Category Archives: homes
I moved house again yesterday (Friday). I’m now finally a homeowner: no rent to pay, though lots of repairs and improvements to consume what would have been a rent budget. Over the coming days (or more likely weeks, months, …) I’ll be unpacking, sorting, fixing things, getting up to speed in the new place. As well as a couple of final visits to the old place, to clean up and leave it in a presentable state, and (weather permitting) gather some fruit from the garden.
The new place has, alas, no garden. The only outdoor space is the balcony, which hangs over the river. But that river is a huge attraction: both the living room and the main bedroom above it look out on the river, so I get to sit and relax, as well as sleep, to the immensely soothing sound of rushing water from the weir.
And that weir is itself part of the building’s history. For this was originally a foundry, and drew its power from the river. The building was converted to houses in the late 1990s, but retains thick stone walls, wooden beams, and cast iron fittings, all of which are utterly beautiful, as well as giving character to the house. So while on one level it’s a humble two-up two-down plus attic (which becomes my office), on another it’s most unusual and indeed amazing!
The location also has much to commend it: under ten minutes walk from the town centre shops, market, and activities, but also scarcely more than that to open moorland. On the downside, it’s on a busier road than I would choose, and the front rooms – the kitchen and the guest bedroom – will get traffic noise. And due to a high bank and trees on the other side of the road, the house gets little sun, and the north (river-facing) side gets more light than the south!
It was the river above all else that drew me to this house. I hope I shall enjoy many years in its company.
This morning I was sitting at the ‘puter (as one does), when there’s a ring at the door. Stick the head out of the window to communicate: there are three men.
“Are you Flat 3?”
“No” (dammit, that would be the doorbell labeled “3”, and it doesn’t ring in my flat)
“Can you open up so we can access it?”
“Erm … I think you should speak to the agent” (all four flats are managed by the same agent for the same landlord, but it’s a long, long time since a tenant has been seen in Flat 3).
“It doesn’t matter; if you don’t let us in we’ll break in anyway. We have a warrant.”
“Erm, if you have legitimate business there, I’m sure the agent will arrange access”
On the one hand, I wouldn’t exactly expect a housebreaker to ring my doorbell. On the other hand, this is alarming. OK, time to ‘phone the agent. The ‘puter is on, so it’s a ten second job to google the agent’s number. ‘Phone it. A recorded message tells me a mobile number for emergencies only. Try that one, get voicemail. Heh, so much for emergency hotlines!
OK, next stop, try the police. Explain what’s going on, let them either sort it or disclaim all interest. At least the presence of the workmen outside should help deter anything too extreme, if the men are up to no good. The police do show up fairly quickly, and find the men do indeed have legal authority for what they’re doing! Meanwhile the men have got in (turns out Clare from Flat 1 let them into the building), and I hear drilling as they force entry to Flat 3.
Going out later, I see a notice on the door of Flat 3, the lock has been changed! The notice is (or claims to be) from British Gas, so not a repossession. Before anything else I go straight to the agent’s office in search of an explanation. It seems they knew some of the story: BG was in dispute with the tenant and cut off the supply (wow, that must’ve involved a marathon legal process even if, as seems likely, the tenant never answered any of their correspondence). But they didn’t know the flat had been forcibly entered and the lock changed!
Black marks to both BG and the agent there: it could’ve been handled so much better if they’d communicated.
 A repossession would’ve been alarming for me. If a mortgage holder is in difficulties, huge amounts of taxpayer help are available. If a tenant defaults on the rent, he can only be evicted after months of legal process. But if a landlord defaults on a mortgage, the tenant gets treated like dirt, and may not even get notice of the bailiffs coming to evict.
I’ve just been to view a cottage I feel quite positive about. Blogging here in the hope it’ll help reach a decision on it. It’s a living room and a kitchen/diner downstairs, with bathroom and three bedrooms upstairs. The overall size is just about enough to be comfortable, with the pleasant dining area and better second-bedroom size being clear advantages compared to the current place. Above all, it’s going to be quieter than here.
- Solid cottage build with thick walls, modernised to a decent standard and in good decorative order.
- Meets all my basic needs without serious shortcomings.
- Village location presumed quiet (except for the church which is right next door, and tolled the hour while I was there).
- Easy cycling into the city, and walkable to Tesco. Also edge of Dartmoor.
- Adequate ‘phone signal (though no 3g) and ADSL.
- No outdoor storage, so the bike has to occupy indoor space. The current tenants have one bedroom as a storage room with bikes, surfboards, etc; I’d have to do similar. So no spare room, just one bedroom + one office.
- No gas: electric heating for hot water, and night storage heating. Can’t see myself using that and having it hot all day (unless I were to go down with a lurgy sufficiently bad to need warmth) which loses the convenience of being able to turn the heating on if I have visitors who expect it. As against that, there’s a working fireplace in the sitting room that could serve, in principle at least.
- There’s a horrible built-in oven and hob. The latter (which is what I mostly use) is solid electric. This is what I’ll find a daily pain 😦
- The garden is going to be hard work, with an expanse of very uneven lawn to manage.
- Lacking a few nonessential nice-to-haves, like real views, or space for a dishwasher, or a w.c. separate from the bathroom.
So do I take it, or go on looking?