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?
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 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.
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.