It’s been several weeks since I moved into my new home and finally the anxiety I would get thinking about the events leading up to the move have now disappeared, so I have decided it is time to share my renting horror story.
In the months leading up to my move to Dublin I had been fiercely watching DAFT.ie to get an idea of house sharing options in Dublin. I was keen to live in the Swords / Malahide area as I knew the area well and thought it a great place to spend my weekends. I had done a few Skype calls to try and secure accommodation before I arrived but to no success. Instead I arrived in Ireland with 5 night’s accommodation at a local hotel and determined to find a place within that timeframe. What I hadn’t realised was that Dublin has been in the midst of a housing crisis, rents were astronomical and though discrimination against people without references is illegal the surplus of people looking for accommodation means that landlords can and do only rent to those who provide all the right references.
In the end, I did find accommodation that did not require references within my 5 day time frame (maybe that should have been my first warning bell). It was a 3 bedroom house on the outskirts of Malahide sharing with a young married couple and another married guy who worked in Ireland to and sent money home to his family. When I moved in I paid a deposit and my one month’s rent in advance; I was promised a sub-lease agreement to sign in a few days from the main tenants of the house once they received the paper work from the agent. The sub-lease agreement never materialised even after multiple requests.
For the first week my housemates seemed quite friendly, and I thought everything would be grand. However the 1 ½ hour commute into the city each way for work was more than I had expected so after only a fortnight I told one of my house mates (the wife of the married couple) I would start looking for a new place to live close to work, however assured her I would give notice. By this stage I was already beginning to feel uncomfortable in my new home; two of my new housemates did not speak English as a first language and when the wife was not home, always spoke in their mother tongue even when I was around. They also watched television in their native language meaning I was never able to sit with them and watch television if I wanted. The husband only worked casually and spent most of his days at home lazing about the house in his underwear leaving dirty dishes everywhere – when I approached him about being uncomfortable with him lying around in his underwear I got a lecture about he and his wife being the main tenant of the household and it being his ‘home’. Only working causally meant the husband was constantly concerned about the cost of gas and electricity and would often follow you around the house reminding you to turn off the lights when you left a room (whether you would be returning to the room 5 min later or not); he wouldn’t use the timer on the hot water to save energy and often turn off the hot water the moment you got in the shower leaving you with cold water a few minutes into your shower; and when you turned on the heating on a cold evening he would turn it off and suggest you go put more layers on…. I was getting infuriated with him and so was the other house mate, however talking about it only ended in argument and being told we could leave if we don’t like it.
After a few weeks in the house our first guests arrived… it was the wife’s mother, two sisters, and the new born baby to one of the sisters. They stayed for 5 days, meaning there were 6 people sharing a 3 bedroom house with only 1 working bathroom. Finally they left but a fortnight later the other housemate’s wife and daughter arrived to stay for almost 3 weeks. It was a full house, and I was expected to make allowances for the toddler staying in the house. I understand people have families but I never signed up for this when I first moved into the house. All of these extra people don’t just mean that the house is more crowded, it also means that it can take longer to get a shower, use the kitchen, or that more electricity is being used… and when I brought this up with my housemate they thought me selfish for asking whether they would be paying for the extra electricity being used by their families while they were here.
All the while I had continued to look for a new place to live. Finally I found the place, my lovely little old miner’s cottage with its 170 year old fireplace in Irishtown, and not a moment too soon! A few days earlier I had had another run in with the husband about the hot water system, I had turned it on for his wife to have a shower after he misunderstood me telling him the water was not hot enough yet for the wife to shower. I had then left the house and no one turned the hot water off after his wife had showered, so he had a go at me for leaving it on… I, being a bit fed up at this stage and didn’t back down, in the end after a few harsh words I just walked away with nothing resolved and things had been tense between us since.
Anyway, I had my new place and was now only a few weeks away from moving out… The day I found out about the new place told the wife, when I first told her I was leaving she was very good about it, thanking me for giving notice and acting as normal. We chatted and laughed in the kitchen about the bingo night I had been to the night before, everything seemed good. However that was the last time she talked to me unless I asked her a direct question which she could not avoid. From that day on she avoided me, would not say good morning when I would see her or communicate with me in any way. Her brother had happened to show up the evening I told her I was moving out and continued to stay at that house every night from then on, sleeping in the lounge room. The brother made me feel uncomfortable, constantly sleazing up to me when I was home and being a right misogynist, while the sores on his mouth and face suggested he had a drug problem. After he started to stay with us, on several occasions I found my bedroom door and window open either when I got home from work or in the morning when I woke up making me feel even more uncomfortable and causing me to hide my valuables.
By the end of the week, after telling my housemates I was moving out, the father of the wife was also staying at the house and the 4 of them would start drinking and carrying on loudly about 11pm at night. As this started on a Friday night I did not mind so much until this continued on to Sunday and Monday night when I had to get up early for work. Monday night about 2am I went down stairs and asked them to keep it down as I would need to be up shortly. I was meet with a string of abuse and laughter, and returned to bed angry and upset. It had happened to be Census night on the previous Sunday and as it was my first Census I was keen to complete the survey. I had asked my housemates about it and they had told me they never received on, so on the Tuesday I rang the Census office to ask for a new copy to be delivered. While on the phone they had asked me my address and I could never remember if it was 57 or 75 so I quickly jumped on DAFT to check the number on the ad for the new housemate… turns out it was 76. But while I was there I noticed they had the move in date a number of weeks after I had moved out. I thought they may not have realised I was moving out that weekend so sent a text message to my housemates to tell them. The reply was a phone call with another string of abuse, and when I explained about the Census all hell broke loose… apparently we had received a Census but they had not wanted to complete it so had thrown it out and did not like that I had organised a new one.
I hung up the phone to the housemate shaking and in tears. After several nights of lack of sleep, the ongoing isolation I had left in that house, and the overall stress of the situation I had reached my breaking point. Walking back to the office I had decided I was going to rent a car that evening and move out, I had no idea where I would go for the next 4 nights until my new place was ready but I needed to get out. As I neared the office I saw the one person from work that I knew would help me if it was in their power. I walked up to him and explained through some uncontrolled sobs what had just happened and asked if he knew anyone with a spare bed, couch anything who may be able to put me up for a few days. In the end he was able to offer me a room in his apartment that luckily was free that week as its usual occupant was on holidays. After sitting through a team meeting with a big fake, calm, smile plastered on my face I pulled my Head of Department aside and explained briefly that I no longer felt safe at my home and was moving out that evening. As much as I tried I was unable to keep the calm composure I had managed through the meeting, and the tears and silent shaking came back. Of course leaving early was not a problem.
I sent my housemates a text message advising them I would be moving out immediately and went to pick up my rental car. When I got back to the house the lot of them where there: the husband, wife, brother and father. They proceeded to sit there and watch me pack my stuff into the car, never offering any assistance, appearing to be trying to intimidate me. I asked the husband to transfer my deposit back to my account, which he said he would do, and I got into my car and left. I left the car I had rented with some friends of mine, who gave me food and the comfort good friends can only give before I caught the bus to my workmates house. Finally about 9pm that night I arrived at my workmates place, he and his partner welcomed me into their house making me feel more at ease in the first 5 minutes then I ever had at the other house. A glass of wine later and I was relaxed. 3 bottles later I was drunk. The next morning I am not sure if I was hungover or still drunk…
I never received my deposit back on the other place. I did contact them several times to no avail and with no sub-lease agreement in place I had little to no legislative backing to assist me in getting my money back. In the end I decided that the stress of trying to get the money back was not worth taking the matter to the small claims tribunal.
In my new place, we signed all of the leasing documents before I moved in; receipts were given and each tenant even has an ongoing spreadsheet of expenses. I have meet the landlords and there is a much more open and by the book approach to the rental of the property.
The whole ordeal has been an eye opener to some of the harsh realities of Dublin life. But this problem is not isolated to Dublin or Ireland. Any major city often does not have the capacity to provide accommodation to the 1,000s or millions which move to the city in search of work, adventure or a new life each year, and without the correct knowledge and out of desperation many of these people will find themselves in situations like mine or worse. However unlike myself, they will not have the knowledge, ability or supports around them to get themselves out of this situation.
I don’t want this post to put anyone off moving to a new city or country, instead use my experience to learn from my mistakes and put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen to you. Travelling is an adventure and allows for so much personal growth, as much as this has been a major challenge to me it has also helped me to grow and develop as a person; and while I would not wish this experience on others I do not regret the decisions I made at the time – at least I have learnt from them.
Until next time….