Hey! It’s been a while since I discussed lifestyle stuff properly like this, so I decided to go in on the journey of renting. I’ve been renting a property via a housing association for a while, and it’s something that’s really stigmatised because of the old connotations of the ‘council house lifestyle’. Trust me, if we could afford a mortgage, we totally would.
Renting is perfect when you’re trying to move away from parents, and when you’re trying to find your feet before the big jump to a mortgage. But then there’s the reality of possibly never being able to afford your own home, which is what people around my age and younger are experiencing nowadays (unless you managed to get lucky with a partner or a job).
We’d discussed renting our own place for a long time, but we wanted to have a lot of savings beforehand so that it would be easier for us in the long run. But my home life took a turn for the absolute worst, and I needed to find somewhere new to live, and pretty fast. We’d started the discussion about this in July 2019, and at this point, I’d still had a job, and I was eager to save up and move.
We had two options for looking at Housing Association rentals – Ready to Rent and a bidding system. With the bidding system, we were allowed three (or was it five?) bids per week, and we’d be assigned a priority band. Even with the mental health problems as I had, and my home life was dangerous, we were still the lowest priority. The higher priority bands were reserved almost exclusively for people with children. With Ready to Rent, anyone could apply, but keeping in mind that a lot ofo the homes on that side needed some redecorating and renovating. We would get decorating vouchers for this.
As September hit, the age restrictions on non-accommodative premises were lifted – that meant that anyone could rent a high-rise flat that wasn’t fitted specifically for the elderly. We jumped on the bandwagon and applied for a few places on Ready to Rent as well as the Home Choice Lincs bidding system.
One of our Ready to Rent applications went through, and we were offered to be shown the first flat we’d applied for, and it was that simple. Honestly, from all of the bidding and applications we put in, we managed to get a good amount of viewing appointments booked in such a short time period.
These viewings are more of an open-house viewing rather than a one-on-one style, but it worked out well, as we knew the kind of people that were also viewing. If we failed to attend a viewing without prior communication, it would impact our application for any other place for a while.
Right – to the first viewing. We met with one guy that was practically homeless, and another who couldn’t wait around while the person showing us around was late. Well, we were shown the flat, and I was in love. We were shown a two-bedroom flat with plenty of storage space, as well as a very sizeable living room and a balcony – we had an amazing view here. The other guy quickly looked around before quickly leaving, while myself and Connor literally looked through every nook and cranny. We were told that it would need a lot of work, and it was something we definitely kept in mind.
We got excited, and we fell in love with the place. So we put our interest forward, and we were told that we’d get a call the next day if we were successful.
I went with my mum to the second flat viewing the next day, because Connor was at work and I wanted a second opinion on this flat viewing. This flat was a one-bedroom located in the town centre, which was a lot smaller than the first flat. It was a 19th floor flat, so this was the top floor of the building. The living room and bedroom were the same sizes, and one of the rooms had a boiler cupboard inside, which I was a bit wary of. The kitchen was only slightly larger than the first one, though. I put forward my interest, but I wasn’t as hyped about it as I was the first. It was a bit too small, although if I was to live alone, it would have been a perfect size.
Later that afternoon, I got a call from the housing manager, who discussed my applications and viewings. I was then able to choose the flat I wanted. I’d consulted with Connor before during his breaks about which one would be preferable. I decided to focus on the first flat we’d seen, and all we had to do was submit some documents and wait until the end of the deadline to see if we got the place. I was also informed of the upfront fees, which we were able to afford.
The document part was scoffed at by my mum and her boyfriend, as somehow correct documentation and the bureaucratic processes were just some stupid excuses.
Once Connor was off work for a period of time, we managed to get the documents processed and sent on deadline day (that was the earliest we could do it), and then we had to wait. Well, we only had to wait a day, while we were on our way to a friend’s. We were told that we’d be able to manage the rent and costs, and we were informed that we were able to pick up the keys a week from that day.
On October 1st, I’d packed some belongings to take over to the flat. I knew that we were going to have to do a lot of decorating, so we didn’t want to pack up every one of our belongings – instead, we opted to take what we could over the course of the next week or so until we eventually got a removals company to help with the rest of my belongings.
Both of us had quite a lot to take over, so we took as much as we could on that first day, and we met up with Trish who gave us the documents detailing our assured shorthold tenancy agreement. This was to last a year, and the tenancy would be reviewed over the course of the year. We had a huge document with our agreement and what rules we had to follow. This agreement also highlights the address, type of property, names of the tenants, the start date and the maximum number of people allowed to live in the home. Included was also a breakdown of the weekly rent and the service charges. We paid the advance, signed the paperwork and received the keys.
While we were supposed to move in straight away under normal circumstances, because we had a lot of decorating to do, we were given a one-week leeway, that acted as a buffer to get the decorating to at least a semi-living standard. To help with this, we were given a decorating grant for paints and materials. Because the flat was in such a state that it needed major renovation, we were given £100 to redecorate the flat. This came courtesy of Johnstone’s, who were partnered for the vouchers in general. We did also have to adhere to a certain choice of more neutral colours, as applying dark colours on the walls does go against the tenancy agreement.
The Decorating & Living
The longer we looked around, it became so much more apparent as to how the last tenants looked after the place – terribly. There was some smoke damage, flies breeding within where the window was, a lot of wall and ceiling damage, it was pretty brutal. However, with some Polyfilla and some paint, we managed to make the drab look fab, or as fab as we could.
Removals were relatively easy. The removals company I hired were really efficient, making sure that everything was packed away and taken to the flat and brought up as quickly as possible. They earned a 20% tip for their efforts. It was so cheap as well, compared to other quotes that I’d had (I at one point received a quote for over £1,000).
Bills were interesting to take care of – we couldn’t apply for services until we had the meter readings, so that meant waiting until we actually got the keys to apply. Meanwhile, we were still being hooked up by the water company and (unfortunately) an electrics service that we changed over pretty soon.
Our property was receiving prompts and final warnings for TV Licensing (in the UK we are required by law to have a TV License in order to watch any form of TV or BBC iPlayer catch-up). I had to contact them and make sure that no more letters would arrive – contacts, billing and collections are done via home address identification rather than an individual basis. We still got a TV License sorted when we were settling in, plus I wanted to watch Drag Race UK.
After a couple of months, we had our mandatory visit from our housing officer – Sharon, she’s lovely. Everything was going swimmingly, and we’d adjusted well, we were hailed as a massive improvement compared to the last tenants, and we were paying rent, and that’s all that mattered.
Over the course of the past few months, we’ve been coping really well. Christmas was a blast, just the two of us.
In May, we were contacted by Sharon, as we were expecting an inspection in June. However, because of the COVID-19 lockdown, we weren’t getting the inspection – we were told that if we paid our rent as normal and we kept doing what we were doing, we’d get a letter through detailing the terms of the assured tenancy agreement.
Overall, it’s a pretty simple process. I know that it can take longer for others to get the same results, so I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to have the experience of a quick time period between applying to bid and actually moving into a place.