It is hardly worth me listing the awful things that went on at this particular house. I could go on and on. But the beginning and the end of the tenancy show the most awful examples of ehell, the rest was fairly pedestrian in contrast. By the way, for those readers who hate it when people don’t assert themselves, I hate that too. But I’m English (hate to make a fuss) and was young and passive… this experience totally beat that out of me.
I was 21, just out of University and had been offered a fantastic job at a world famous institution in London. I was asked to start in two weeks time. It was my first real job and without any other commitments I agreed to the start date. I began a house hunt as I couldn’t realistically commute from my home village. Not knowing London very well the task of finding somewhere suitable: affordable, commutable and safe (!), was daunting to say the least. Friends who had graduated a year before and were settled assured me it would be fine. Seeing as there is such a high turnover in London I would surely replace someone in an existing house share without a problem.
I found a house quickly, and was all set to move when I was basically messed about (an ehell story in itself) by the tenants of a house in East London. Panicked I renewed my search.
I managed to find a lovely house in Clapham (South London) the same day and took the hour and a half journey from my village to view it immediately. S, the current tenant, who showed me around was really bubbly and went on about how great everyone in the house was. The picture she painted was like an episode of Friends, with hi-jinks and a lot of love. S reeeeeally didn’t want to leave but had just lost her job and had to go home to the Midlands, hers was the room on offer. She was looking to move out the next day. Seeing as I was desperate and had planned on moving that day originally it all seemed to come together. The house had 5 bedrooms, but the landlady wanted only 4 tenants for insurance, tax and compliance purposes. The other tenants were 2 Irish boys, who I met there and then, and a girl E who wasn’t there. As E and S were childhood best friends, she had asked S to judge who she would get on best with. There were other people looking around at the same time (which was incredibly awkward, and almost like an audition), but S pulled me aside and said “we like you best, and I know you and E will get on so well, do you want my room?” I was so pleased, relieved and to be quite honest a little flattered to have been picked that I said yes. The landlady came over to check me out, she asked about my job and approved. She said she was relaxed about the date we paid as long as we were consistent and it fell before her mortgage was due. She was recently divorced with young children and needed cash (dodgy but I felt for her as I grew up in a single parent household). She lived on the same street so we could walk to her house and give her our rent individually. She said she would come over with a tenancy agreement when I moved in.
I arrived the next morning having hauled my stuff with my boyfriend by train from my village and across London transport (not pleasant – but I couldn’t afford a van rental). I arrived at the house at 10am. S met me at the house and was very excited and bubbly as before. She said her dad was coming to pick her up at 11am, he was on his way. I walked into my new room to find it was very much still S’s room. Not a thing had been packed, there was no sign that she was even going to start. When I move I dress casually – generally your appearance is the last thing you consider when you know you’ll be lugging stuff about and cleaning and unpacking. But there she was all dressed up, hair and makeup done. She’d clearly spent the morning preening – it was galling. I couldn’t understand her priorities. I asked if she needed any help with getting stuff to her dad’s car when he arrived or anything else before he arrived (basically offering to help pack without trying to draw attention to the fact she hadn’t started yet, which could have embarrassed her.) “no no its fine, my dad will do it” was her blase response. It didn’t seem to occur to her that my boyfriend and I were there for me to move in – which I wouldn’t be able to do ’till she had moved out. It was really quite inconsiderate. But with only an hour to wait for her to leave I said nothing, an hour didn’t seem so bad. I gave her a cheque for her part of the deposit and waited for the landlady to bring the tenancy agreement.
About 20 minutes later S got a phone call. She came back into the room screeching that she’d just been offered another job. “OHMYGOD ITS AMAAAAAZING. I don’t have to move now… oh no, but what about you?” I said I’d have to move back home, that she was still on the tenancy and I would just have to commute for a while until I found somewhere. I congratulated her on the job. She turned to me and said no, she couldn’t do that to me. She hadn’t accepted the job yet, and she had to consider it. She said she should honour the commitment and agreement we had made. What a lovely person, right? Anyway, she added, she could just crash at the house as there was a spare room. The housemates wouldn’t mind, we just wouldn’t tell the landlady. It would only be for a few days. I felt uncomfortable about this as the landlady was clear about why she only wanted 4 people and said she should speak to the landlady when she came. When the landlady arrived S pleaded with her to let her stay. I could see the landlady was reluctant, but she said okay, as long as S paid a 5th of the rent pro-rated for the time she spent in the property. That it was not a permanent thing – she had a week maximum. The landlady would keep the tenancy agreement as it was until S moved out. S would keep my money for her next deposit and I would get mine when I eventually moved out at the end of the lease.
So S brought her stuff out of her room with my help, and her dad had to turn around and drive all the way back to the Midlands. The room was messy. But I’d no idea of the true extent. I went to the local shop with my boyfriend to pick up some cleaning materials – the housemates owned none. S was upstairs when we returned and my boyfriend went to make tea. I walked into the bedroom to see she had cleared the last of her belongings, and was confronted by a HUGE bloody stain across the mattress! I could tell it hadn’t been there that long. Horrific. I was embarrassed for her, she had said nothing and acted as though nothing was wrong. I went about hiding it, before my boyfriend could see it. Somehow I felt ashamed of it. I expected S would come in and clear it up. I approached her with tact and mentioned the room was a bit dirty (hint hint hint), but S acted as though there was no problem and went out. On reflection I think this was down to the fact that she was a filthy individual and had no concept of cleanliness. I was a total doormat, but I couldn’t leave it there so with utter revulsion cleared it up as best I could. I cleaned the room to an inch of its life before setting it up. I would have taken the spare room but S was in it and I thought I could move into it after she left in a few days. I really should have insisted we swap rooms then and there.
So now that she was staying for a few days the truth (her version of the truth) of the house all came out. The boys, she told me, were awful. Messy. Inconsiderate. S and E loathed them and had really tried their best with them. Having just cleared up the most horrific sight I’d ever seen I took this with a pinch of salt.
Fast forward a month and S hadn’t left despite us asking her to go. I soon learned that E was never going to be a friend, she was controlling and dramatic. Rarely there but totally over the top and highly strung when she was, she was unpleasant to be around. Apparently her junior role in marketing was the most stressful job ever and me and the boys (a structural engineer, a hedge fund manager and a political aide) couldn’t understand what pressure was like! E made next to no effort with anyone despite us asking her out for drinks or offering to make house dinners. Despite being supposed “best friends” whenever E was away S would bring men back (particularly one E disapproved of) and sleep with them in E’s bed. They didn’t socialize together and bitched about each other constantly. The boys on the other hand were lovely. Yes they were a little messy, but nothing out of the ordinary. In fact it was the girls who lived up to S’s description of the boys. The house had two bathrooms. The girl’s bathroom and the boy’s bathroom. I quickly took to using the boys because the girls one was truly awful. Of course when theirs got so bad they’d use ours, so I’d spend ages scrubbing the filth they left behind in their old one so we could use that instead. I had gotten over my initial passiveness and would tell them to clear up after themselves but to no avail.
Things came to a head after I had been there for 3 months. One day the landlady came over and started shouting at us about rent. She said she had allowed S to stay on the proviso that she actually paid rent, which she had failed to do for the entire time. She said she was taking a risk having her there and was really upset as S had assured her it would be for a matter of weeks. S refused to move and threatened to tell the Inland Revenue (UK Tax Man) that the landlady was evading tax. It was devastating to see the landlady’s face, as she was confronted by such a nasty, vindictive and manipulative individual. Me and the boys backed the landlady. S had no justification for staying in the house. E could only say how stressful it was for her to have the conversation – but really I think she was avoiding saying anything against her supposed best friend.
I called the landlady later and told her that I had walked into a minefield that I hadn’t signed up for. I could put up with E (just) and the boys were lovely. We’d had no knowledge of the fact that S was not paying rent. As S was holding the landlady to ransom and with my name not on the tenancy it would be easier if I left and she could deal with S without the threats. The boys would attest that I hadn’t been there if asked, I didn’t know about E. She said she didn’t blame me for how I felt. It was an awful mess. She had seen how lovely I kept the place it was a shame to let me go and offered my deposit back out of her own pocket. I refused and assured her I would make S pay seeing as she had lived rent free and with my deposit in her account – she finally did pay but only after I found someone to replace her. I moved in with my boyfriend and spent the next three years commuting a heck of a distance, which whilst costly and tiring was far better solution than putting up with S and E. 0805-11