14 September 2010

The joys of student accommodation

By the time this is published, I shall be speeding my way up North with Kay on the train to settle her into her new accommodation for the next year - a shared house with 4 other girls. I plan to stay up there for four days and return on Friday. Meanwhile, a dog-sitter is staying in my house to look after Snoopy and the cat.

We are half-expecting we might have to sleep on the pavement tonight. The house-let has not been without its problems. Kay and three of her friends (let's call them Abigail, Beth,and Chloe) saw the house last December and told the agent (let's call them Disorganised Properties) they wanted to rent the house from July 2010 , the time that First Years come out of university acommodation in Halls of Residence and when the majority of private student house contracts run from. In actual fact, friend Abigail was already living in the house, sharing it with some German girls. The German girls however, wanted to keep the contract on until 31 August, so Kay, Beth and Choe were told they could not move in until 1 September. That seemed fine, as it would mean Kay did not have to pay rent over the summer, when her room would be unoccupied anyway and lectures do not in any case start until 20 September.

Disorganised Properties asked Kay for a £300 desposit (returnable when she moves out again, unless she wrecks the joint) and the first instalment of £280 to cover September's rent. In addition she had to pay £60 (in cash!!!?) for agents' fees. There are five bedrooms in the house, so the girls advertised for a fifth housemate and eventually Abigail (already in the house, remember) said she knew someone, unknown to the others (let's call her Danielle) and it seemed simpler for the others to agree to this, even though, there were other candidates in the offering. So far so good.

The summer vacation started, the girls all went their separate ways and some to far-flung places. Kay met up with Abigail for the exam a few weeks ago and Abigail let slip that the Germans wanted to stay a bit longer than 31 August and she had said that would be fine, as the other housemates would not want to move in to their rooms until 18 September. She had said this of course, without consulting the others. Had she have done so, she would have found out that one girl wanted to move her stuff in at the beginning of September and Kay wanted to move in around 12th September. However, Abigail, as I said already resident in the house, has taken it upon herself to agree to these and other things without consulting the others and without really thinking things through.

A few weeks ago, in my organised, ticking-off-list-of-what-to-do mode, I rang Disorganised Properties to enquire how and when we should pick up Kay's key when we arrive in town. The answer was not what I was expecting. It seemed only Kay and one other girl had completed and returned all their paperwork and paid their £640 up front, the other 3 girls had still not done so and until all the paperwork and money was finalised, nobody could move in at all. I needed to book train tickets for us well in advance, organise for a dog-sitter, plan for Kay's stuff to be collected and taken up by road etc and the agent would not accept my pleas that we had done our bit and paid up, therefore we should be entitled to move in on the 12th. Disorganised Properties then said Kay should chase everyone up, if she wanted to move in. Quite why Disorganised Properties had not already done this or intended to do it, escaped me. Beth was in Greece, but in any case was paid up and paperwork was done. Chloe was in Dubai and said she had not received any paperwork in the first place to return, but did return it quickly once another set had been sent to her. Abigail was in Thailand for a month and not responding to email or facebook or mobile messages; also she was the only one who could get in touch with the fifth girl Danielle, as none of the others personally knew her. To cut an even longer story short, Kay finally got through to Abigail and got Danielle's number and texted her about the problem, but Danielle was not responding to her mobile calls or texts. The agent just wiped his hands of the whole thing every time we phoned up and said we needed to get it sorted. It did cross my mind to ask why on earth were they charging £60 per girl for agent's fees if we were the ones doing all the administrative running around, but I decided to keep quiet for now and raise it some time later (mental note to contact Trading Standards). To cap it all, the agent then said they did not know the German girls were staying on beyond the 31st August and started to charge them, so they are getting rent from us AND the German girls for the same period (another mental note to Trading Standards).

Finally last week, after a long silence, Danielle got in touch and said she had been in hospital but would sort her paperwork out with the agent. Whoppeee. I made my plans, booked train reservations (although for 14th and not the date we originally wanted), arranged dog-sitter etc. Then a few days later Danielle dropped the bombshell that she cannot afford the rent and if the others would like to look for another fifth housemate she won't mind! Seven days before term starts!!!

As if that was not enough, there is another mess to sort out...when we should read gas and electricity meters, as strictly speaking it should be when the new tenancy starts (1 September ?) but the German girls will be using gas and electricity afte that date and before our arrival and are not moving out until 22 Sept. So when do they stop paying for utilities and the English girls start? Such a tangle...

So Kay and I are travelling up today, the German girls are letting us in (hopefully) and if anyone asks anything, we'll just claim squatters' rights. But I'm taking my sleeping bag and camping mattress just in case! Those pavements can be quite hard to sleep on.
copyright First Baptist Orlando from Google library


Flowerpot said...

I have a friend who runs a student letting business and she would have done all that for you. They sound a lousy agency!

Millennium Housewife said...

Ah I miss student days! You get to pretend to be an adult, but in reality someone's mum always sorts you out! You're a star Addy x

Nota Bene said...

Oh Blimey oh Reilly.....

Achelois said...

And I thought my life was complicated. This post would look good in a local newspaper. Whilst the situation is unbelievably complicated and I don't doubt stressful, it was an entertaining read. Perhaps its time to offer your services with a weekly bullentin in the local rag - titled - A Life in the Week of Addy.

I sincerely hope that you don't end up on the pavement and Kay moves in and enjoys student life as she so deserves to do.

Keeping my bendy fingers double crossed for you both.

nappy valley girl said...

Oh dear...I'm sure I can remember something like this happening with my first student flat - people moving in at different times, not knowing who to charge for utilities etc. etc. In the end my Mum phoned up and berated one of the girls - I was mortified but it worked.

Eliza said...

I remember those days of student lets :-(
Hope the pavement is warm and it doesn't rain :-)

aims said...

I'm with Millennium Housewife. She has nailed it on the head!

Working Mum said...

Oh what a mess! And what a rotten agency. Definitely tell Trading Standards. I hope you and Kay have somewhere to stay and that it all gets sorted out ASAP. At least it's a lesson in life - never, ever trust other people to pay up!!! (Tell Kay not to book any holidays with her friends either, the "all pays or no one goes" rule applies there too!)

DogLover said...

Thanks, Rosiero (let's call you Addy) for making my day start with a good laugh about the problems Kay (let's call her Kay) has met with! Sorry, but to an outsider it seems funny!

I hope you did manage to sort it all out and that you will sleep the sleep of the just tonight.

I expect that sort of thing happened in my student days, but I'm separated from them by the mists of time.

nuttycow said...

I do not miss the days of student lets. What a nightmare (and yes, I seem to remember, I asked my parents for help with that one too!)

Hope it all gets sorted out. With regards to electricity and stuff - get the German girls to call the ultility companies and stop their use when you move out. Read the meter when Kay moves in and only pay for the stuff you use - seems silly otherwise.

Good luck!

Hypercryptical said...

Hope things get sorted out!

Anna :o]

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

What a muddle - remind me again what the agency are actually doing for their, presumably, exorbitant fee?! Hope you didn't end up on the pavement! Good luck to Kay anyway for her second year - hope all goes smoothly from now on. A x

Furtheron said...

Oh we've been there... there is one agent in Aberystwyth my son would gladly see 6ft under.

We are off to his new abode tomorrow but we did pop down earlier in the summer. Really nice place, nice agent who has an office in the block so easy to get hold of to deal with issues and only him and one other lad sharing... the fewer the better has been the experience of the last year.

word verification is "sneer" - they must be primed surely - the best description of any agents face I think :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Addy,

I hope all went well and there were no more hitches. I do hate these people who sit back and take cash while doing very little and that cash some sounds very dodgy to me.

Hope all is well and Kay is now settled,


Ellen said...

Hope that all turned out well in the end - and that you had a bed to sleep in when you arrived.

Anonymous said...

That's not good at all is it. It's just plain bad manners that the others haven't bothered to fill in paper work. And to charge each girl £60 for admin is scandalous, just another way to make a few bob.

Hope it all gets resolved and Kay is happily settled.

CJ xx

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Good luck ADDY and Kay! Hxx

Lady Lazarus said...

I have had some spare time today, feeling sorry for myself with poorly joints. I came across your blog and have spent this afternoon reading the whole thing.

I found myself holding my breath, waiting to see how you coped with the next challenge that life threw at you.

Your story touched my heart. I am 25 and an alcoholic (sober for 12 months). My inspiration to recover came from the undying love of my partner, who has had utter faith that I could survive without vodka. I have put my friends and family through absolute hell at times and fight every day not to touch the drink and to keep myself well.

I have managed to stay sober (mostly) since I detoxed a year ago. I just wanted to say that reading your story made me all the more determined to fight this battle each day, so that I never inflict the damage I have done on my loved ones again.

I am so sorry that your life was devastated by such a horrific illness. I can only say I have nothing but admiration for you and your daughter, battling through to the other side, where I have to say, life is so much better without alcoholism.

Much love to you both x

Spencer Park said...

I hope that it all worked itself out and you didn't end up in a soup kitchen!