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I’ve never owned a house. I’ve never felt the need to own a house, and maybe that’s the problem. I say this, as every few years there is a problem.

For the last two houses, the landlord has decided to sell their house. This effectively meant we were homeless and needing to find a new place to live.

House 1 was a nightmare. On the day we were getting the keys we turned up at the letting agents to be told “oh, is it happening today?!” and then being told we weren’t going to be getting the keys. So we drove back to New Cross (in tears) to then get a call saying they now had the keys, and the reason we couldn’t move in was due to a lack of gas and electricity safety checks but it was okay as we could move in now and they’d do them later instead. A year or so later after this the landlord told us he couldn’t afford to keep the flat and had decided to sell. The Estate Agents who were selling the flat would turn up at any time with a viewing, without confirming beforehand someone was coming, and would be terribly apologetic about it (yeah, right) before doing it again the following day. One time I was in bed. They’re meant to give 24 hours notice, minimum. Our landlord aggressively argued back with us his place would never sell as we required too much notice. Sometimes the Estate Agents couldn’t do the viewing so they’d ask us to. By then too scared about losing our home (and feeling extremely bullied) we would do it, and funnily enough the people viewing never made an offer. Maybe it was the noise from the downstairs neighbours. They were usually noisy around 3am in the morning. Loud and noisy. We were quite glad to get away from there anyway, our settee wouldn’t fit in the living room so we had to keep it in our bedroom.

House 2 was lovely. The move in was a dream, regular text messsages from the letting agents keeping us posted with what was going on. It was the most wonderful reassuring house move I’ve ever experienced. It was the home we brought H to when she was born, a lovely small garden and a stable door at the back, a cottage. It was lovely. Our biggest problem was next door. Their arguments; “if you’re seein’ ‘er I’m going to CUT YOUR DICK OFF” she screamed one night at 1am on their weekly tiff. We would turn off the tv and listen, as we didn’t want to disturb the new baby on the other side by turning up the tv even more to drown them out. They’d drink even more, smoke even more, argue a bit more and the fumes would then work their way through the floorboards into our house before they retired for some passionate, noisy rumpy pumpy. Pleasant. So when our landlady told us she was selling we were sad as the house was lovely, but happy to be leaving the soap opera next door. The smoke would go through the floorboards into our bedroom and H’s room and was crap. So in some ways it did us a favour. (we took up the floorboards and put lots of filler in to get rid of the smoke and H was never in danger) The noisy smoky neighbours sold up and moved on a couple of months after us. Typical.

House 3 is this one, the one we’ve been living in for five years. In that time the only thing I truly dislike about this place is our heating system as it’s two vents – one upstairs and one downstairs. H has this heating at her school. You sometimes get warm from it. When this has been mentioned to the letting agents they brush it off. We’ve been provided with heaters as well! (this is one additional plug in heater, it has to be said, we bought one for H’s room as she has the coldest room in the house) We have space here and it’s lovely having space. We’re also in the perfect location for H’s school as we’re over the road from it.

And.

We’ve just had our annual notice of our rent increase. It has just gone up by £280. £1300 a month. This is the market value around here. Market this, market that, market whatever – does that really count that for five years we’ve had low rises per year (and we’ve had a rise every year) and yet this year we’ve got a 27.5% increase. So how do you raise £280? Fortunately we have no debts. So what’s next? Do we stay and get skint or downsize and save? I understand having a rise to keep up with what’s available locally, but I’d love to know who is responsible for deciding that £280 extra a month is a reasonable amount to ask.

The letter says if we can’t agree, we can hand in our two months notice. Not quite so bluntly, but that’s what it says.

I’ve spoken to Shelter who say we don’t have to sign. This could mean we get served notice by the landlord, it’s a risk. So what do we do next? Who knows. All I know is renting can be a pain in the arse, and this is a prime example of it. When you’re told what happens next and it’s a like it or lump it decision. We lump it, there are no houses available for rent around here. We’d need to leave the area, take H out of school and find somewhere affordable. It doesn’t feel right doing that in what will be her last year of Primary School. I know landlords don’t care about our priorities, they just want their mortgage paid, and if the landlady was in difficulties with money we’d be the last people to know as it’s none of our business. But still.

I’ve emailed all our local politicians to find out what policies they would put in place if someone gets a massive rent increase like we have (purely out of curiosity, I don’t expect them to be able to help us). We’re not the first people to go through this, and we won’t be the last.

The problem though, is when things happen like this and I kick myself for not buying a flat when I first moved to London when they cost £30,000. I was earning £9,000 a year then with next to no savings, but you could get 100% mortgages then.

So that’s us right now. Wondering what on earth we do next.