Wednesday 22 October 2008

Living in someone else's house

When we moved to Chester we were only able to spend two weekends house hunting, before we were due to move, so decided to rent, initially, rather than buy. Renting, we felt, would give us a better feel for the area. After viewing a handful of properties we settled on a small four bed roomed detached house, on an estate built just outside Chester, about 20 years ago. A detached house makes it sound rather grand but it was a shoe box really, as were all the houses on that estate. The fourth bedroom was only big enough for a bed, a small cupboard and a chair. What we were renting was a black and white, half timbered, mock Tudor house, in the aptly named Tudor Way. When giving the address to some one over the phone they said how grand it sounded. They were probably in a call centre in India and were just making conversation.

The business of renting itself was a bit of a culture shock to us. We had both owned property, albeit with a mortgage, for about 20 years. For me it was a bit like being a student again but my husband had never rented before, having lived at home until he moved into his flat. Any problems, and there were several, had to be channelled through the letting agent who would then contact the landlord, who was living abroad. We had been used to fixing things and sorting out problems ourselves. In a way it was nice to have someone else sorting out the workmen and paying for the repairs but it meant that we were not in control of things and some problems took longer than we would have liked to get fixed. Then there was always the possibility that we may have been responsible for the damage rather than it being wear and tear.

The first morning there my husband went off to work, leaving me to have a bit of a lie in before setting about organising the kitchen. About the first thing that happened was when I pulled back the shower room curtains and the pole fell down. The agents got it fixed but after that I do not think that I pulled those curtains over again. A week later I had gone outside to put some washing on the clothes line when the back door shut behind me and locked itself. I was locked out. Luckily one of the neighbours was at home and let me phone my husband who had to come home from work to unlock the house for me. The neighbours were very nice about it. They had had the same problem themselves when they first moved in. The locks were a bit flaky. Not long after that the front door lock became so stiff that we could not unlock the door. Again the agents got it fixed but they took their time about it.

For a few weeks everything went smoothly until one evening when I was grilling pork chops for our supper. Suddenly there was a bang and a flash and the house was in darkness. The grill element had fused all the electrics in the house and the oven no longer worked. I think that we had to go out to eat for a few days until the agents got a new oven sorted out for us. Thinking that we had had a hand in the demise of the grill element the suspicious landlord insisted that he old oven was left in the garage for him to inspect!

Not long before we moved out the curtain rail fell down in the living room when I pulled the curtains over. Really the whole house needed an overhaul. Nothing much had been done to it in the 20 years since it had been built, apart from the occasional coat of paint.

One problem that we did not manage to get sorted was the central heating boiler which heated the water up almost to boiling point and guzzled gas like there was no tomorrow. Even when it was switched off the boiler used gas. We had the biggest gas bills that we have ever had while we were living in this small rented house. I was just grateful that no elderly relatives or young children visited us whilst we were living there as I was afraid that they might scald themselves on the hot water.

We lived in the rented house for eight months until we moved into the cottage that we are now living in. And guess what - the cottage had been rented out before we bought it.


Lindsay said...

We rented what we called "Cell Block No.1" for 5 months before we could move into our present house 2 years ago. All I can say - the experience was hell. Grotty furniture, immersion heater failed and then leaked, infestation of flies. This rented cell was on a farm and we watched helplessly at animal cruelty - especially pigs.

Suburbia said...

At least it's yours though. You must have thought you were jinxed in the rented place!

Maggie May said...

Sounds like you had serious bad luck. glad the cottage is OK and that its yours!

Tim Atkinson said...

That's the kind of the thing that can happen (more often) in a city like Chester. I once had a flat there, with all the same sort of problems. And my landlords were the Dean and Chapter!

Mima said...

I'm still renting now, but being bedbound it is quite reassuring to know that someone else is going to fix stuff for you, and that you don't need to worry about it. We had a dripping hat last week, and contacted the landlord which is a housing association, and they were able to tell me then and there when they were able to come and fix it, and it was very quick. It makes me a very lucky girl!

imbeingheldhostage said...

Renting does have it's pros and cons. I actually find it a con having to wait for someone to fix something. The house we're in now is lovely at first glance, but after we were in, the skirting boards were falling off (having been glued to wall paper), the flooring comes up with your feet if you stand too long in one place, and there was a couple of years worth of mold around a tub (we took care of it all ourselves). I'm eager to move into an older house that is supposed to have issues.

I would love to see pics of that mock tudor place!

DeniseinVA said...

When hubby retires we intend to rent for a year before settling in any one place. Always a good way to see if you like the area. Friends of ours moved, bought a house and absolutely loathe where they live and now they are stuck for a while. It has it's drawbacks though doesn't it? We have rented before when moving from one state to another. Remember quite a few problems but they sorted themselves out eventually, just about the time we moved :) Great post and thanks for stopping by mine :)

Working Mum said...

Oh dear, that sounded quite stressful. Not sure which would have been worse, renting or doing what we did and living with my mother-in-law for four months. I ended up as chief housekeeper doing all washing, ironing, cleaning, shoppping and cooking for all of us - and we paid her rent!

At least we both have our own houses now, whatever state of renovation they are in!

Gill - That British Woman said...

I have to say I know how you feel. When we came to Canada in 1989, the housing market in Britain was awful, so we were unable to sell the house. When we came to Canada we had to rent a house for a short while, while waiting for the house in Britain to sell.

It was an eye opener to say the least, and like you it was a total learning curve. As not only we were renting for the first time in our lives, but in a "foreign" country.

It does make you appreciate your own home though now doesn't it?

Gill in Canada

david mcmahon said...

Lucky that the experience of being locked out ended well!

Akelamalu said...

We've lived in rented property but it was council owned so everything was in perfect working order thankfully.

My son rented a house just like your first one - everything fell apart!

Sandi McBride said...

We loved our rented house in Beaconsfield, altho the landlady was no lady, lol! But the house, which was over 80 years old, was in excellent repair and Hazle came down on "an inspection tour" the first year, (surprise one at that) and I wasn't home (but Mac was) and she found the house so "well kept" that we never say her for another 3 years...unless we went up to Lakenheath to see her...but I wouldn't live in a rented anything now we're retired and never ever moving again (knock on wood!) It's ours and we do as we please...when we please...and that in itself is pleasure! Great post and so happy you're in your own place now!
ps, if you don't mind, I'm going to put you in my Blog role

cheshire wife said...

Lindsay - you have hit the nail on the head calling your rented house a cell.

MM - yes, I think we were unlucky.

Mima - what is a dripping hat?

imbeingheldhostage - I'm working on a pic for you.

Gill - yes, it does make you appreciate your own home.

Sandi - I'd be honoured to go on yourblog roll. I will put you on mine if that is alright with you.

Millennium Housewife said...

Oh dear, I think that's the thing with renting, because the person that owns it doesn't live in it there is no heart to the home. Then again the years I spent renting damp, dark basement flats in london gave me a huge appreciation for having our own house - and we lavish it with love. Thnkyou for a lovely post that reminded me to count my blessings x