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Putting The “Mental” In “Rental”

, , , , , , | Legal | April 14, 2022

I’d been renting my flat for six years when this happened. I’d been stung by s***ty landlords in the past, so I was relieved to find that my current landlord was a stand-up guy. Because my landlord travelled a lot for business, he used a property management service to ensure stuff got done.

The letting agent he had been using for years shut down because the guy running it retired, so my landlord found another company. As part of taking over, an agent from the new company came to do an inspection. No biggie. I kept the house in tip-top condition, and I’d never had any issues before. 

The agent looked around and saw that my furniture was a little battered. Most of it was bought secondhand, and I’d had it for years, so naturally, there was wear and tear. 

The agent started listing the damage to the furniture. I thought that was odd.

Me: “Yeah, it’s not in the best condition, but it’s my furniture, so it’s not a problem.”

Agent: “You’re going to have to pay to replace it all.”

Me: “Why? It’s my furniture. The place was rented unfurnished. This is all my stuff. It doesn’t belong to the landlord.”

Agent: *Smiling smugly* “The moment you bring anything into the property, it becomes property of the landlord.”

Me: “That’s not how that works.”

The agent huffed and continued nitpicking everything he could before leaving. 

A few days later, I got a letter stating that they were going to take my entire deposit to pay for the damage to the furniture. My furniture.

As I said before, I had been royally screwed over in the past by scummy landlords, so I knew my rights as a tenant and where to look in my tenancy agreement, etc. I researched this, and naturally, none of what the agent was trying to do was remotely legal.

I sent them a letter, highlighting the relevant parts of the tenancy agreement and the law, including that my deposit was protected so they couldn’t touch it until I moved out. They then tried sending me a bill and threatened legal action if I didn’t pay, but again, I reiterated that this wasn’t legal and cited the relevant laws and regulations.

The agent was obviously determined to get at my deposit and so kept coming at me with a bunch of bogus claims to extort money from me.

  1. They claimed that they had evidence that I had a dog which my tenancy forbade. For one, my tenancy does not forbid them; I just have to ask my landlord’s permission before getting any pets. Also, I do not have a dog as I have allergies.
  2. They claimed that I was illegally sub-letting. I wasn’t.
  3. They tried to get me to pay for a fence that had been blown down during storm winds — claiming that had I ripped this fence out of the ground maliciously — a fence that the building freeholder was actually responsible for, not my landlord. So, even if I had damaged the fence, the letting agent wouldn’t be who I paid to fix the damage.
  4. They claimed that I had let the flat become mould damaged. Again, not true.

It went on and on with him trying to make bogus claims. Each time, I demanded to speak to the landlord, but the agent refused to give me any of his details, claiming the landlord knew about this and was sick of me “abusing his property.”

He’d try to bully me with threats of eviction for non-compliance, and I’d just hit him with the laws that said he couldn’t do that. I thought he would eventually get bored and stop when he saw I wouldn’t cave in. He didn’t. After months of constant harassment, constant fighting, and documenting everything — including taking photos of the state of my flat every single day out of paranoia — I was burnt out. Enough was enough.

I needed to contact my landlord directly, but I’d lost his number a few years ago when I got a new phone. I’d never had any issues before and so foolishly never thought to get the details again. The only thing I had to go by was my landlord’s full name on the tenancy agreement and the address of his place of work. It took me a while, but I eventually managed to get his work email address.

I emailed him and explained what was going on, including sending him scanned copies of the letters I was being sent. Less than an hour later, he called me saying he had no idea any of this was happening, and he assured me that he had not okayed ANY of it. He promised he would deal with it.

A few days later, my landlord called back and explained what had happened. It turns out that the agent who had been hassling me was actually the owner of the letting agents. He was also my landlord’s nephew. His nephew had opened his new business when my landlord was looking for a new letting agent, so he decided to help his nephew out by signing up for his property management services.

The problem was that his nephew knew nothing about property management. He told everyone he had been taking courses, but he hadn’t. While you don’t necessarily need to pass a course to open or work as a letting agent, you do need to know what you are doing, and his nephew didn’t know the first thing about property management, let alone rental laws.

The whole time his nephew had been hassling me, he kept his uncle in the dark, telling him everything was fine. No wonder he refused to give me any of his details. My guess is he was trying to siphon my deposit for himself.

My landlord apologised profusely and assured me that he would make this right. And he did, by immediately firing his nephew and hiring a new property management company. He gave me all his contact details and told me to call him if I ever had any problems. I made sure I saved those details in as many places as possible.

We’d Gladly Watch A Movie About These Two!

, , , , , , | Friendly | September 24, 2020

I’ve worked with several rescue dogs over the years and have had a lot of negative experiences with other dog owners, especially working with reactive dogs. When I started a business working with dogs, I braced for these experiences to become commonplace.

They have not. I have a few complaints about some of the owners I have worked with, but this little story isn’t about those.

I am out with my favourite dog, an incredibly friendly, energetic, and happy cocker spaniel who I’ll call Miss Fluff. I’ve taken Miss Fluff to a park and she’s desperate for me to get the ball out and play with her. She’s glued to my feet as I do so — it’s a ball on a rope — and neither of us see the newcomer come around the corner until he’s joined her: a lovely, big chocolate lab, curious about the ball. Miss Fluff doesn’t care about him, only the ball.

The owners turn the corner, see us, and IMMEDIATELY call him off. He listens, but I call over that she’s friendly and they give him permission to come back over.

Me: “Will he chase the ball if I throw it for her?”

Miss Fluff is positively vibrating with excitement.

Owner: “Oh, yes. We’ll get out of your hair; don’t worry.”

Me: “Well, I was wondering if we should let them have a little race?”

Owner: “Oh, he’ll win. He’s much bigger than her and he loves to play fetch!”

So, to find out, I threw the ball. It went soaring across the field and Miss Fluff was after it like a shot, the lab hard on her tail. It was close, but she snatched the ball up ahead of him! The lab was having none of it, and he grabbed the end of the rope, and they happily ran back carrying it together.

The other owner and I laughed and agreed to call it a draw, before he went on and the lab obediently followed when called. Sadly, I’ve never seen them again in that area, but the memory still makes me smile, and moments like that have made up for the more inconsiderate and inattentive owners!

This story is part of our Feel Good roundup for September 2020!

Read the next Feel Good roundup story!

Read the Feel Good roundup for September 2020!

Sounds Like A Supervillain Origin Story

, , , , | Related | September 15, 2020

This story takes place when I’m maybe ten years old. My family is financially quite comfortable, especially my grandmother, who has come down from halfway up the country to visit. My brother and I have been taken by my mother, stepfather, and grandmother to a country pub, and when crossing the car park, I find a £5 note.

I am incredibly excited because we don’t get pocket money or the chance to get money for chores. Five pounds wasn’t much even about twenty-five years ago, but it is a big deal to me. In my excitement, I trustingly announce aloud what I have found.

Stepfather: *Demanding* “Hand over that fiver! I’ll hand it over at the bar.”

I’m initially reluctant.

Stepfather: “Whoever dropped it might really need it and it should be given back if possible.”

I understand this; after all, if it made me so happy to find it, so how sad must the person who lost it be? And how happy would they be to get it back? I’m sad not to keep it but hope it makes the owner happy.

My mother and grandmother claim a table outside while my stepfather goes inside to buy drinks and my brother and I go to check out the play area. When my stepfather comes back out with drinks, he announces, not intending for me to hear:

Stepfather: “This round is thanks to [My Name]!”

Looking back now, with the benefit of much greater awareness of what my parents were like and a lot less naivety, I would be shocked if it ever crossed his mind to hand it in at the bar. No, he saw that a child who had never had money of their own had found a little and decided it should be his, instead.

Trust But Verify

, , , , , , , , | Working | August 27, 2020

This happens when I am an extremely awkward and anxious youth in my late teens, already living alone. I don’t have a lot of money but I take cash out and go to get a few things at the supermarket; it comes to about £3. I hand over the only cash I have: a £20 note. The cashier hands me back £2 and my receipt and goes to start on the next customer, while I stand there, staring at my change, starting to panic.

Cashier: “Is there a problem?”

Me: “Um… I— I gave you a twenty.”

Cashier: “No, you didn’t.”

Yeah, she thinks I’m trying to scam her. And my demeanor does NOT help my case.

Me: “Yes, um, I did. You put it in the till.”

Twenties go into a box under the till, since they can’t be used for change; next to nowhere in the UK accepts £50 notes.

Cashier: “No, I’m sure you only gave me a fiver.”

Me: “I didn’t. It was a twenty. It’s in the till.”

The cashier is now looking at me very suspiciously.

Cashier: “Why would anyone pay for £3 with a twenty?”

I’m starting to really freak out, sweating, and looking even more suspicious.

Me: “It’s all I had! I need the change! It’s all I have until I get paid!”

Cashier: “Uh-huh. Well, I can’t open my till, but I can call over my manager and he can do so.”

I suspect she is either trying to give me an opportunity to leave or to just put me off.

Me: “Yes. Okay. Call your manager.”

She did so. We stood there waiting in the most awful, awkward silence. He finally came over and she explained that I was “claiming” to have paid with a twenty. He shrugged, opened the till, and lo and behold: there was a crisp £20 note sat on top of all the fives. Her shock and surprise that I wasn’t scamming her were palpable. She finally gave me my change and I outright fled from the store.

That was about fifteen years ago. I’m doing a lot better, but I still remember it. And I really can’t blame her, but that time the customer actually WAS right!

You Catch More Members With Honey

, , , , , , | Working | August 27, 2020

This happens when I’m an awkward teenager in the early 2000s. At the time, personal voicemail messages on phones are common and it is not unpopular for people to have jokey ones. Mine is something about how, “I’m not ignoring you; I’m ignoring the world,” or something.

I go to a gym to see if the prices are something I can afford on my pittance of a wage. The staff member I’m talking to kind of browbeats me into starting to sign up for a membership and, anxious and awkward, I don’t really think about the fact that I can’t afford it and just let her railroad me into it. But it turns out I’m lacking ID, so I leave.

Away from the place and without anyone pressuring me, I can think clearly and realise there’s no way I can afford it, and given how this woman has pressured me, I don’t want to call and explain this, so I just don’t go back. I haven’t signed anything, so no big deal, right?

A few days later, I get a voicemail and I listen to it. It’s the same woman from the gym, sounding outright angry, saying, “Well, you’d better stop ignoring me. Get your a*** down to the [gym] and finish this paperwork!”

Yes, that’s what she said. No, I’m not exaggerating.

Once things picked up for me financially, I did join a gym — a different one. And then, when I moved and was close to the first gym, I instead used a college gym. I did finally join, over ten years later, and I love the place, but wow, that woman left a sour taste that lingers to this day.