I want to share with you some helpful tips from my experiences to get you on the right footing.
But before I do that, let me give you some background into my experiences.

And no I am not an letting agent, my experience with renting is purely from the renters angle. I first began the process of renting when I moved in with my then boyfriend, now husband.
He was already renting to a private landlord when we first met and was living in a bedsit. This was one room, not big by any standing and comprised of living and bedroom as one room, with a very small bathroom with shower off  to the left and a tiny kitchen off from that. It wasn't the greatest in style. To be honest it was a mis mash of second hand furniture and lot's of boxes. Unless you find a bedsit with cupboard space, storage will be a problem, esp if you have lot's of belongings.
I gradually spent more and more time with Dan, so once I increased my hours in my retail job at the time, I moved in on a more permanent feature and started to pay towards the rent.
I loved being with Dan more often, so living together, even in close confines was never a problem.
The flat was also directly opposite the beach, so whilst we had no garden to use, I would often on a summers day off from work, sit in one of the seats in the promenade wall and enjoy some sunshine and seaside scenery. I was regularly thankful for living in such close proximity's to the beach, as I couldn't imagine living too far away from the coast.

After about two years, the landlord, who luckily left us to ourselves and was very understanding (which I will come to shortly), decided after the tenants directly in the room next to us moved out, to convert the room so we could use it as our bedroom. Bonus was this had a bathroom too! We had to sign a new contract and obvs pay a bit more rent, but an extra room with out having to move is a no brainer!
Though again this room wasn't any bigger than the room we were currently in, it meant we could have a bedroom and a living room! As I was only on appox £5 an hour at the time (and this was above the minimum wage at the time!) I couldn't afford all the home ware trappings that I so love now. Also I was at an age where fashion was were all my money went, the home ware bug came several years later. So it was fair to say we didn't have a particularly fancy flat. But still it was a roof over our head.
One of the down sides to this flat was the heating. I came from a family home with central heating, taking it for granted. And now I was living in a flat that had storage heaters! Arrghh! I became frustrated with them, unless they are modern, which these weren't. They create and store heat throughout the day and with a timer, then they release the heat during the evening/night. But boy, did these not make much difference! I can recall many a winters day using plug in heaters for warmth, not ideal but needs must.
Also we had a key meter for our electricity. Wow, that takes me back. We would have to top it up every week or so, depending on how much electricity we used. You would normally have an emergency £5 reserve, but still we had to be cautious. And if it ran out when you weren't expecting it to, you had to take a trip to the newsagent in town, which was about a 15 minute walk away (we didn't ands still don't drive). Imagine that if it's cold and/or raining! Or even at night!

Around this time, Dan had an accident one January and was knocked off his push bike on the way to work. Following this Dan was made redundant from his child care job and had to go on Job Seekers allowance. The landlord was really understanding and allowed Dan to sort himself out and didn't pressure him for rent when he became a bit behind. Some private landlords, if you're lucky can be more lenient, while others might not be. Also if you are using a letting agency, in my experience  they don't have much room for late payments. You're in or you're out seems to be the case.

After a few years in that flat, a flat on the other side of the building we lived in, on the ground floor became available. The landlord let us have a viewing and we decided to take it. The positives was it had a larger kitchen, a living room, small corridor to the bedroom and a bathroom with a bath. Yes a bath! After what felt like too many years of having only showers and longing for nice long relaxing baths, we got one! Amazing how simple things can mean a lot.
Also as this was on the ground floor, we got use of the small garden out the back. Great for the summers, or even winter when it snowed one year. But not sure great as we had to share it with the flat next door and even though we were polite to each other, sharing a garden with almost a stranger is a bit off putting.
Though this flat was more accessible, we had our own side entrance, rather than going through a communal door like we did in the previous flat, and it had an area where I planted some herbs and lavender, which I took much pride in,  but it lacked again in storage and adequate heating.
We eventually decided we had enough of cramped living and wanted to look for a bigger place.

So with the help of some money Dan had from a compensation claim after his accident, we found a flat, literally right around the corner. This flat was the top floor flat, with views looking onto the beach. When we signed up to the lettings agents around the corner, we had to pester them to let us know about any available flats, but eventually this one came up.
We went for a viewing and I was won over by the sheer size of the place. It was an Victorian period property, with a bay window in the front room and high ceilings. The living room itself was probably the size of the bedroom and living room in our flat at the time combined. It also had a small room off from it, with a generous size landing, a bedroom with a period fire place, a small but decent bathroom and a modest size kitchen.
I still remember moving by hand (and a little use of my sisters car) furniture and all our belongings from one flat to the other as it was in such close proximity's, and it seemed too expensive to hire a removal van to travel all of 30 seconds!
After much huffing and puffing and what felt like a million trips up and down 2 flights of stairs. We were in. It took me a bit of time to get used to living at a top floor flat. It felt quite strange, after living on the ground floor. But after a while I actually loved it, as you could watch people and traffic go by on the street below but be high enough for them not to be walking right past your window.
We found that the landlady who owned the building lived on the ground floor flat.
She was lovely and sold us some great pieces of furniture for a bargain price. Some which I still have now.

We spent a few years in this flat, including some more cold winters. As the flat was old, it had single glaze sash windows, which when you have a wind coming off the sea blowing past, doesn't offer the best insulation. Plus having larger rooms, meant the storage heaters didn't emit enough heat to fully warm the rooms. Still I loved the space and made the bedroom as nice as I could. Summers were nice as the sun would shine in the front room windows and I would sit in my chair relaxing and watch the sea.
Dan and myself also hosted Christmas there for my mum, dad and sister which was nice and homely.
During my time at this flat, I started to work in my current job. As the store is out of the neighbouring town centre and I used to get the bus every day, my finishing at 8pm on some days, esp in winter started to become quite hard. I wouldn't get home until 9pm sometimes, after waiting for a bus for 20 minutes or more and would often have to be in work for 9am the next morning I was getting tired.
So with the help an annual bonus from work, myself and Dan moved nearer to my work.

We signed up with another letting agents. We didn't leave on the best of terms with the previous letting agents as they tried to hold back some of our deposit, unnecessarily so. And that they lied about us living at the flat to our new letting agents. But still I don't want to bad mouth anyone, so lets move on.

After I viewed several flats in the area, including one that should be described as a shoe box, I viewed without Dan a house just a 10 minute walk from my work. This house, was unassuming from the outside but was a delight on the inside.
As you walked in, you came straight into the front room, which was on the small side, but had built in shelving under the stairs, which was great for all Dan's books! The kitchen was a bit bigger, but resembled how a kitchen should look, with black and white squared lino (alas not tiled!) and plenty of work surfaces and a sink that over looked the garden. Off from the kitchen was a utility room, with washing machine, toilet and a shower! We never used the shower as it was almost like going to a shower in a shed!

Upstairs was two bedrooms, neither large but sufficient and a very reasonable size bathroom.
The bonus was, it was a) a house (going up in the world!) b) had central heating and c) a garden of our own which as quite long!.


The down side was we struggled get insurance to cover our property as at the very end of the garden was a small river. Which the insurers thought was a potential flood risk. But in all the years I have know of that area (and that's most of my life) I've not known it to flood. But as it did once and even though the area has improved flood defences they wouldn't insure us.
Though despite the house being a bit tired looking, it was homely and we felt more like a proper couple, living in a proper house.
The convenience for work was great. No more getting home late. Getting up later. Brilliant! (Though Dan bless him had to travel on the bus more living in this new location-sorry Dan! But he still says to this day, that the house was his favourite place he has lived since leaving home).

When we moved in, we had to do an itinerary check and check that what the letting agents have listed is what we see, and any thing different we make a note. So that when we move out, they know what should be left. But when we started to look around in the cupboards we discovered lots of belongings. We also noticed that there was additional furniture left. Being that the house was on the small side and we already had lot's of our own belongings were were concerned where all this was supposed to fit.
We were told by the letting agents that the house was advertised as fully furnished. Which I swear it wasn't, but as I didn't have a copy of the advert, it was my word against theirs. And should fully furnished mean cupboard full of what looked like previous tenants belongings?
So we had to accommodate the existing furniture, with our own. That was fun let me tell you!

Anyway it was our home, and we made the best of it we could. We spent about 9 months there before we were contacted by the letting agents and told that the lady who owned the house, who was old, had passed away and as such the house was being put on the market so the family of the lady could raise money to pay an inheritance tax.
And with that we had two month's notice to move out! Argh! I'm not a fan of moving as we have so much stuff (I buy too much home accessories and Dan buys too many books!). But seeing as we had no choice, we started look for another place to live.

We viewed a few more places, one of them being a first floor flat in a new build, right over the back of our current home. As soon as I walked in, I was in love. It was all new and modern, with soft cream carpets and lot's of natural light.
It has two bedrooms, with the master having an en suite and a dual aspect open plan living room and kitchen. It also has a modern built in microwave, and island with an convection hob, dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer and Vileroy and Bosch bath and sinks, and basically is a marked improvement on our previous residences.
The letting agent always says 'We've got lots of people interested so if you are interested then I wouldn't hang around' or something to that elk. But being that the flat was of high quality and so near to the house, I said I wanted them to reserve it for us. Reserving it, means you pay the letting agents a certain amount of money for them to take it off the market, whilst all the checks (to make sure you are a reliable tenant who doesn't have rep for holding massive parties and the like. And also you have a good credit history so you will be able to pay the rent) for the tenants. This means that no-one else can view the property, but does mean if any of the checks fail and the letting agency does not want to offer you a contract, then that's your money down the drain and you're back to square 1.
Luckily we were ok on the checks front, and after boxing up all our belongings. And leaving the house tidier than when we left (I cleaned with a steam cleaner in all the grouting around the tiles in the kitchen one afternoon to ensure we left it spic and span) and as such we got all our deposit back.

And that is where we are now. I do like this flat as everyone who visits comments on how nice it is, and I have become rather house (or flat) proud and do keep it as tidy and presentable as possible.
The down side I've discovered is that these flats were built to look nice, but the developers skimped on some corners. Like the floors to each flat are so thin that every stomp (yeah thanks guys) from the neighbours above are heard and it does get irritating at times. There's no sound proofing or whatever you would use to quieten the sound between flats. That's the price you pay for a nice flat. And the rent, that's also the biggest price to pay!

Dan and myself would love to move to a house again, somewhere with some space and a garden. That would be a luxury. And also somewhere ours. Not rented, but paid for. I know that's a lot of people's aspirations, so I know I'm not alone. With my income and Dan being self employed, we simply do not have the savings or the money to put down a deposit for a house, so for now we keep on renting, hoping that we can somehow get our own house one day.

When I was in my 20's I hated the idea of having a mortgage. The thought of owing so much money and being tied to a property for years seemed too much of a commitment. But now I have entered my 30's, married and getting weary of renting, I see the benefits of owning your own place, mortgage and all. I can get a pet, decorate, just simply put up some shelves if I wished.

But who know what the future brings. I'm just glad I have a roof over my head and somewhere I can write my blog! :)

So onto my tips for anyone who is or planning to rent. These are my own opinions and based on my experiences. Please do seek professional guidance when renting if needed, I am just here to try and share what I have learnt and recap some of the above.

1) Check the advert. Is it furnished, part furnished or empty? Might seem silly, but keep a copy of the advert. I wish I did when I had the trouble with the house. Keeping as much records as possible will help you if you have any disputes with a landlord and or an letting agents.

2) Read through any contracts you sign. I know it looks boring, but you'll be thankful before you realise you've agreed to feed the landlords cat every day! (Joke-that should never be in a contract!).

3) When moving out, be prepared for not getting all your deposit back. From my experience, letting agents like to find an excuse to hold onto your money, esp if you think it is unwarranted.

4) To help with the above, make a note of any thing that was wrong with the property when you first move in that isn't detailed on the itinerary. Film it, photo it, whatever but let the landlord/letting agent know so you can't be penalised for it later.

5) Be aware if you go to a letting agents of the fees. From the initial checks, to the deposit, to normally one month to 6 weeks rent up front. Then include removal fee's if you need to. I wasn't aware of this when I first went to an letting agents. So was a bit of a shock. Private landlords may vary in how much they charge, but do your homework, so you know you have a landlord that will be on the straight and narrow.

And last but not least, enjoy living in your new home! I know the above may sound a bit daunting but as long as you are a good tenant and go with a good letting agents/landlord you should find you'll be ok. In some countries more people rent than have mortgages as it's seen as the preferred option. Home sweet home :)

Love




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