#LifeSchool: All You Need to Know About Renting

I like helping you guys out, and following from my usual tongue in cheek #BlogSchool series, I thought I’d bring you #LifeSchool too.

My intention with #LifeSchool is to give my hard come by advice from experience of dealing with the type of crap they don’t teach you in school. Yes, we get told about teen pregnancy, drugs and the like, but how many times were you taught about your rights when renting, or who to complain to about Appeals or School issues, or crap Doctors?

Exactly.

As I am a moaning bastard, who hates being ripped off or having my nearest and dearest treated like rubbish, I have long since gained a few tips and tricks on dealing with the stuff liable to make you turn grey.

Starting off today with Renting.

I’ve rented since I was 17, and have had a cavalcade of every type of Landlord and home in different areas you can find. The good, bad and money grabbing fuckwit, if you will.

If you know your rights though, you will, like me, become every dodgy Agent or Landlords worst nightmare.

MOVING IN

Moving in is stressful enough- there’s the packing, the unpacking, the breaking your back moving thousands of sodding vinyl when you could just have a sodding iPod (oh, wait, that’s just our house), but there are things to remember straight away.

Even before you pick up the keys, make sure you get a full and frank run down of all fees and expenses you are expected to fork out upfront. So, if your Landlord or Agent asks for £1,200 as a deposit, ask if there are any non refundable fees such as a key fee, a holding fee, or a credit check fee. Yes, all of these can and will possibly apply, as sadly no rules are in place to stop Agents or Landlords charging whatever they like. There is nothing worse than finding a home you love, only to find out that there is an extra £800-£1000+ to pay which you will never get back.

Be aware of the state of the property too. If possible, before you move even a rug in, go around your new home, with a trusty camera or phone, and take pictures of all the fixtures and fittings which aren’t your own. Damp patch on the wall? Log it. Marks on the carpet or lino? Write it down and take photos.

Some Agents will already have taken an Inventory, which they will send you a copy of to sign and agree, but always, always read everything before you sign. Add in any notes of items or breakages you can find, however minor. In our old house, we were told the walls in one bedroom were green and the carpet, cooker and fridge freezer were all as new, but actually the walls were cream and the other bits far from new.

It may seem petty, but at some point you will need to leave, and again, that free reign to charge what they like comes into play again.

If you  have wrecked a carpet, then make inquiries on how much like for like carpet will cost, get a quote and receipt. Think that will never happen? In one home in Maidenhead, we were told to remove a carpet by the owner, and did so, varnishing the floor. All fine right? NOPE.

On moving out, they wanted to take our entire deposit to replace the carpet. We had nothing in writing saying we could remove it and our Landlord had sudden amnesia. We visited our local carpet fitters, found the same very cheap carpet and got a quote, minus a percentage due to “Fair Wear and Tear” We only had to pay a tiny amount as we could prove the amount they wanted to scam us for was by far too much.

THE BEST ADVICE FOR ALL THINGS RENTING OR OTHERWISE

That’s another thing to always remember, no matter who you are dealing with- GET IT IN WRITING.

Its so easy to contact most people we deal with these days via email. You can then have a file system and drop all emails in it, however minor the issue.

This helped when we moved from our last property two weeks back. We had a dispute over our deposit and, as it was in a DPS (Deposit Protection Service- a government initiative to stop unscrupulous Landlords from holding your deposit themselves and holding it to ransom), we were facing months of arguments before it was released- something we couldn’t stand for as we had to hand our deposit to our new Agent. Now, Landlords know this, so they will hope you cave rather than lose a home you’ve found.

Hell no.

Our (stupid white and not new on moving in) upstairs carpet was bollocked. Not by us. We paid money to clean it, but, when we first moved in, dodgy workmen fixed our roof and dust and dirt of some 30 year vintage was able to get indoors with gay abandon. Luckily, I still had my email where I told the Agents this, and could quote this to them along with their Tenancy. Funnily enough, within 24 hours they gave the full deposit back and shelved their £90 check out fee too!

IF YOU SIGNED IT, MAKE SURE YOU READ IT FIRST

That’s another biggie which may seem dull and annoying but is worth it in the long run- make yourself aware of the major points of your Tenancy.

Has it got a break clause? These are handy for you if you hate your new home and want to move as it gives you the right to give two months notice within a Tenancy. However, as just happened to us, even if you paid £90 to resign a new Tenancy and this doesn’t run out until the end of May, if your Landlord decides, as with ours, to sell up all his properties, he can give you the same two months regardless.

Look for clauses on extra fees- like the resign fee, or maintenance fees. Got a problem that needs fixing? Many tenancies include a fair fixing period which, should your problem not be sorted in this time frame can save you money (as with the three months we waited for a new door, which gave me a £30 reduction on the aforementioned resign fee). You can also withhold rent, but this will not be popular, and its worth knowing that if a Landlord can prove you are in debt with rent, they can have your removal from their home happen in 14 days rather than taking months.

MASSIVE COCK UPS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM

What can you do if things go very wrong?

Got a house that’s really unsafe? Then if you’ve spoken to the Landlord or Agent (over email, of course), and they still wont do anything, you can go to your local Environmental Health team at the local council. They can, and will, for free, inspect a property and can if need be take a Landlord to court and give out fines if they don’t do work to make a home safe. This costs you nothing, but bear in mind the Landlord will possibly not be best pleased and could give you notice.

HOMELESSNESS DOESN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN IF YOU’RE SMART

If you are facing homelessness, contact your local council straight away with any paperwork you have, including your eviction notice. If you have been good tenants and don’r have rent arrears, then they will give you advice, and can help with the cost of a deposit to secure a new home.

That’s a big thing to remember- keep up with rent and get receipts to prove you’ve paid. If you act responsibly, you will get more help than those who don’t pay up or wreck a home- if this is the case you will be classed as “Intentionally Homeless” and will not even be given Temporary Housing in a B&B, let alone allowed to join a Housing List.

Don’t let me worry you! Not every Agent or Landlord is a scam artist, but if things do go wrong, be polite, quote law and your rights, and you should do fine.

WHERE TO GO FOR ADVICE

If you do get stuck though, you can always contact agencies such as The Citizens Advice Bureau, the DPS Service, or Shelter- not to mention your local Housing team- for free, impartial and up to date advice.

Got a question for #LifeSchool? Get in touch, if it’s not something I’ve come up against, I will know someone who has and am always happy to learn new ways to not get scammed so will find out for you!

Next on #LifeSchool, dealing with Appeals and School related issues. How not to get your little darling turfed out of a place.

 

 

Advertisements

…And Then the Stupid GP Proved Me Right (Again)

Following on from my previous rant laden post regards the NHS and their attitude towards woman, I wanted to update you on the latest farce. It seems it’s not just woman but anyone who fancies asking the NHS to actually do anything, at all.

About 12 weeks ago, I asked for Littlest to be re-referred to his lovely Consultant. He hasn’t seen him for about 2 years, and we were hoping we wouldn’t need to see him again as we would have assumed that the District Asthma Clinic could be sufficient.

Why, why on earth, going on previous experience, did I think that? I actually could kick myself.

The thing is, Littlest has the same inhalers he has always had. They simply do not do the same thing as they used to do. His Blue, Ventolin Inhaler is supposed to work to put a halt to the times when he finds it hard to brave without coughing. Despite giving him up to ten puffs at once (which is supposed to act like being on a nebuliser when used with his spacer device), it does absolutely nothing to relieve it at all.

As for the Brown Preventer, well, we may as well not bother with it for all the use it is- think making a brew with a chocolate tea pot.

We have begged and pleaded with his GPs, and the frankly slappable Asthma Nurse (who bad mouthed me for using the correct spacer as given to us by his Consultant and backed up by the GP) to do something, anything, to try and limit the effect his illness has. He is having more and more time off school, which means we had the bloody Welfare Education Officer trying to interfere (she got told where to go until she can suggest a cure for his illness- that soon shut her up).

It also means that Littlest’s behaviour is getting beyond a joke. He runs at me on occasion, fists raised, and he gets so angry. Which in turn then makes him get out of breath and cough lots. Its the lack of sleep that causes a lot of it, the same as I am constantly knackered and could happily nod off by 7pm every night as I’m just so sleepy.

The thing is, we know of other families attached to the same GP, who have children of similar age with the condition, and they are forever trying different meds on them. Littlest, meanwhile, just doesn’t exist.

Now, because the Cretinous GP and his shoddy and brain dead Secretary know they have messed up, by asking the Consultant to see Littlest about his allergies, rather than his cough, they are now trying to skirt round the fact it is there fault this mess has occurred and are trying to pass the blame to me.

How on earth they can blame me for their immense cock up is anyone’s guess. As you’ll remember, if you read the previous post, firstly I was told I hadn’t been clear enough on what I wanted him to be seen for (so telling the GP I wanted him to be seen as his inhalers don’t work any more and I want him, for the first time ever since SCBU, to be monitored overnight is clearly not plain English enough for him).

When that didn’t work, they lied and told him I was very unhappy with his original help (bollocks) and I wanted a second opinion.

Which, correct me if I’m wrong, but a second opinion from the same person who voiced the original opinion clearly does not work. And why on earth would I want to go back to someone that I didn’t have faith in to the point I would want a second opinion? It just doesn’t make sense.

So now, as the previously OK Consultant is now sulking (like a bitch) thinking we have been all mean about him (diddums), he wont see Littlest.

Great stuff. God knows where we turn to next. 

Which leads me onto epic cock up number 2 from the same surgery.

In the same post I mentioned how I felt the female GP I had hoped would show some female solidarity was an utter cow and had, in my opinion, ignored me, but that I awaited to see how much she had ignored me when my referral for a Gynaecological investigation came through.

It came through today.

Is it for the female Gynaecologist who I mentioned I wanted to see, for the simple, non-sexist reason that, frankly, my Lady Garden is my own and it’s quite up to me who I give an audience to?

No, is it buggery.

It’s for the same bloody pissing male one who I asked, begged and pleaded not to see last time, then twiddled my thumbs waiting for a new appointment to switch to his female peer, gave up and went to the bitch of woman GP to ask her to resend my referral. 

I hate to be proved right, I really do. Why have I wasted the last week odd waiting patiently to see who the referral was to? I knew, I just flaming knew before I left that office, shaking and upset, that she had ignored me. That she had some bloody issue with me, you know, how dare I, wanting to use what is my right as a patient to voice that I wanted to see a fellow woman rather than a man. 

So, now it all starts again. I have to phone up the hospital and cancel, and hope they don’t forget why I’ve cancelled (or forget I’ve cancelled at all) and yet again send some snotty letter to my GP. I then have to wait for an appointment with another GP at the surgery. I wont be allowed an Emergency appointment, as the Gates of Hell otherwise known as the desk Secretaries wont allow me to (they ask what you want, and before you tell me you don’t need to tell them, the last time I refused, telling them it was naff all of their business, they made me take an appointment for three weeks later), so I will need to wait at least a week and half, if not two, for a standard appointment. I will then have to wait two weeks (if not more- after all, we’re at the 9 week mark for Littlest’s referral with no conclusion or appointment in sight) for the letter for an appointment, and then over a month (at least) for an actual appointment, if anyone actually listens and books it with a bloody woman.

This, this is why the NHS is in crisis.

Why in Christ’s name they cannot get their heads around simple admin is beyond me? Its to the point where I am close to requesting to write my own bloody referrals, getting them stamped by the GP and then handing them in at the required hospital, getting an acknowledgement of receipt while I’m there. 

If they actually did it the first time, rather than having to go back and forth, sending out new referrals for the same thing at least 3 times before you get anywhere, they’d save a bundle.

I can’t be the only one wondering why I bother even seeing a GP, when I know, full well, from years of experience that they do naff all however much you beg and plead.

The "M" Word (No, Not That One, The Other One)

By “M” word, and before you all start going off and buying hats, I’m referring to the current, within the top 3, reason for giving me untold stress- Moving.

I bloody hate moving.

There I was, until I was 17, living in the same house from birth onwards. Then I moved once or twice, still within the same town I’d grown up in, surrounded by everyone I knew and with a good knowledge of the bus and train routes.

Cut to 2007 and we decided to move to Berkshire. 

Admittedly, the area I’m from had been neglected and gone rapidly down hill, up until I’d had Mini I didn’t mind it. But pushing my daughter in a pram and having to avoid scores of crackheads hiding round corners was enough to make me make the leap out of my hometown.

It was definitely a form of “grass is always greener”. We didn’t put any thought into it, but plumped for the area where Elder’s family lived en masse (save for one in Croydon and one in Bexley Village). We had been there twice. It looked OK.

We hadn’t put any thought into house prices, or schools, or anything much.

I do regret moving here though. I think life has been a disaster since we did move, and looking back, we’d have been better thinking a bit more than we did and perhaps looking at other factors and areas first.

Now, and for some time, I’ve felt horrifically trapped, lonely, and disillusioned. Meanwhile, rental prices have gone up- when we first moved here, a two bed house with garden went for around £800-900 a month. Now it’s more like £1,250-1,600 or more for a two bed even flat, with no garden.

So, we are priced out, and we know we are, we know we have to go and we’re not that bothered. Or I’m not that bothered, such is the lack of feelings I have towards the place.

I know it’s wrong to associate bad luck with an area. We have had a run of it since coming here, what with my accident in the first house, to Littlest being born early, and the like. 

This is where our issue lies though.

Where do we go to?

I am 100% behind going, not so much home, but to within a reasonable train distance from it. I miss my pals loads, most have now had babies and are Mum’s themselves. I kind of also feel that I’ve let them down a bit by not being there for them, and likewise, when I’ve been through a bad time I have wished they were down the road and not three hours away. I also want to be near enough to London that it wont cost an arm and a leg to get to events.

Elder, meanwhile, wants to go anywhere but Kent, and would happily stay here even. He has been looking at Plymouth, where Nursey sister is going to in 2 years, or Cornwall again.

Now, I don’t want to be mean about areas I don’t know, but both of these have the same issues. We know no one, we know nothing about the area, its miles from London. All the same issues bar the London distance that we found on moving to where we are now.

It’ll be over £100 to get to London as well, which is ridiculous for train fare but I don’t drive and to be frank I wouldn’t give me a car to drive. I know my limitations and driving is definitely one of them.

Its causing untold annoyance in our house. 

I just want to go where I know isn’t that posh or that great, but is affordable- a better the devil you know situation. Elder also wants cheaper prices but nice area. Can we have both? I doubt it.

So, at the moment I feel pulled in all directions and it sucks. I want to stand my ground over Kent but feel there are possibly people who feel they are helping by suggesting to us not to go to Kent who feel they are doing right by us but who maybe should let us decide as a family?

What would you do? Do you know Plymouth or Cornwall? What are they like when the holiday season ends?

Littlest and the (Bloody) Baby Toilet Seat

Blog world, we have a problem.

Littlest, as you know if you’re a regular, is now 5 years old. He is just like your typical boy at that age- sometimes stroppy, into Lego, not fond of doing what he is told (by me) and at the stage when farts are still highly amusing, especially when shared with everyone else. Or planted on his sisters lap.

Considering some of the shit that goes down with his health, he is doing pretty well, meeting his milestones (not that that bothers me, I am of the school of thought that suggests kids do things in their own time and don’t meet some uniform way of doing stuff like some Health Visitors will chew your ear off about). He does OK at school, he still has quite a bit of time off, I would prefer he spoke up a bit more as he manages to answer Year 2 maths at home yet at school they think he’s behind, but, well, not a biggie.

There is one thing though, one thing that is an annoyance point and causes all out tantrums between Littlest, Elder and myself.

A lump of multicoloured, cushioned plastic that he wont let us throw away, and which, if he can’t find (like at 6.23am today) will cause a crying, snot filled meltdown.

His Baby Training Toilet Seat.

Freedigitalphots.net/artur84

He has had this one since he was around 3 and a half. He had another before that but it cracked and went in the bin. Whilst the seat is kept cleaned and germ free, its just so unnecessary.

We managed to remove dummies, bottles and sippy cups. We managed to get rid of nappies pretty easily too. We don’t even have the safety sheet on the bed anymore.

This thing, though, this plastic thing, which, should you be half asleep or dying for the loo and don’t realise is still attached will render you stuck to the loo in need of a shoe horn, we have suggested is the last bastion of his baby age and now, being a big boy, he needs to confine it to history too, is just a no no for Littlest.

He manages to use bathrooms at school with no problem. He goes to his Aunts homes and doesn’t need it there. Our house? Not a chance.

Before you get ideas I have toilets bigger than standard, with seats big enough to render a 5 year old be cast within like the scene from Trainspotting when Ewan McGregor falls in, this is not the case. Its a normal, standard loo, just like anyone elses.

We have tried hiding it. We have tried this several times and refuse to give it to him, with the idea that, as with when a fussy eater wont eat a meal they liked the week before that they will eat when they are hungry, that, eventually he will be so in need of the loo he will just go without it.

Nope.

He can last hours without going. Its a mystery how. And then, of course, we give in, because I think he is so bloody minded and stubborn that he would just do it in his pants to prove a point. Or end up with a terrible tummy ache and end up needing to see a GP.

Bloody hell.

We never had this with Mini, she was more scared of the trainer seat than the actual one, making the move from potty to loo simple and nearly hassle free.

So, Blog world, what do I do? Let him carry on and hope he gives it up naturally, or bin the thing and face the wrath of Littlest?

Answers below!

Dear Bounty Mutineers: Did You Think We Wouldn’t Get OUR Voices Heard?

Sooooooooo my lovelies. 

I have been:

Personally attacked on Twitter (standard)
Had my beliefs and motives questioned (u-huh)
Started a petition (You know me guys)

Lived to tell the tale.

You know what I really do not like in Social Media? That some people who should know better resort to thinking that it’s their way or the highway. That there should not be an opposing view. That they are right. Full stop, end of, and no one has the right to say anything.

Can I get a collective hell no please in here?

The thing is, my issue (or ishoo as I always feel with these things is more appropriate) is that social media is there to set the tone To push the trends. To spark thoughts, feelings and friendly debate.

It is not to spearhead a campaign, however worthwhile you feel it it is, and then, when quite a few people do what is morally right and the reason for social media and say, after considering your view I’d like to publicly say I don’t agree, to mud sling, name call and be downright rude and abusive.



Now, one of the main people behind this sudden and not unexpected shit storm of abuse has, in my view, been behind a fair few troll incidents over the years. I don’t just suspect on these, I know, I have proof. Do I feel anger towards them? Nope. I feel quite sorry for them, that they have had to hide until now. I’m pleased they’ve finally grown a pair (as I often invite anonymous trolls to do) and stood with their names firmly beside it. I’m not impressed that they have been downright nasty to a mate of mine who is currently not very well. That makes me angry. Me, I am a pro at this now, I know my views will spark nasty people being gormless. I can take it now.

However, I must dip my hat to a few Mumsnetters and anti Bounty supporters who I had a lively and not at all nasty debate with. We don’t agree, but it’s fine. That’s life right?

I want to say, publicly, that my views on Bounty is nothing to do with my view on Mumsnet. It has nothing to do with certain people who I don’t feel empathy towards being involved. It’s not to do with stats, hits, Klout or nowt else. Those who know me know I couldn’t give two shakes about any of that.

It is to do with my belief that we have a powerful medium here, in our blogs, our tweets. We can, and we do bring about changes, big and small. Some of those who I most admire in blogging have used their little slice to help out all manner of good causes. 

In my view, and I’m not alone, this is not about Bounty. It’s not about the packs they give out, or the photos they take, or the forums they host. It’s about the NHS as a whole.

The NHS is in danger of collapsing. I spend enough time in and out of hospitals with Littlest to know that they are struggling. I have family within the NHS- Elder used to be a Nurse himself. 

Waiting times are ridiculous, admin via Computer networks that have cost millions have failed and people’s info is lost. Some, not all, of the staff in hospitals are not up to scratch, but are there because there is no other option.

We have several hospital trusts being investigated for their death rates. We have Queens in London that has had horror stories regards births that resulted in death. 

I firmly believe that in the year 2013, we should not have to go into a maternity wing and pray we come out with our babies and our lives. 

Labour, and the days after it, should be a joyous occasion. Not a constant upset like it was for me and many others. 

Was that upset down to a Bounty lady? A Bounty bag? No. It was down to staff who were tired, grumpy, busy and lost their temper with the wrong people. The patients.

I should not have had Littlest early. If my records hadn’t have been lost twice then sent to someone else maybe, just maybe, his early birth could have been prevented. Now he is close to five, I have to look him in the face every time he asks me why he was early, why he is ill? I can’t think of an appropriate answer other than because he is special.

Was that Bounty’s fault? No.

Both times I had sections and my scars became infected, requiring antibiotics that made me even more tired than I already was. Was that Bounty’s fault? No.

I know I have made mistakes in blogging, lost my cool, perhaps ranted when I shouldn’t have done. But I’m an adult, I’m only human, and I can say, hand on heart, I’m sorry. Do I deserve abuse? No (but I’ll leave it up to you readers).

To close, I will always voice what I feel is right. You cannot start a campaign and just expect no one to disagree. That’s the power of freedom of speech. Its a wonderful thing.

If you’d like to say no to the Bounty Mutiny, then sign the petition. If you couldn’t care less either way, then that’s cool too. I respect your views, all of them (even the ones on cheese and onion crisps being nicer than salt and vinegar ones. Or Wand Erection being a good band).

The petition is at: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/uk-government-ignore-mumsnet-over-their-bounty-mutiny Feel free to share!