This apartment tastes sweet. It tastes sweet because I fought for it.
Three and a half weeks ago, I came to view a flat in Streatham Hill. And I knew immediately that I wanted it. It had nice big rooms, plenty of storage and privacy. It was within my budget and within striking distance of work.
The estate agent was a large muscular man who tried to banter with me about the Champion’s League. I complimented his suit and he stopped bantering.
I paid £250 to the estate agents to secure the flat and I gave notice to my old landlord. I showed off to everyone that I was getting a new flat. My reference check took about a week. My old landlord, who’s name might be Ahmet and might be Eric, but who is intriguingly called “Room Network” on my tenancy agreement, took a long time to provide a reference (or to acknowledge that I was moving out), but eventually the referencing company came back with the answer that I would need a guarantor to sign for me as I didn’t have evidence of my self-employed earnings.
I smarted at the injustice of it. Here I am, earning more than I’ve ever earned in my life, with a permanent, pensioned job, earning more than anyone else in my family, and I wasn’t approved for renting a one-bedroom flat.
I posted a plea on Facebook for a guarantor and got a volunteer very shortly.
During the next week, I started to make plans. My brother told me he’d be able to bring his van across full of my stuff. I paid for a ferry ticket for his van. Everything was falling into place. I ordered broadband for the new flat. Nothing would go wrong. Nothing.
And then, last Thursday week everything went wrong. My estate agent rang me to say that my guarantor hadn’t filled in the reference form. I told him I’d chase her up. Then he said that my new flat wouldn’t be ready and that the landlord had told the current tenants that they could stay an extra two weeks. What? I’d already handed my notice in. I’d already paid for my brother’s ferry tickets. I couldn’t move later. I had to move on the weekend of the 8th July.
The estate agent told me that there was another property he could show me. It was exactly the same as this first one, except it was nicer. Hmm. It was also £50 dearer a month. We arranged for me to come and see it that evening. It really is lovely. It is also a large one-bedroom flat with my own front door and my own back door and a back garden and it’s solid and secure and a good size. I could see why it was dearer. The floors are fancier, the bathroom is more modern, the doors are more solid. The whole place is more grown-up. It’s the kind of place where I might get in trouble for covering the walls in pictures of One Direction and Zac Efron. Will that stop me? Of course not.
So the flat was OK, but my guarantor let me know that her employer wouldn’t support a reference for a flat in London. Oh no! I was close to total destruction again. I put out a new appeal on Facebook and I started directly messaging people, asking them to be my guarantor. I didn’t have much luck. No one seemed to be persuaded that they were only going to be legally liable and not actually liable for my rent, although that’s what I argued. Of course my parents offered to do it for me, although I have far more disposable income than they do. The muscular estate agent said he’d check. He got back to me. ‘Are they in Northern Ireland?” “No.” “Well, then that’s not considered part of the UK.”
I knew that. It’s not considered part of the UK, because it is in fact not part of the UK.
Wednesday morning came. I was getting desperate. A number of people who I had asked hadn’t got back to me about being guarantor. I put on a bit of pressure, not able to stand the waiting. My last hope pulled out around lunchtime on Wednesday. I can’t blame anyone. I have always been a flight risk and have never been known for my financial probity.
The dream had ended. I’d have to lose the holding deposit and the price of the ferry, but there was no way I was going to stay in my Homerton flat. I had reached the end of my tether with sharing, with hearing my Italian flatmate piss in the bath, with the general filth of the place, with having to whisper while I was filming my videos, with brushing my teeth without water because sometimes I just couldn’t face that bathroom and I just brushed them in the bedroom. I was going to move. I found a nice hostel with single rooms, similar to the one I had stayed at in Notting Hill before Christmas. I had a back-up plan. Everything would be OK.
I rang the estate agent to tell him that I couldn’t find a guarantor. My muscled gentleman told me that I could pay a bigger deposit instead and the landlady might be OK with that. He suggested six months. LOL. As if I could find that. He told me to see how much money I could gather together and get back to him.
I met a friend that evening, one who had told me he couldn’t be my guarantor. I told him about my hostel plan. He offered me money. He was fine with loaning me thousands – three months rent! That was less of a commitment than being liable for me.
I rang my estate agent, to offer the three months rent. My muscular man wasn’t there and I was passed to a woman who was as loud as the previous man was muscled. She sounded like she had once been a club rep in Ibiza, screaming in people’s faces to drink more tequila, snort more cocaine, get more regrettable tattoos and have sex with more sunburnt Bradfordians, but had now settled down and only shouted at potential tenants. She spent much of the next thirty-six hours yelling at me.
She roared at me that three months rent would not do. My heart broke again, for the seventh time in a week. She asked if my family could be guarantors for me. I told her they were in Ireland. I could hear her getting hopeful. “Which part of Ireland?,” she shrieked. “The South.” “That wouldn’t be considered part of the UK.” she bellowed. I’m actually fine that British people are clueless about Ireland. I’m clueless about England. I’m not sure if Surrey and Sussex are the same place or different places. But it boggles my mind that they think Irish people mightn’t know which bits of Ireland are in the UK and which aren’t.
She interrogated me about my pay. Could I show my bank statements for the last six months to the landlady to prove I earned enough? I could totally show her the statements from the last three months, during which I’ve been rich, but no one would cope with seeing the state of my finances in February, when I spent the month living on dinners that cost £1 (i.e. McDonald’s cheeseburgers) and even nearly spent one night on the streets of London, until my pay of £148 went into my account at 2:00 am and I got into a hostel.
When she realised how much more I earn from my employers than my basic salary, she hollered at me that if I would pay to be re-referenced, I might clear the reference check without a guarantor. I asked my boss to tell my referencing company to include my overtime payments in my reference, which he did without hesitating. In fact, he did it three times as it took a number of phone calls.
The estate agent screamed at me that this left me £35 pounds short of the rate needed. She hung up on me in disgust as I was halfway through asking a question. As if it were somehow my fault that she’d spent so long on this reference check.
It wasn’t enough. £35. Thirty-fucking-five.
My boss was happy to stretch the truth by £35. I was in. The estate agent rang me to bawl at me to pay the deposit and for the second time in 12 hours, hung up on me while I was in the middle of asking a question.
I didn’t care. I didn’t care that the deposit was bigger than I expected or that I had had to pay for multiple reference checks.
I was working yesterday morning (I’ve basically worked every Saturday and lots of evenings since I started this job; hence all that overtime). I brought a suitcase of my stuff with me on the train to Streatham Hill and went to the estate agents. They photocopied about a million documents and they even photocopied the keys before they gave them to me, but at 12:30 yesterday, I had my keys in my hand and I was walking to my new house.
I sat on the sofa and marvelled at the space, the solidity and the silence. I derived more pleasure than is natural from going to the toilet. My toilet. I went shopping. I filled the fridge. My fridge. I have a kitchen again. I couldn’t bear to leave to go back to my old flat and pack the rest of my stuff. Eventually, at about ten, I went back and packed everything up. I still haven’t got my deposit back from the landlord, but I left the keys there anyway and emailed him my bank details so he can transfer it back to me. I was never going back to the flat. I left our flatmates’ whiney What’sApp group, with thrills rushing through my body. At midnight, I was in a taxi, full of all the knick-knacks I’ve accumulated in the last few months, feeling so excited.
I’m the King of my Castle.