Replacing Amazon

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It is official. Nobody loves me. Two of my housemates are moving out. Hot Chocolate is leaving because he is going travelling for six freaking months and Amazon is leaving because she hates me.

Anywho the kids advertised their respective rooms on SpareRoom and booked in some viewings. We had plenty of interest. I didn’t really want to be involved with the housemate search too much but as I am the only one stuck living here I had to be present to make sure I picked somebody I would get along with.

The bigger and most expensive room in the flat had a bit less interest and it was mostly from girls. I think it’s because Amazon’s room looks very girly and no man with an ounce of self-respect would want to live there. As Amazon decided to take off to her homeland and Mr Chocolate was busy getting his travel visas etc sorted, I was the only one who was tasked with meeting the potential tenants for Amazon’s room. Although Amazon and Hot Chocolate were present during the first two “interviews”.

We had a Chinese man who was working as an analyst at a bank but I didn’t get a good vibe from him. I remembered living with a Vietnamese guy back in Brisbane who fried disgusting stuff every day and never washed up. I’ve seen Karl Pilkington’s An Idiot Abroad and I know what disgusting things the Chinese eat. We didn’t seem to click and it was tricky to get a conversation going with the chap. It was a no from me.

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Moving on we had a kid who works for SnapChat. He was young and cheerful but very nervous. His leg kept twitching back and forth when I interviewed him. He seemed OK but I wasn’t convinced that this guy was quite right. NEXT!

A girl working for Deutsche Bank showed up late one evening. She came across really well until I asked her about where she’s from. She was Turkish. I’ve had some bad experiences with Turks you know…. Alarm bells were ringing loud and clear. So I asked her if she had a visa to stay in the UK and she had a few issues – her visa was due to be extended and it was a thing in progress she reassured me. She said her paperwork was all ready and that the next day she was going to Turkey to formally apply to extend her visa – she had to be outside of the UK to apply and keep the British bureaucrats happy. I thought that she would never pass the reference checks for the flat. However, I didn’t want to break her heart just yet. As we continued chatting I discovered that she also works super long days… almost all workdays are 10+ hours with a very short lunch which she usually eats at her desk. Wow, I thought. She was doing some corporate banking gig, which probably paid really well but that came at the cost of having no social life whatsoever. It was so bad I felt like I should give her a hug. A bit later I also discovered that she was a smoker, which was a non-negotiable no-no with my new housemates. I spent more than an hour chatting with her… In retrospect I should’ve kicked her out way sooner but I actually tried to find reasons why she would be the first Turkish person who would change my perception of that nationality. However, that didn’t happen. NEXT!

I had an Aussie girl who works for Ernst and Young. She was a posh accountant who came across very rich and fancy. I think I had the shortest interview with her. This girl was from Sydney and when I told her I spent two years in Australia, mostly in Brisbane, her response was that Brisbane is really boring and that nothing ever happens there. Oi!, That sure wasn’t a smart thing to say. I didn’t argue and acknowledged that Sydney is so big, I’m sure there’s always something fun to do there. She, of course, agreed. I asked her the visa question as well and she said – rather importantly – that her employer spent tens of thousands of pounds to get her ass to London and granted her a minimum two year visa for the UK. If she was to leave E&Y, she’d have to pay it all back and there was no chance in hell of that happening. I didn’t like her attitude or her persona. I had a big smile on my face after I kicked her out. Later I got a message from Amazon (as she was the one who arranged the viewing) that the Aussie girl loved me and would like to take the room. I could not believe it. It was a flat out NO from me. Next!

The next girl was from Belarus. She was absolutely stunning – tall, very fit, with long blonde golden hair in a ponytail, she was very polite and in every way perfect. I was in love. In fact I would’ve paid her rent for the privilege of breathing the same air with her. She worked for Bank of America and similarly to the Turkish girl, had very long working hours. She was a dancer as well and does a bit of running too. She ticked so many boxes I was all smiles. Unfortunately, she didn’t think the room was good value for money as she had tons of stuff and was worried how she’d fit it all in. Oh well… I cried a little when she left.

As the blood returned to my brain I realized I had another meeting that day. This time it was a German girl. She was very young – 21, and 22 in a few weeks time. She did some corporate banking stuff as well – and just like Belarus and Turkey – she worked very long hours. In fact, it was a Sunday and she said that she came from work to see the room and after our chat went back to work. Welcome to corporate banking!

Anywho, she came across really well – I am so biased here…. I had so many positive experiences with Germans in Australia that I think they’re all great people. She was quite funny and I noticed that she played with her hair when she was talking to me…you know rolling it between her fingers, pulling a few strands through her lips… – textbook signs of attraction. Or maybe… she was just manipulating me. I didn’t know what to think, so naturally I picked her.

I quite liked her really. She was young and beautiful and had that spark in her eyes – the one which withers away as work beats the life out of you. She reminded me of my Australian kids when I met them. She works for Goldman Sachs – that’s a fairly difficult thing to do… especially at 21. I would love to work there. I think she’s rich and/or has very well connected family. And, if we don’t get along, she would never be in the flat anyway as she works all the time.

She decided to take the room and now is in the process of being terrorized by the agency and their referencing process. Fingers crossed she makes it to the other end.

I will tell you about the second housemate in the next post.

Ivar

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Before the race

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I and Romario were very poor. We really needed a third tenant. To make matters worse, Romario didn’t cancel his standing order and paid rent to the previous landlord as well. His bank account went over his overdraft limit and the bank charged him £5 for every day his account was above the limit.

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He said he’s never been this poor. Then his bank also blocked his card. I found the whole thing hilarious.

We told Amazon that she should look at other flats and give this one a pass. Even though I had about £50 in my bank account and Romario found some change in a drawer – it was all the money we had… However, after Amazon checked out 6-8 other properties she gave us a call and wanted back in. It’s funny how that worked out. Apparently the other flats had weirdos living in them or they didn’t have a living room or in one case she had to walk through a toilet to get to the available room etc. London is weird like that.

The Amazon merger improved our financial position dramatically. Things are looking good again. And she’s been an amazing flatmate so far.

Some other things regarding the rental agency have surfaced and I’m very tired of all the bullshit. I stopped communicating with them as I don’t want to deal with them anymore. Everything they’ve told us or promised has been a lie and I have no interest in interacting with people like that. I’ve got way better things to do with my life.

I took the AF5 exam about a week ago. It’s the one I failed by one point back in October. I’m not too confident about passing it this time around as my thoughts were a bit distracted when studying because of all the stuff I wrote in the last two posts. Anywho, I’ll find out if I passed in about two months.

The London Marathon is tomorrow. The mass start is at 10 AM and based on my training, I should finish within 4 hours. 3H 45 minutes would be a good result. I’m quite excited.

Wish me luck!

Ivar

Surprise buttsex

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Today’s been a very angry day. In fact I can’t even recall the last time I was this angry. Dealing with the real estate agency has been horrible. They have been screwing us right between the buttcrack so hard that I’m starting to enjoy it. I stopped clenching and just bent over even more and gave in. Now I know what rape feels like.

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Sorry about the above mental picture. I believe I owe you dinner first before going down that road.

Here’s what happened. I and my housemate agreed to rent a 3 bed flat in Central London. The flat is da bomb. It is in a fantastic location and we love it. However, we ran into a few complications with the agency.

Our initial plan was to rent with a couple i.e. four people in the flat. We told this to the agent at our very first viewing and said that we haven’t yet found the new potential tenants. We were told that this is no problem and that we can do that. We agreed to make an offer for the property based on that.

The following day the agent (Blond Bimbo) called me again and said that we need to increase our offer (for the weekly rent) to make sure the landlord accepts it. So in order to sweeten the deal I reluctantly agreed to increase it by £10 pw… i.e. circa £43 pcm.

The next day the Old Hag (Blond Bimbo’s manager) called me and said that if we have a couple as tenants we would have to apply for some license because of health and safety reasons and that the landlord wanted to increase the rent by a further £40 pw i.e. £173 pcm because of extra “wear and tear”… so just like that the rent had increased by £216 pcm. I was told the license would cost about £500 as well. I immediately said we can’t afford that and asked what if we had just one person instead of a couple. She said that she’d get back to me and on a later phone call said that the rent would stay the same i.e. the plus £10 pw amount. That was acceptable I thought as this would also save the £500 license cost.

Our holding deposit of two weeks’ rent was taken and the referencing process began. I already wrote about that in my previous post – it was a nightmare as well.

We were still looking for a tenant and found a potential one but were not able to have a viewing because the landlord had the property rented out on AirBnB. We had to wait for more than a week to get that viewing (which was on 29th March – only two days before our move in date). They wanted us to sign the contract and pay way before we had the viewing in order to “close the file” and make sure we can move in on the 1st April.

The agency was charging us a £180 admin charge for the contract. I specifically emailed them to ask if there’s going to be another admin charge if we add a third tenant. It did not make sense to me to pay £180 now and then another £180 again the following week. Blond Bimbo’s email response asked me to call her to discuss this. So I did and she said that there will be no admin fee for adding the third tenant because they’ve always known we were adding another person. Following that I signed the contract and paid the agency all the fees, rent and deposit. This £180 fee is the key reason for my anger.

A week later, we managed to get a viewing for the new potential tenant (Amazon). She was very pleased with the flat and agreed to rent it with us. Things were looking good. Blond Bimbo took Amazon back to the agency’s office to scan her passport and take the referencing fee of £60. At least that’s what me and Amazon thought would happen.

Amazon said that when she went to the office with Blond Bimbo to pay and scan her passport, one of Blond Bimbo’s colleagues said that “you shouldn’t take that payment, what if it doesn’t work out and she can’t move in”. The license issue was news to Miss Bimbo as well and they didn’t take any payment from Amazon.

It was raining outside and Romario was on his bike – as you do when you’re Dutch. We decided to wait until the rain stops before heading back home after the flat viewing. That’s when Romario got a call from Old Hag regarding the license. She said that we need a license to have a third tenant. I spoke to Old Hag as well as we previously talked about this issue and that this would only apply if there were 4 tenants. She mumbled some crap and said that this was not the case and that a license was definitely needed for 3 people as well.

This was very bad news. We went home and were proper panicking. We discussed all kinds of scenarios about what we can do because we could not cover the rent between the two of us. We definitely needed another tenant to afford the place.

We sent a long email to the agency detailing our disappointment and concerns about the whole situation. However, we asked them to resolve this situation in a fair way and wanted to work together in the future.

We had a read through our contract again and found out about a massive exit penalty – almost £4,000. We were effectively in a position where we couldn’t afford to cancel or stay in the contract. That’s when we started to feel proper screwed.

The next day we received a response email from Old Hag which was very apologetic and said that they were not trying to hide any information from us on purpose etc. It was all bullshit. Later we got confirmation from them that the third tenant could move in if we applied for the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license.

We decided that the least bad option for us was to pay for the license (it cost circa £600) and hope for the best. We are very broke right now. Please send me money.

Amazon went to the agency yesterday to get the ball rolling and then she was asked to pay they wanted to take the second £180 admin fee from her as well, along with the £60 referencing fee.

She called me and was very upset about it. I then called Old Hag and was proper angry with them because this is something I specifically discussed with Blond Bimbo previously. Old Hag said there’s no way we can avoid that fee. Amazon decided to walk away from this shitty agency and we fully support her decision. Sadly we are locked into the contract and can’t do the same.

That second admin fee was the last drop. We have been lied to so many times and the agency keeps changing their story and has introduced new hidden fees on multiple occasions. All the agency fees add up to almost £1,300 but should’ve been £504 following our very first meeting.

We have decided that we will only communicate with them in writing. I do not believe a word they say.

It is also possible that the property already has the license and they are trying to pass the cost on to us. I’ve asked them to provide proof that they applied for the license (we want to see receipts, applications etc) and that it indeed cost what they said it would. Same thing for the “inventory check” for which they charged us as well.

It’s been such a horrid day. The only good thing is that it can’t get any worse, right?

Ivar

I move again

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I’ve been sick for the last two weeks – ebola, bubonic plague mixed with the common flu – no biggie. It’s the sickest I’ve been in at least 5 years. At one point (or… uhm… many points) I even considered seeing a doctor – what a novel idea. However, my pride got in the way. I haven’t been to a doctor in many years and I ain’t going to no doctor now.

The other minor complication was that I don’t have a GP (general practitioner) here in the UK. I’ve never bothered to register with a surgery. I once tried to get it done… back when I was still living in Chelmsford. Unfortunately it didn’t get anywhere because they asked me for proof of address, which I didn’t have as I don’t pay any bills (my bills were always included in my rent). Also, at that time I had moved recently and the address on my bank statement was incorrect – I even went to an HSBC branch to get this sorted – but they didn’t want to co-operate and sent me home. They said I need to wait until the end of the month to get a new statement with the correct address in the post. And that’s the story how I almost got a GP. Why can’t this be easy? England is like that – ridiculously stupid, full of red tape and regulation.

One other thing: I’m moving house again. The landlady is moving in and everybody needs to move out by the 4th April. My ebola was pretty bad and I managed to outsource the majority of the flathunting responsibility to my housemate Romario.

Believe me, flathunting when sick is a very miserable experience. For example I went to one address and I was there at 6:15 PM – bang on the money. Romario was nowhere to be seen and my battery ran out on my phone. I wasn’t going to wait around in the cold hoping for Romario to show up, so I went home and proceeded with coughing my lungs out. Later my housemate said that the flat wasn’t that great.

Another day, we had a second viewing. Well… “had” is a strong word. This time the two of us were outside the building waiting but the real estate agent didn’t even bother to show up. Romario called him and demanded justice, but the fucker didn’t care and said he can’t make it. Real estate agents are scum.

Luckily we had a second viewing that day. This viewing was for me really as Romario already checked that flat out a bit earlier. The new place was amazing and we decided to rent it. It’s right between the Holborn and Chancery Lane tube stations i.e. only 950 meters from where I work.

Later that day I got home and my ebola took on a turn for the worse. I had a massive fever and I was very cold. I ran a hot bath and stayed in it until the skin on my fingers got all wrinkly and gross. Then I put on 3 pairs of trousers and 6 layers of T-shirts and sweaters because I was still cold. I tried to get some sleep under my duvet but that proved to be difficult because of a massive headache.

It’s a strange sensation to be cold and shivering with so many clothes on… I survived and now (about a week later) I’m a lot better – I think I’ll even go for a run tomorrow.

Coming back to the flat. Our real estate agent told us a bunch of lies about the property i.e. “the council tax here is one of the lowest in London” and that we could have four people in that three-bed apartment no problem.

The next day the agency called me and tried to increase the rent and they were successful. I foolishly agreed to a slightly higher price to make sure we got the flat. Agents are full of shit and will tell you anything to get more money out of you. Later on they tried to get even more money out of us (i.e. a 10% increase if there’s 4 people in the flat because of more “wear and tear”). We would also need to apply for some kind of license (which costs £500 or so) as three tenants is the maximum in that flat because of some “health and safety” regulation. None of this was mentioned to us when we first saw the property.

Later on we had to get our references done by a third company. This was such a headache – I had to send bank statements, payslips, proof of my savings etc. Then it turned out one of my bank statements wasn’t up to their standards because it didn’t show a salary being paid into my account (this is because my statements are generated on the 24th each month but I get paid on the 26th). In addition I had to sign stuff and scan and email to my company’s HR team and to the agency and the whole process made me feel like a criminal. To add insult to injury, I’m the one who’s paying for this referencing “service”. It was such a bad experience that at one point I didn’t even care whether I pass the referencing credit and whatever other checks they did. I just wanted this ordeal to end.

I sent an angry email to the referencing company and after that they became much more civil. The whole thing was stupid, unnecessary, unpleasant and a proper pain in the ass but we got there in the end.

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We’ve signed the contract, paid a ton of money for one month’s rent and 6 weeks deposit and various agency fees. It feels wrong to pay more than £6.5K and receive nothing in return – all we have is a contract which is only signed by me and Romario at this time.

I hope it all turns out well. We are still looking for a third tenant as Pilar will not join us – she’s moving to Spain in May and will stay at a friend’s place in between I think. Anywho, we’ve had plenty of interest in the room we advertised on Spareroom and tomorrow will probably have a new housemate sorted out.

I’m not sure if I mentioned previously but I was supposed to run a half marathon race in Silverstone (it’s a bit north west from London) about two weeks ago. I didn’t because of my ebola. I haven’t done any running in the last two weeks and now I have less than four weeks to train for the London marathon. Things are not looking good.

On the bright side, I won’t be homeless going forward. We will move to the new place on the 1st April. I’m really looking forward to it as I’m confident in the new flat I won’t feel rain droplets falling on me through the bedroom window when the weather gets nasty outside.

I hope you had a good Easter holiday,

Ivar the Salacious

Aaaaaannnd… it didn’t work

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did not work
I was not the chosen one. Jamie (the guy from my first choice rental) did not get back with any positive news. So, I had to find an alternative home very quickly. Another viewing later that day and since it was immediately available I decided to go for it. This place isn’t quite ideal (only available for 4 months) but it ticked so many of my boxes. The thing was, these guys wanted two months’ rent and a deposit – almost £2,000 in advance without a contract or anything. I figured I can trust them and coughed up the money.
As you can see, I have learned nothing from my past. Or maybe the lesson is that sometimes you get screwed, but that doesn’t mean that you should lose faith in absolutely everyone.
By the way the pigs sent me an email regarding my fraud report to get my holding deposit back from the previous new “fake home”. The message was along the lines of “we have received an unusually large amount of similar complaints/reports but will aim to respond within 28 days”. I will be very surprised if their final response is anything different from “we will continue to monitor the situation”.

 

About mah new crib

The good: the other co-habitants are about my age and seem to be very friendly. Pilar is from Spain and she’s a consultant of sorts, so is Romario (Dutch). Big plus, Romario is vegetarian – it’s so much easier to live with like-minded people. Plus we’re all non-British and therefore we can relate to our daily “struggles”. The location is very good, very close to Angel station – only an extra 8-10 minute walk to work from my previous home, but I can manage that. It’s closer to the supermarket and a farmer’s market is very close by as well.

The bad: The place has a very small kitchen – only room for one person. It’s tiny.

I’ve only been here a few days but I like it. I’ve noticed that Pilar talks a lot, in general. She’s always on the phone or on Skype. I will need to get used to this. Otherwise she’s funny.

I’m sorry to disappoint that I didn’t end up homeless and that you’re not reading about how I spent a weekend with my fellow dumpster-divers. Maybe in 4 months’ time. Stay tuned!

Ivar

This might not work

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I just got a text from the agent who showed me the allegedly available room. He said ‘it’s all sorted’ and I’ll get my money back in a week’s time. I don’t believe him. It takes a minute to make the online bank transfer, why do they need a week to do it? Besides I already lodged a fraud report to ActionFraud about these scammers. Even though I think the police won’t do anything, I figured I should still try. What can I say, I’m a hopeless optimist.

I’ve seen six  properties so far whilst looking for a new home. Here’s what it’s like to live a day in my shoes:

The first property was next to the canal and in a very quiet area. The ad said the landlord had two rules about the property, but he would tell me what they are face to face. So I met with Mahmood – a bearded man, vertically challenged, looked a lot like the Amish people. Anywho, he gave me the house tour (the house was beautiful). So far so good… until Mahmood decided to fill me in on the house rules. He said he’s an Asian muslim and has two rules. Number one – no guests can come to the property. Number two – I can’t consume any pig or alcohol in the property. Two rules became many very quickly. I wasn’t allowed to bring any drugs to his home, I could only use the washing machine once per week etc. Yeah, he actually lectured me about drugs over there. I was fine with the “no eating pig” rule but I can’t see myself living a single day without having prostitutes over and doing a line of coke and washing it down with some vodka whilst waiting for my washing to finish. No deal.

The second property was the scam one.

I had three viewings yesterday and I really liked the first one. It was very close to where I already live, near Exmouth Market and I got along really well with the tenants. I think I’d fit in well.

The second viewing was just 10 minutes down the road. I got there and I saw one guy in front of the main door waiting. He was competition. Both of us walked into the flat and were greeted by another five competitors. The place was crowded as hell. One guy showed us the flat and then said the current tenants would like to have a chat with each one of us to see if we’re a good fit. They proceeded to chat with each would-be-tenant individually and asked the other six competitors to wait outside in the hallway. I thought this was ridiculous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better example of inconsiderate behavior. Wow… you can’t treat people like that. I just walked away.

The third flat was a bit further away in Fitzrovia – very close to the BT tower near Regent’s Park. Maria gave me the house tour and everything seemed OK. I wanted to have a chat with the other tenants – Paula and John. They were all so young – early twenties. John had this Harry Potter look going for him. I thought it was funny. Paula was very small, young and shy. I didn’t quite connect with the younger crowd and it felt like they wanted me to leave. For example: every time Maria asked “do you have any other questions,” the tone of her voice translated to “just fucking leave already”. My attempts to turn the situation around failed miserably – my questions about their hobbies, interests, work and study resulted in one word or short sentence replies. I became rather uncomfortable and gave up on the younger generation. As I walked back home I pondered about what had happened, whether I looked weird, smelled bad or what was the case?

Today I only had one viewing. The flat wasn’t anything fancy. In fact it was a dump by anyone’s standards – a lot like the place I live in right now… so it felt like home already. However, the dump part on its own is not a deal breaker – I’m a simple man, fancy doesn’t do much for me. I only met one of the tenants – Lauren, she seemed lovely. My biggest critique was that the flat did not have a living room (the available room used to be a living room a long time ago). However the place was cheap as chips and had two balconies. I love a good bargain and I think I could pimp my crib quite a bit if I moved in (get a TV, a carpet, nice curtains… you know turn myself into an interior designer for a day or two).

At this point I think I liked the Exmouth Market flat best and today’s flat would be my second choice. I remember Jamie (the guy from Exmouth Market) saying that they were going to continue showing the place to people until Friday and then make their decision.

So, the question is: do I gamble or do I not? If I say yes to Jamie and wait for him to get back to me on Friday, the second property (the cheapo place) might be gone by that time. If I go for the cheapo option I will make sure that I don’t get my number one choice. Decisions, decisions…

Then I remembered something I read from Seth Godin’s blog. He basically said that anything worth doing might not work. Who am I to argue with that golden nugget?
This-Might-Not-Work
I decided to gamble.

I contacted Jamie (the guy from Exmouth Market) and left a voicemail and a text to let him know I want to rent the place. Stay tuned!

Ivar the soon to be homeless gambler