We hope our issues with our previous landlord are now resolved.  At least, we hope that the electric company will honour their word and not come after us for the unpaid bill, which all, except the landlord, have agreed is the landlord’s responsibility.

We have dealt with so many people throughout the course of our dispute, and each one seems to give different advice.  It was extremely confusing and every time we talked to a new person, we had to describe everything from start to finish.  “Frustrating” is an understatement.

But, in the process, we have learned a few lessons.  Lesson number one: we need to be more aggressive.  It wasn’t that we just let everyone walk all over us.  We tried not to be a pain, so we didn’t whine and complain about everything.  We reported problems when we needed to and left it up to the agents and landlord to work out what needed to be done.  Unfortunately, neither showed any inclination to fix any problems.  They blamed each other when it came down to figuring out what went wrong where.  Lesson number two: due diligence.  Don’t rely on someone else’s word for it, do it yourself.  Lesson number three: the Brits have an “I don’t want to get involved” attitude.  We get the sense that most Brits don’t want to give third party advice unless they are in alliance with you for some personal gain.  For example, we considered getting someone close to the landlord to reason with him, but felt that we would be given the cold shoulder.  Lesson number four: know who to turn to.

This last one could be tricky.  Everyone tells you to go to the CAB for advice.  We had gone to them several times during the course of our stay, but nothing useful was forthcoming.  They can be helpful in many areas, but in our case, it seemed they were at a loss.  It wasn’t until our account came up to the Live Debt department at the electric company that someone came up with a solution (though we cannot be certain that the issue is resolved yet).  They’ve decided to proceed with a power shut-off to force the landlord’s hand.  (Apparently, they wouldn’t do it if we were still living there.)  So, the higher up the ladder you move, the more ideas you can come up with.

But, in the midst of all this, we found out through the RAC Legal Aid that we should have reported our landlord to the council.  Apparently, it is not just for social housing landlords.  Had we done so, we could have had an independent appraisal of the situation, and we could have had a refund on our rent.  Perhaps, that would have also helped us to deal with the electric issue.  Lesson learned.  Hopefully, we won’t go there again.

They recently published data showing that new homes in Britain were smaller than those in France, Australia and the US.  Now, it’s not difficult to imagine that houses would be much larger in Australia and the US (room dimensions almost equal), but I was surprised to find that the British homes were smaller than the French ones as well.

I know that immigration and the populaton explosion has led to a housing shortage, so they have to put up a lot of homes quickly and squeeze them all in.  But, it’s a disservice to people when they have such cramped spaces.  And, they do away with unnecessary space.  A typical home has a lounge (sometimes referred to as the living room or the front room), kitchen, bathroom, and the bedrooms.  It’s no wonder they have that phrase “two up, two down”.

Not all homes are that cramped, I’m just referring to a lot of new builds.  Some may be lucky enough to have a dining room, and if they’re really lucky, they might have another cloakroom (toilet).  Most homes we’ve looked at have a small space in the kitchen for a dining table, or if the lounge is big enough, they will put the table there.  That’s what we’ve had to do for the past year, even though there’s barely enough room.  It’s also one reason why we’ve adopted the minimalist look.  We only have the ripped up sofa that was left behind, the piano and the dining table in that room.

We live in a bungalow but it feels like a flat (apartment).  It’s as big as the apartments we’ve lived in.  Our houses had living rooms, dining rooms, and most also had a family room.  Not only that, they all had basements.  Not all US homes have basements (some areas are just not good enough for a basement because of drainage issues).  However, for the most part, it’s taken for granted that they do.

Here, you will only find basements in older homes and there are not too many of those around.  Many of them have been converted, so that a mansion is split into four apartments, with the basement being one of them.  I remember reading an article some months ago about rich people renovating their homes rather than buying or building a new one.  Because of the lack of space, these people were moving downwards, building multiple underground levels.  So, why don’t they do that for new builds?  It would make sense that if you don’t have the space above ground, you would try to use the space underground.  And I don’t mean for them to use the basement to put the necessary rooms, just as additional space for whatever they might like.

It appears that there are loads of storage facilities that have cropped up.  These people must be making a killing because people lack space to store their stuff.  There are no attics and no basements.  Very few homes even have closets of any kind.  You have to buy wardrobes and cabinets.

As the weather gets warmer, we need to prepare for the invasion of the those pesky flying insects again.  Now, in the US, we usually get flies, then later in the summer we get the mosquitoes.  Here, since the weather gets warmer earlier and stays warmer later in the year, we have a longer period of flies, mosquitoes, midges, moths and other flying insects which I have yet to identify.  I have already talked about the “killer gnats”, so I really don’t want to get on the topic of insects again.

What I would like to mention is the lack of screens on windows and doors.  Screens seem to be the mainstay of windows in the US and most houses also have screen doors on the outside.  This is to keep out the flying insects
when you want to open the windows or doors for fresh air.  This, of course, does not prevent insects from getting through when you go in and out of the doors.  But it does cut down on a lot of entry at other times.  I have yet to see a screen here.  And they can’t say it’s because they don’t have flying insects.  I don’t know what the reasoning is behind the lack of screens.

One of the features of windows that I see advertised quite frequently is double-glazing.  Essentially, it is two layers of glass, which is supposed to cut down on draughts and hold in heat.  We are not fortunate enough to have double-glazing on our windows, which may in part explain the temperature of the house during the winter months.  But, I cannot comment on how it affects the temperature during the summer months.  We had covered the windows with a semi-transparent plastic drop sheet for the winter (and have not removed them yet) and when the sun comes through, it really heats up the room.  I can just imagine what double-glazing would do.

Although the housing market is suffering in sales, rentals are going quite strong.  We found that out in our search for living accommodations.  As soon as we made up our minds about a property, it was gone.

The rental market is good enough to support the seemingly high rents that are being asked.  The high cost was what was preventing us from making rapid decisions.  The lack of housing options also contribute to the high cost.  High demand, low supply.

At times, we regret that we did not decide quick enough and lost out on the best house available.  However, we have to move on.  Our house is not “bad”, except that it needs a new roof (in the works) and a new bathroom (in the future works).  We have a wonderfully scenic view of the country and we know we don’t have to worry about crime and such.

One major thing we did not take into account when we did decide to accept a property is the council tax.  We never asked and really did not even know about it.  If we had, we might have made a different decision.  Who knows.

The housing market is expected to increase as people are lowering their asking price.  If it does improve, I wonder how it will affect the rental market.  Will it still remain robust, continuing to ask for high rents?  Or will it mean that people are less likely to rent and the rents will fall?  Let’s wait to see.