June 12th 2012 - How it all began.
Weight: 7st 4lbs
Viewed large bungalow near Chard today. Great location for our rural business enterprises - close to A303 - good connections and not far from the coast. The bungalow has an annexe attached, several large outbuildings, and two paddocks. It’s being refurbished, and there is still plenty of work to be done, for example, the paddocks need to be cleared of nettles; rubbish needs to be cleared from the driveway and garden area; plus there are some large gas canisters in the outbuildings that need to be removed, but the letting agent [Chloe Small at Smiths Gore, Taunton] has promised that this will be done before the start of our tenancy. She has also confirmed that all the remaining building work will be completed; that the property will be properly cleaned; that carpets will be laid throughout including new vinyl in both kitchens and utility room; 500 litres of oil will be added to the tank, and that the septic tank will be emptied. Smiths Gore have a good reputation as a managing agent, so I'm sure this will happen, plus Chloe seems to be very professional.
I wouldn't ordinarily plump for a bungalow - but at the back of my mind I’m thinking about my parents - they might have to come and live with me one day so an annexe would be useful. This could possibly be a very long let because the Landlord is the Highways Agency - they own thousands of properties across the country that have lain empty for years due to road improvements being abandoned, but apparently there is now some kind of Government initiative to make these properties habitable again.
I don't love it, but it could be a practical home for the next five years before we decide to buy again.
July 9th 2012 - The point where if we'd had any sense we would have run for the hills.
Weight: 7st 3lbs
Went to visit the bungalow to check how the work is progressing. Norman, a security guard who is employed to look after empty Highways Agency property, is there to show us round. There is no sign of Chloe Small. Sadly, due to the unprecedented amount of rain we've had over the weekend, the bungalow has let in water - in fact there's a great big puddle in the annexe living room - it's a good job they haven't yet laid the carpets. There is also a large area of water on the one of the kitchen work tops - we can't fathom where this has come from.
We also note that no rubbish has been cleared from the property and that the nettles in the paddocks still haven't been cut back.
On our way back home we visit the Smiths Gore office in Taunton to report our findings. We meet with Chloe Small and Lucy Back [a rural surveyor], they assure us that they will have the dampness addressed, nettles cleared, carpets laid and everything shipshape for when the tenancy begins on the 25th July. I look Chloe Small in the eye and tell her that if there is one thing I can't put up with then it's the smell of damp in my belongings. She assures me that she does not want the tenancy to begin with an ongoing damp problem.
At this point I want to pull out, nothing has been signed and I suggest to Mr Blue that we ask our current Landlord if we can stay put, even though we have given him notice that we will be leaving by the 31st July. Unfortunately, Mr Blue has a lot more faith in Chloe and Lucy than I do.
July 10th 2012
Weight: 7st 2lbs
Spend time surfing Rightmove in an effort to find an alternative property. Spend time trying to persuade Mr Blue that the bungalow is a bad idea. Mr Blue is worried that we don't have time to make alternative arrangements - for the expansion of his business he needs to be in Somerset. He is still convinced that Smith Gore will keep their word.
July 16th 2012 - The point where I make a horrendous mistake.
Weight: 7st 2lbs
We ring the Smith Gore office to check that the damp problems have been dealt with, they assure us that their contractors have fixed some broken tiles and cleared the down pipe and gutters. We are told that the leaks in the kitchen have also been fixed. We are also told that security guard, Norman, has been airing the property and turning on the heating each day to help dry it out.
I sign the tenancy agreement on the bungalow and write a cheque for over £2,000 for the deposit.
July 25th 2012 - The tenancy begins
Weight: 7st 2lbs
We meet with Chloe Small at the bungalow to check in, although we are not going to move our belongings until the 26th. Norman the security guard is still on site as he has not been given notice to leave. The inventory is still being done, but by a different company.
The bungalow is still filthy, although Chloe Small believes it is acceptable. Dead flies hang around the window seals and sills and dust from the building work is clearly visible on some walls [the inventory later describes most of the property as being moderately dirty]. The property smells strongly of damp and gloss paint. As we are shown around the property we discover that four windows cannot be closed properly because the hinges are broken. Carpets have been laid but there is no new vinyl in either kitchen. We tackle Chloe over the cleaning and the vinyl, she tells us that these things are no longer going to be done as she considers both the cleanliness and the floors to be of an acceptable standard. The property is exactly as it was when I first saw it on 12th June. The nettles in the paddocks have not been cleared and rubbish still surrounds the property. There are still gas canisters in the outbuildings. I have suspicions that the damp problems have not been addressed either. I start to cry. Chloe relents regarding the cleaning and says she will contact a cleaning contractor so they can clean it on the morning of our move.
Chloe gives us two sets of keys, but explains that a couple of keys are missing because they are still with the builders, or lost.
I ask Chloe for copies of the electrical safety certificate and the chimney safety certificate, she says she will email them to us later in the day.
Chloe Small leaves the site describing the situation as 'the check-in from hell'.
I look around the property by myself and test to see if the lights are working. I discover that the lights only work in the annexe area of the property. Norman tells us that this is because the property has two electricity meters and only the meter for the annexe is switched on. The electricity meters are located high up [above 6ft] in the dining room behind a covered area. We do not have a chair or ladder to stand on to inspect them, so we trust that the electricity can easily be switched on, but wish that Chloe had told us about this before she left.
July 26th 2012 – Moving Day
Weight: 7st 1lb
The removal men arrive promptly at 8.30am, they have our belongings packed and ready to go before 12 noon. We leave shortly after them, after we've packed a few essential items into the car [tea, kettle etc]. On our way to Somerset we stop off for lunch and to get some money from the till. It’s a very hot day, possibly the hottest of the year.
We arrive at the bungalow before 2pm, the removal van is not yet there. The cleaning contractors sent by Smiths Gore are still inside cleaning, they have made a good job of it, evidenced by buckets of black water. They have been working for four hours and describe the place as filthy, they can’t believe that Smiths Gore were trying to get away with not cleaning it properly. Our removal van arrives before they have finished so they don’t have time to complete their work.
The removal men start to bring in our belongings. When some chairs are brought in, I ask Mr Blue to turn on the electricity in the main part of the building. Mr Blue stands on a chair so that he can reach the electricity meter cupboard. On inspection he discovers that the meter for the main building is a key meter and nobody has seen fit to give us the key. Mr Blue rings the Smiths Gore office to find out where the key is. He is told that it is still with the building contractors and that they will try to locate it, in the meantime they suggest that we run an extension lead from the annexe to the main building. We are still being moved into the property, we have no idea which of our many packing boxes contains the extension leads. Mr Blue goes to B&Q to see if he can get an extension lead. He returns with the longest extension lead he can find but it is not long enough to reach from the annexe to where the Smeg fridge freezer* has been placed. At this point I can no longer contain my anger, I ring the Smiths Gore office myself. I lose my temper. I tell a woman at their office that I am really fucked off with them because I have no electricity in the main building, and although the extension lead was a helpful suggestion it just doesn’t work. I find out that I am speaking to a temp, I tell her that I don’t care who she is and that I just want someone to shout at. I go on to tell her that if she has any sense that she should leave the building she is working in, right now, because Smiths Gore are a pile of crap and that they will skank her over just like they have skanked me. I hang up.
No, I have no idea where I got the word ‘skank’** from either. I am far less eloquent verbally than I am in writing. I am not ashamed of my outburst.
And this is where I am going to end part one of this post, because as I am typing I can feel my blood pressure rising. I know what happens next, and it is far, far worse than what has gone before. Plus I have written over 1,723 words, which must be something of a record for a Scarlet Blue post. If anyone has read this far – thank you.
*when moving a fridge or freezer, always leave it for 45mins plus before switching on again, this is to let the gases settle.
**Skank:- When something is taken without paying, either stolen or given to for free (when not deserved). Usage example: He totally skanked the money off of his mom!!! – from the Urban dictionary.
Letting Agent: Smiths Gore
Landlord: Highways Agency