30 September 2009

Having a bit of a moan

I am going to take a break from my normal tales of mystery and adventure to fill you in on a side of London life I have not really shared up until now.

Lately it feels like I have experienced a severe case of de’ja vu... either that or our flatting situation once again turned to s..t. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a glitch in the matrix.

We moved in to our flat at the beginning of June (see here). The place was perfect. Awesome location. we loved our big room with lots of space to chill out, gets lots of sun. It was perfect. The only problem - we pick the weirdest flatmates.

I guess I should start from the very beginning. When we first arrived in London we stayed with Rochelles brother and his wife – Malcolm and Sharne. They were awesome! Fed us, helped us with advice on flats, areas to live etc. We ended up finding a nice apartment in Wimbledon, sharing with one other couple. The place was very nice, although a bit far from town, but we were happy. After a couple of weeks things started to go wrong. Our flatmates liked the flat to resemble a five star hotel at all times. Right down to the mint on the pillow. So much so that they rearranged the things in OUR bathroom and OUR shelves in the kitchen. Everything was neatly stacked, the towels were rolled perfectly, nothing left on countertops... They even went in to OUR ROOM! Not cool. Besides that we just plain did not get on with the couple. When we shared the living room or kitchen there was a lot of awkward silence or forced small talk. We just didn't 'click'. So we decided we had had enough of that so moved out.

We found an awesome new place in South Lambeth. Before moving in I talked to the guy about how crazy our former flatmates were. I explained that we were tidy, but definitely not ‘over the top’. We LIVE in our flat, we come home to relax. We don’t sterilise the spoons after every time we eat a bowl of cereal. He said he was the same, and seemed like a genuine laid back guy.

The problems started about 3 weeks in with our cleanliness. It boils down to the fact that we did not leave the kitchen in an absolutely spotless condition after every use. Over the last three months, we have learnt that he expects that every time we walk out that kitchen door, it needs to be left in perfect condition. Alright, well I guess we can handle that. We do like to make our dinner then sit and eat it before having to do the dishes etc - but unfortunately that is not up to his standard. Well, we thought, we all have to make sacrifices when living in a shared house. It’s not a ideal, but we can handle it.

Next came all the pedantic requests. When using the kitchen close the door, open both the top and bottom windows, leave the cutting board in a certain position, leave the cloth in a certain position, leave the jug in a certain position, always turn on the fan when in the shower and always leave the bathroom door open, wipe out the washer after using it and make sure to leave the door open. Using the rice cooker almost requires a user-manual so we leave it the way he likes it. One thing that just made me laugh out loud was that he wanted us to wear slippers in the house. Since we moved in the rule has always been to take shoes off at the door – which is understandable – but when he asked us to wear slippers at all times inside the house – you can’t do anything but laugh. All of these things add up into one stressful experience. Its like being a child again. In-fact, its worse... You can never relax. This isn’t our home - it’s like living with your crazy grandmother who has nothing better to do but keep the house absolutely spotless. He has so many rules that in the back of your mind you are always thinking – is there something I have forgotten? Is there something I have done wrong? And a lot of the time there is. But don’t worry – if something does slip your mind, he will be sure to remind you.

Even this, we can deal with. We love the place that much. The hassle of having to move house is also a strong motivator.

So things went on this way for a little while - far from perfect, but bearable. That was until we decided to buy a fridge. The fridge we share is a tiny under-counter model which really is not up to the task for 3 people. So we bought another small fridge for our room. It didn’t really fit into our room very well, so we rearranged a few things to make it fit better. No big deal right? Wrong! He could not believe what we had done in OUR room. Moving the furniture was a travesty! One of the things that was worrying him was the imprints left in the carpet by the furniture.. I mean, come on! We agreed to put some cardboard under the furniture and to talk to him before we made any other major changes. The way I saw it is – we have a contract to rent the room. Effectively, we own the room until the end of that period. At the end of the tenancy we return the room in the condition it was let to us in. What we do in the mean time is our business (as long as we are not damaging it of course). His philosophy was ‘when in Rome’, i.e. things are different in the UK. Well, I’m pretty sure they have rental agreements in Rome, as they do in the UK, and they don't allow the landlord dictating how you live in your room.

So a couple of nights later we sat down for a talk, where he explained that he was so shocked by what we had done that he was going to ask us to leave! But because we had made an effort to keep the place up to his standard and put cardboard under the furniture etc, we were OK. Thinking back, maybe that would have been a good time to get out when we had the chance. He also explained that if we were not happy that we could leave - but if we wanted to do so we would need to give one months notice and find a suitable tenant that was willing to take over the contract. The operative word here being suitable.

There was about a week where he didn’t knock on our door once. Life was good! But all good things have to end. I can’t remember which came first, but there were two issues – we had stuck a hook on to one of the bedposts, and we had left a mark on the sink.

The hook – we put a 3M sticky hook (the ones that come away clean and down leave marks) on the varnished wooden leg of the bed. I honestly did not see any issue with putting it there. But he was very concerned that it was going to damage the bed. The first time he bought it up I explained what we had used and said maybe he should look it up on the internet - get some more information. He followed his concern with 'I thought you were going to discuss any major changes you make with me?'. Maybe its just me, but I wouldn't classify a sticky hook as a major change. After the third time he expressed his concern – I let him know that this was the third time he was bringing it up and strongly suggested he look it up online. In the end I had to send him a link, which did not satisfy him. He was concerned it would either 1. remove the varnish, 2. discolour the varnish, or 3. as the wood colour changed in the sun there would be a mark left. In the end he got his way, saying we HAD to remove it - which we did - and guess what? No mark. We told him we had done so, and there was no damage, but of course our word was not enough; he had to carefully inspect...

The second issue was that we had left a mark in the sink. The sink is a white colour and it looks like a hot pot had been put in leaving a slightly discoloured semi-circle – about 8cm long. It is entirely possible we did this by mistake – although we did not notice it when it occurred. He was blown away that we did not see it when it happened, and described the mark was a dark orangey-yellow. When I saw it - it was a very light yellow, hardly noticeable (I'm am not exaggerating). We had several LONG chats about this mark and how shocked he was by it. In the end, he wanted us to come up with a solution to fix it. We used cleaners which worked well – the hardly noticeable mark was now BARELY noticeable. The mark has since completely faded. Later he told us that when he asked for us to find a solution, that he wanted us to offer to replace the sink. I think now would be a good time to mention the sink has a HUGE crack in the sink right beside the mark. Is it fair to expect us to replace the whole sink? I'll let you decide.

Since then we have had numerous long talks going over the above incidents. One thing that really grinds my gears is how he would always say ‘my friends tell me I should just serve my notice on you right now and get rid of you... but I’m not going to do that’. Well, I really could not care less what your friends think. Would you like to know what my friends think? – they think you are a psycho.

As I knew things may be coming to an end I did a little research into our rights etc. During one of our discussions we were talking about our options, he explained that he needed to give one months notice to get rid of us – which I responded was incorrect, and told him he needed to give us two. He took this as an insult and told me I was trying to bait him and make the process more difficult. He got really fired up and emotional, he was almost in tears! He then said that he wanted us out and he was serving his notice. He later apologised and during our next chat he explained he had done some research himself and found out that in-fact I was correct.

By this stage we all knew things were coming to an end. We told him we didn’t really want to have to move again, but if he made things a little easier for us with the notice period (example: if we found a flat that needed us to move in in 2 weeks he would take that for a notice period) that we would feel a bit better about it. He said he would think about it. He also explained that he basically no longer trusted us in his house and felt uncomfortable because we hadn’t noticed the mark in the sink, so “what else might be damaged?”. He wanted us to think about a solution.

The next time we spoke, I explained that I didn’t think there was a solution. We were already making a huge effort by sticking to all his hundreds of rules and that saying that we were now going to ‘notice’ damage that we did not notice before was basically lying to him. But he had a solution! Periodic checks of our room. Understandably we were not impressed, but unfortunately he is well within his rights. He also said that if we wanted to move out he would help us with the notice period.. OK, now we are getting somewhere. When he explained further, we found he was actually doing absolutely nothing to help us. The basics of what he said were similar to what he had told us before – We need to give one months notice. We have to find someone that is going to take over our contract. That person must be up to his standard. How he is going to ‘help us out’ is if that person agrees to move in in say two weeks time, we can agree to that, and move out (rather than having them move at the end of the one months notice). So really its no difference to him – he still gets paid his rent. Infact its probably better for him as he may get rid of us earlier! And we have to coordinate all this while trying to find a new place for ourselves and organising to move.

So one Sunday night we were just sitting at home, just about to jump into bed, and we get a knock on the door. Apparently he is taking off on holiday for a week. AWESOME! We had the place to ourselves for a whooooole week. It was bliss. But then he gets back and all hell breaks loose...

The night before he got back we put a load of washing on. The next morning we got up early to go to Brighton, and noticed the machine hadn't finished its cycle - so was still full of water. We didn't think a lot of it - sometimes washing machines do that sort of thing. So we turned it on again and left. That night when we got home he was furious. Apparently the machine hadn't run the full cycle again he opened the door when it was full of water. So that was our fault of course. He then got angry because there was hair in the plughole.

So I was half expecting him to serve notice then and there. But nothing happened. I gave it a couple of days and still nothing. So I thought bugger it. I went to him and said - we are all not happy, lets have one months notice then both go our separate ways. He said he would come back to me the next day with an answer.

Next day he comes back and says no, he wont accept that. He also says that during our chat the previous night I had given notice that we were moving out. He then went on to explain that we need to 1. get out, and 2. find a replacement tenant to take over the contract (up to his standard of course). I could handle things before, because at least he wasn't lying. But this is one step too far. Blatantly making things up that I did not say. GAH! I asked him several times what I said, HOW I gave notice, and he could not come up with an answer. I also asked 'was this the sequence of events?' - and descibed the events in the exact way I described in the above paragraph, and he AGREED, but still said I had somehow served notice. When I asked him if I could write down the sequence of events, and have him sign it as a true representation of what happened, he simply said no and would not budge. Just a quick aside - I have been writing this blog over several weeks now as things have progressed. I would like to draw your attention to my earlier references to him stating we needed to give one months notice before moving out. In our conversation that night he vehinemantly denied ever saying that we had to give one months notice, and that we could move at any time as long as we found a replacement. I have to stress how totally frustrating it is trying to communicate with someone that is either lying through their teeth, or suffering a serious case of memory loss.

So the following night we met once again. I had the day to think about what he had said, specifically him saying that there was not a one month notice period, and that we could move at any time as long as we found a replacement. This being true renders the notice I allegedly gave, meaningless. If there is no notice period - we are under no obligation to leave, therefore giving notice means nothing at all. He really could not argue with that. But he would not budge on us finding a replacement tenant, and the fact that we are responsible for to pay the rent for every single day until another person (that he approved of) takes over those payments. I told him that we are not even going to start looking for another flat until someone was confirmed as moving in to this place. That way we are at much less of a risk of having to pay rent for two flats at once. I was impressed that throughout the chat he actually seemed kind of reasonable, which made a change from the previous nights performance. I was actually feeling a little better about the whole thing as we seemed to be making progress. We were MOVING! YUS!

The following couple of weeks were fine. We found a new flatmate that he approved of (a bit of controversy, but nothing major). So flathunting got underway. We saw some really nice places (expensive!) and some real holes. We ended up finding a place at the very last minute - quite nice, large room, NORMAL people, good location, had somewhere to store our bikes. It ticked all the boxes. So we told them we wanted it... and they said YES! :D Only catch - it wasn't available for a couple of weeks. Enter Malcolm and Sharne, who again saved the day - letting us stay with them. The awesome thing about the new flat was they let us move most of our gear in early - saving us moving it all twice. Shaun and his work car to the rescue! =D

So we packed up and moved without a hitch. Our room inspection was a bit over the top, but no faults were found and we got our bond back. We are currently living with Malcolm and Sharne. It feels weird to be able to actually relax at home. Well, not wierd, AWESOME!

Let this be a lesson to you all - get to know your new flatmates a bit before you move in. Go out for a drink, have a chat, make sure they aren't mentally unstable! Learn from our mistakes.


  1. Hope the new flatmates are a bit more normal!

  2. omg... thank goodness you're outta there!!!

  3. Sounds a bit like my live in landlord. They have similar rules to what you have discribed. It means you cant relax and it makes you feel like you are invading their house. Must be a UK thing. I cant wait to have decent flatties or my own place in NZ. Nick


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