After a smooth arrival and settling into a flat that we believed would be ours for the duration of our stay in Glasgow, we were given short notice to vacate. There had been some miscommunication between the letting agent and our very helpful contact from the University of Strathclyde. While he has been constantly apologizing for the state we were put in, the letting agent never has. She has adopted more of a “not my responsibility, not my fault” attitude – she seems to be a blame-shifter. And I am reminding myself that dealing with one person like that does not mean the entire country has that attitude!
After our older son toured college campuses, I commented to a friend how fascinating it was to see what could influence a seventeen year old’s opinions. A woman in the admissions office at Macalester College the day we were there must have been having a bad day. She was not very helpful or friendly. Well, that one interaction was enough to make a certain young man decide that “they weren’t friendly at Macalester.” It quickly descended on his list of preferred colleges.
With maturity, hopefully we learn that people, businesses and institutions deserve more than one chance encounter. So, in the interest of speed and assuming things couldn’t get worse, we opted to work with the same letting agent mentioned above. We found a flat near enough to our first flat that this directionally-challenged writer wouldn’t be starting from scratch again at learning where she was. And, priorities, priorities, it would still be in walking distance from my new favorite coffee shop: McCune Smith, which deserves and will get its own post one day. It would be a little smaller – one bedroom, not two, but our rent would go down 50 pounds a month, instead of going up 150 pounds a month as the landlord of our first flat wanted to do. We expected it to be chillier than our first flat as we only saw one radiator, in the hallway, and four space heaters. We felt – understandably I think – rushed to sign onto something asap and this seemed more than adequate once it was cleaned up more.
We filed paperwork with the letting agent and then had to wait almost a week for whatever reference checks, etc they needed to do. I have no idea if the length of time required is normal here or not – in the U.S., I know my son who has lived multiple times in multiple large cities: Minneapolis, Boston, Washington, DC and now NYC, has never had to wait that long to find out if he has a rental. (And, in this day and age of e-communications it seems odd that so long would be required…) We were told to vacate the first flat by January 18, and on January 15 we received an email that we were approved and could come in on January 16 to sign the lease and get the keys. As soon as we got the email, we phoned to make the appointment and were told the only slot they had was at 4 p.m. We probably should have been a little nervous then — it meant by the time we actually moved in, we would not be able to contact anyone if there were problems until Monday morning……
I should mention that in the intervening time period before the approval email, I was very ill. Some type of stomach bug hit me hard and wiped me out. I could barely move from bed to the couch to the toilet. By the weekend of the move, I was better and able to take nourishment, but my strength and stamina were nowhere near 100%. We packed and moved our things on a cold, and unusually snowy weekend in Glasgow. I should say that my husband did far, far more of the work than I did!
After packing and moving on Saturday and Sunday, he had to spend an insane amount of time cleaning the filthy new apartment while I rested. We were shocked at the state of things as when we signed the papers on Friday it seemed like the letting agency was attesting to the fact that things were clean and in working order. It was Sunday night before we tried to get a can of soup on to enjoy.
And, the grease-caked stove didn’t work. (He had scrubbed and tried, but the burners were gross.)
We hunted for a switch to flip to turn it on.
Okay, forget the stove, but now we better see what else around here works…..
The fridge and freezer? Yes. (Ignoring the rust flaking off the bottom of the freezer onto the kitchen floor and the fact that the produce drawers had no lid….)
We knew we had hot and cold running water in both the kitchen and bathroom sinks. (The kitchen sink faucet sprayed everywhere, but we got water.) A check of the shower in the bathroom was not successful. It did not work. And, we discovered that the handle to run the hot water in the tub was sheared off…….
Two of the four needed space heaters did not work. Did I mention it was a cold snowy weekend? (Anyone who suffers with arthritis can attest that cold doesn’t sit well in the joints. I was NOT happy, or comfortable.)
We reviewed our lease – which had been an extensive document to go over on Friday afternoon and sign, date and time every page with our letting agent. And, we began writing our issues. After 9 a.m. this morning, we printed the document and delivered it to the letting agent to read, sign and date. When my husband handed it to her, she barely looked at it and said, “I can’t sign this.” Well — that set a certain American’s temper off and unfortunately, he pointed at her and said something to the effect of “You haven’t even read it.” She asked him not to point – I asked him to calm down – a somewhat reasonable conversation ensued where she did read the document. And, got her manager to sign it and things were being passed along to the “property management team” to take care of quickly. The same property management team that was in charge of the pre-rental inspection and cleaning!
My husband apologized for pointing, but the letting agent never once apologized for what we are going through. I did say to her, “I don’t want you to hear this as attacking you – I know there are always different cultural expectations, but was it unreasonable of us to expect when we were moving in that the shower and stove and washer would be working right away?” She assured me that it wasn’t unreasonable, but that the pre-inspection doesn’t involve checking those things. They had to have been reported as problems by the previous tenant. Huh? Our understanding was that it had been vacant for quite some time. Didn’t they do a good check once the flat was vacated??? Clearly not. And, she was quick to remind us that she had nothing to do with the property inspection, etc, that was the property management team. The one that hasn’t called me yet since we filed our grievances three and a half hours ago.
Two different native Glaswegians have expressed sorrow and dismay over what one referred to as “this farce” of a rental situation, but the letting agent has not. I realize she does not represent Scotland. But I wish I could say to her, this American would feel so much better with a simple, honest apology. Somebody dropped a ball and I wish someone would own up to that. We handed them 1200 hard-earned pounds and expected to be able to be warm, to be able to shower and cook and wash our clothes. As she said, this was not an unreasonable expectation.
I will try to investigate further whether this is a particular letting agency issue, or a challenge in Glasgow in general and let my traveling and studying abroad friends and families be advised.
In the meantime, the sun is shining. I will stop at the grocery store on the way home and buy something for supper that won’t require a stove or oven and hope that this afternoon the phone will ring and fixer-upper appointments will be scheduled. And, perhaps my reasonable expectation of an apology from the letting agent will be fulfilled.
#happywriting #happyreading #happyliving