How NOT to rent a house in London

Hello dear blog readers…

I wrote blithely a couple of weeks ago about ‘how much of an expert’ at renting and moving houses in London I should be by about now. It is now now, however, and that was very very very very wrong. To demonstrate how much of a non-expert I am here is a list of some things that you should NOT do when moving house:

(If I sound exasperated [by which I mean I definitely do sound exasperated], that is because I AM. Brush off the sarcasm and my obvious inability to let things go and hopefully there are some genuinely helpful points here somewhere…)

1)    Don’t wait until right at the end of term when everyone has gone back to their actual homes or their actual other countries. Effective communication with five people is difficult enough when they are in the same city, without everyone dispersing, one of them having broken their phone and another two retreating to holes on the Earth without any signal.

2)    If this happens, don’t be the only one left behind thinking you are going to have a peaceful two weeks seeing the sights of London with your boyfriend.

3)    Don’t think you can get away with cleaning the house yourself if the contract says ‘must be professionally cleaned’ or maybe even if it doesn’t. The person who checked our contract in Imperial told us that this usually means ‘cleaned to a professional standard’ but this wasn’t the case with us—the landlord actually wanted a receipt from the cleaners and we have heard from other students this seems to be standard practice.

4)    Don’t not take pictures of every teeny tiny little stain. We took pretty thorough pictures of the faults in our house when we moved in, or so we thought, though we may now be charged for a stained sink that we are pretty sure we didn’t stain. I’m not sure how viable this point is, to be honest. It is hard to spot every little thing when you move in.

For the next house, we have actually sent emails later on about the problems we are having and will continue to do so. Yes, this makes me feel like a horrible person for moaning so much about how the workers haven’t left the floor clean or the wardrobe is broken, but at least the owner can then not claim the house was pristine when you moved in (as happened to us).

5)    Don’t use blu-tack (even at all, even if the walls are stained by other things, even if you swear you can’t see the marks) unless you want to pay to re-paint the room. This is a sad one for me. I love to stick things on the walls!

6)    Don’t end up being the only one sending emails to landlords and estate agents. If you are the one emailing, always cc everyone in so that you don’t have to update them all separately afterwards.

7)    Double check any payments you are not sure about—we almost ended up paying an extra month’s rent because of a very badly worded/ deliberately fraudulent email from our estate agent.

Alex being scary...
Alex being scary…

8)    This is a big one! Don’t be alone when you hand the keys back to your landlord. If possible, in fact, don’t deal with them face-to-face at all. If I could re-live the last couple of weeks I would drop the keys at the estate agents and say we were all out of London, or at least stand at the door and insist that I had to leave immediately when the landlord arrived.

Unpleasant things are much better dealt with by email.

I’m sure—or at least I hope— that I had a particularly bad experience with this landlord, but better safe than sorry. I won’t go too much more into what was a horrible experience, but if you are going to be criticised, insulted, patronised and talked-over by your landlord and another very rude person that she has brought along, bring reinforcements who are either your parents or your flatmates. Alex very kindly agreed to come along as all my flatmates were back at home, but despite him being quite scary (see picture I asked him to provide below demonstrating how scary) my landlord refused to talk to him as he was not a tenant. Ironic, considering she brought a miscellaneous lady with her.

9)    Also, look around the house before you buy it! That is unless you want to end up next to a noisy pub in a house where everyone upstairs can see into the downstairs shower. (!)

I am completely joking about this—my new house is pretty awesome but that shower thing is weird.

In other moans, obviously changing utilities and council tax accounts is terribly boring and time-consuming. 😛 After nearly an hour on the phone this morning I am still not entirely sure if NPower have got the message that we don’t want their gas or not. Honestly.

In better news here is a list of happier tricks to renting houses:

1)    Imperial have a good contract checking team who will check your contract thoroughly and give you lots of tips on how to not get taken advantage of.

2)    The genius cleaners who have a 48 hour window to sort things out in the house for free if the landlord makes a completely unreasonable fuss.

3)    Finding new landlords who are laid back. They are actually so laid-back that there is a broken mirror and various other broken bits of furniture scattered around the house that we will have to remove, but I will gladly take this over our current situation.

4)    The fact your deposit has to be kept with a third party so scheming landlords can’t grab at it at whim. Thank you, the government.

5)    Remembering to take gas and electricity readings.

6)    Having a different joint bank account for house related payments.

Believe me, it is hard enough to track who has not paid what bill and why they haven’t paid the right amounts in a dedicated bank account. Add that on top of your own transactions and you will be internet banking for far too many hours of your splendid life.

Anyway, that is my moving house situation. It has all been fairly depressing and is unfortunately not over yet.

Now to the non-house section!

You’ve probably all heard that the longitude prize got awarded to antibiotic drug resistance which is a double win for me as it is the one I voted for and media coverage of this topic is the potential topic for an essay I am doing next year! Haha the British Media. I have you in my control.

Imperial have also picked me to go to the British Science Festival in September! I am so excited about this— they are paying for my accommodation and food and I get to go to panels and see science shows and science comedy! Much excite!

3 comments for “How NOT to rent a house in London

  1. Isobel Sims says:

    Oh Lordy your landlord/house situation sounds like a mess, glad you eventually got it sorted out but that landlord had no right to be so awful! Thanks for the tips as well, they’re really good 😀 love from, Izzie (your fellow student blogger)

    1. Emma Wills says:

      Thanks for the comment 🙂 I hope that your house renting goes OK next year! I’m enjoying your blog too- it sounds like you are having a great summer holidays 🙂

  2. Rose Johnston says:

    Great tips. My partner and I both studied in London and had untold nightmares with renting.

    I think more should be done so tenants can check out a potential landlord before they rent from them.

    Only 20% of renters do this, according to this study https://www.kiwimovers.co.uk/news/why-london-movers-are-at-highest-risk-of-renting-from-dodgy-landlords/

    And surprise, surprise – the problem is worse in London.

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