Saturday, July 8, 2017

Moving UK Style

We are still in the throes of moving, and the strain on my nerves and wallet are reaching a crescendo. The only consolation I have is to remind myself that we’re moving, and that’s just the way it is. But then I think, should it be?

I know I haven’t moved from place to place in the US for a long time, but when I did, I don’t recall it being so traumatic. In fact, I once moved seven times in the space of four years and, aside from having to move all my stuff, no onerous inconveniences,or unexpected expenses, stick in my mind when I reminisce about those days.

In the US, this is how I moved:

Realtor shows me an apartment. I like it. We sign a lease. I pay one month’s rent up front and one month’s rent for a security deposit. Then I go to the Post Office and submit a change of address form. For free. End of.

In the UK, this is how it goes:

Letting agent shows you a flat. You like it. Letting agent says, “Okay, pay £500 and fill out this notice of intent to rent.” Then you have to provide reams of documentation to prove that you live where you currently live (really, what’s the difference, I could live under a bridge and then move into a flat as long as I can pay the rent), how much you earn and your citizenship status. You then have to provide references, and pay the letting agent £30 to contact them.

Then you go to the Royal Mail and submit a change of address form: £125.98 for the two of us.

When you take possession of the flat, you pay one month’s rent up front, one and a half to two month’s rent as a security deposit, and another £126 as a check-out fee. (Yes, check-OUT fee.)

Every year, when your lease is renewed, which involves the letting agent sending you an e-mail informing you that the lease has been renewed, you are charged another £160.

When you check out, you are “strongly advised” to hire a professional cleaning company to stream-clean the carpets and curtains and generally bring the flat up to the sort of condition they will find acceptable, and, by the way, the letting agents have just such a cleaning service, so why don’t you hire them? This, in my mind, is a thinly veiled threat: “Pay us more money, or you won’t get your security deposit back.”

But that’s just my letting agent (Leaders, by the way). Others, and there are many, are just as bad, and some are even worse.

The reason for these money-grabs is, some time ago, letting agents discovered that they could charge random fees, with no reason or justification, without anyone complaining. Much. And they have embraced this business model with alacrity.

But, after all of that, you at least get a spacious, well-maintained flat at a reasonable pr…HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

Sorry, I couldn’t write that with a straight face.

Fact is, if you are not rich, you take what you get, and you don’t complain, unless you want to find yourself out on the street and someone else living in the place you used to call home. Because there are more people looking for places to live than there are places to live, landlords can be choosy, meaning they will choose people who won’t complain about the state of their flats.

If you’re rich, you can rent a luxury flat. We’re in a luxury flat right now, and that’s one of the many reasons we're moving: we are not rich.

The “luxury” flats, however…Now, I’m not saying this will stop me from complaining about the size of our future home, but I took a peek at the flats for the latest development in town to see the cost and size of those flats. What I found just made my heart sink:

This is your living space, kitchen, dining room, living room, all
562.7 sq ft of it, and yours for only £295,000 ($380,228)
Do you see space for a TV?

And I thought our 600 sq ft flat was bad.

The up side, however, is that Prewetts Mill,when it is finished, is going to be located in 1962.
And this is what you get for your money:

Notice the insubstantial breeze-block (cinder-block) wall and the 2x2/chipboard framing.
Those bricks aren't real, either. That is (hopefully fireproof) imitation-brick cladding.
So, even though we are moving to a smaller place, at least our block of flats was built in the 1960s, when they used robust building materials, believed windows should be large and allowed to open, and understood that actual people were going to live in them.

Sorry to be so sour these days. It’s just that we’re moving, and that is really stressful.


  1. Ah yes, the classic song from Les Miserables still holds true:

    Charge 'em for the lice, extra for the mice
    Two percent for looking in the mirror twice
    Here a little slice, there a little cut
    Three percent for sleeping with the window shut!

    Everybody loves a landlord
    Everybody's bosom friend
    I do whatever pleases, Jesus!
    Won't I bleed 'em in the end!

  2. Genesis comes to mind as well...

    This is an announcement from Genetic Control:
    "It is my sad duty to inform you of a four foot restriction on
    humanoid height."

    "I hear the directors of Genetic Control have been buying all the
    properties that have recently been sold, taking risks oh so bold.
    It's said now that people will be shorter in height,
    they can fit twice as many in the same building site.
    (they say it's alright)"

    1. I think you are on to something.

  3. Tell me about it, she says as the sound of packing tape echoes around the house!

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  6. Anonymous7:40 PM

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