I thought I was onto a good thing, maybe I was. You might have heard about property guardians, there was a bit of coverage in the newspapers last summer, but not so much now. If a property like a house or block of flats or offices or whatever is empty, and going to be empty for a while, then instead of hiring a security firm to keep squatters and vandals out, the landlord can hire a live-in property guardian.
The landlord gets someone taking care of the property, the guardian gets cheap accommodation.
I was a guardian with Ad Hoc, one of the two big firms in London. I was paying £50 or so a week and it was okay. Sure the properties were shit holes, but it was cheap and I was skint. The deposit was £300, my overdraft took care of that.
The first place I stayed at was a former council flat in Sudbury. It was freezing and didn't have the gas hooked up for about a month after I moved in last winter. The building was to be demolished in 'about eighteen months'. The other tenants were slowly being moved out whilst I stayed. I started to do the place up, got some bookshelves from Ikea, acquired a fridge freezer, even started painting the walls.
Alas, after three months I was given my notice and found a new place to be a guardian at. That council flat has now been demolished, I drive past the site every so often, the paint was barely dry.
The second place was a rather neat three bedroom semi-detached house in Wembley, right near the station. It had a huge garden, thick with brambles, but it was summer and I was 'between jobs'. There was no heating there either, no gas too, but the weather was fine, so I didn't mind so much. I think they said I would have six months there so I acquired gardening equipment and set to work clearing brambles and putting in potatoes and tomatoes.
Alas, after four weeks I was given my notice and again found a new place to be a guardian at. There's now about ten people living in that semi-, the living room and dining room been turned into additional bedrooms. I wonder if they've got to my potatoes.
The third place was a former old people's home. There were about twenty other guardians staying there in the various granny flats. My flat was on the ground floor and smelt bad. I knew better than to set up home there and kept most of my belongings in storage a storage locker.
Months passed, with such low rent, I was able to start tackling my considerable debts.
At some point, I don't know what came over me, but I grew weary of sleeping on the floor, sitting on banana boxes and not having anywhere to shelve my books, so I emptied out my storage locker and furnished my flat. Less than a week later we were given our notice and told to leave.
Sure, Ad Hoc were quick to find all the guardians new places to stay, offering empty properties round the A406 North Circular Road of out in East London, but the thought of living with the constant threat of having to move on was too depressing so I decided to move to the private rental market. You go to RightMove.co.uk, figure out how much rent you can afford and move to the best property that comes up.<
When I told the nice woman at Ad Hoc that I wasn't going to move into their next place she seemed disappointed.
It was a good deal while it lasted, £50 a week rent, in London, but never knowing how long I'd be at any property.
Anyhoo, its been about eight weeks since I moved out, I'm still chasing up getting my deposit back. I've been phoning them every week, it sounds much like the other guardians at that last place are still trying to get their deposits back too, but to no avail. They have my account details, their accountant has apparently been on the case for at least a fortnight, but still nothing.
They've got my £300 and they seem to be incapable or unwilling to give it back.
Should I have written off the deposit? Or just not have paid my last six week's rent? Is that the more civilized or sensible thing to do?
There's been no word about whether they're taking a cut of the deposit to clean and repair any wear and tear, but it's been eight weeks so that's a moot point now.
If they weren't going to return the deposit could they have not made it clear at some point in the past, or charged a higher rent. But no, just an endless stream of we're working on it, you'll having by the end of the week, the end of next week, etc. It's not so much that they're withholding it, just not competent enough to arrange giving me my money back.
Yay, I got my deposit back! It took eight weeks and three days, and they did take a small cut, for cleaning I guess which is fair enough.