Tory Majority Day 61: Good Flats and Bad Flats In The Search For Affordable Housing On Housing Benefit

I’ve met one of these today….

and also one of these…

Courtesy Gary Smith cartoon for Daily Mail property. Property sharp estate agent.

Courtesy Gary Smith cartoon for Daily Mail property.
Property sharp estate agent.

The female estate agent was Agent 1, one of the positive and helpful ones I talked about in yesterday’s post. She showed me a studio flat this morning.

As with any property search, you have to compromise. Thank you Kirsty and Phil!!

The compromise in this property wasn’t that the resident student was in situ when I viewed, or that he was sitting on the floor tapping away at his laptop in a pair of boxer shorts at the same time, it was that the entire floor space was no larger than half of an average living room.

Including the radiator down one wall and the bay window, the flat did not in any way fit any of my furniture – I tell a lie – unless you travelled light it would hardly fit anything at all ! I’d also have had to sleep without a bed.

Shame though. It was the perfect location, the right price at £900.00 pcm – a bulls eye for exactly on the single person’s housing benefit cap – it was in near perfect condition, the black cabinets in the kitchen caught my eye and it had a bath too. I stood there reminding myself that you can’t have all those things and nowhere to put a bed. Not even a single.

Shame also because the landlord would have been fine with my situation.

So it was a polite ‘no.’ Standing outside afterwards, wondering whether office uniforms had changed a lot since I was able to work as she was intent on holding the skirt down on a very short summer dress that was being blown about in the breeze, she told me:

‘It’s OK. It’s the busy season, you don’t have to choose the first one you see just because you are on benefits,’ she also said: ‘there’ll be loads coming up. I won’t show you any where I know a landlord won’t accept you…’

Then, as her hand held down her skirt even more firmly, she added: ‘it’s the same as being a student..’

‘I totally agree!’ I said. ‘Thank you for saying that, it should be the same if you’ve got a guarantor.’

I bounced up the road back to my current place with a hopeful optimism that comes from the feeling that someone is on your side and will sort out your life for you.

Then I got a phone call from helpful estate agent 2.

He was the nice one who took my details yesterday. He told me that he’d called the owner of the Very Nice Flat That I Liked yesterday and after some to-ing and fro-ing because the owner didn’t speak very good English, the owner literally told the estate agent to ‘f***k off’ at the thought of taking a tenant on benefits…

He knows Anglo Saxon, then….!

As a result of this blanket no,  he’d called another landlord and spoken to him about my situation.

‘My Situation’ really needs to be in capital letters as it’s taken on a whole meta-meaning depending on who I speak to. While I was talking to him about My Situation, he asked me directly what my health problem was.

I didn’t want to tell him but he said the landlord needed to know. Eventually I said I had MECFS, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There was a pause at the other end of the phone and he simply said: ‘ahhhhh.’ Nothing more. Good old ME, it always inspires a total silence in people when you tell them.

He showed me 2 flats that I know already because I walk past the front door on the way to the shops.

Inside I was both surprised and not surprised. The surprise was that people can still rent properties like either of the flats I saw and get away with it. The not surprise was that I didn’t want either of them.

Flat one, a basement flat, had no heating except for an oil heater. Not on your life, I said. Flat two had a basement bedroom where paint was peeling off the wall and I could smell the damp.

I told him calmly but clearly that renting either flat would be bad for anyone’s health, let alone someone who was ill already.

I heard a string of things from him about how the landlord was planning on putting in heating and how he was going to sort out the paint peeling off the wall before someone moved in, but I wasn’t hearing any of it.

No way, I said. He looked visibly deflated. Even his hipster quiff sagged as I left.

When I entered my flat again I actually felt it was near-perfect in comparison.

‘ I understand,’ he said, ‘ just because you are in Your Situation doesn’t mean you have to rent anywhere, it’s just that I thought you should see them because he’s someone who will accept someone in …Your Situation.’

‘It’s good to be shown them,’ I said, ‘after all you have to get a comparison.’

‘I’ll be in touch if any landlord is prepared to accept someone in Your Situation again,’ he added as he climbed back into his low slung black sports car.

I’ve heard that phrase so many times in the last 2 days that I’ve started singing it to The Who’s ‘My Generation.’

“P-people try to put me down….t-talkin’ bout My Situation….”

© Lindy 2015

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