There is an immediate sense of relief when you find a flat to
rent.  All of that hassle is over – no more phone calls, no more
viewings, no more agents!  However, in many ways, finding the flat
is the least of the problems facing a new renter.

Gone is the horror of ‘The Estate Agent’, with the exaggerations and
outright lies, but in comes a new horror figure: ‘The Landlord’, a
character to send shivers down the spine (especially when he gets the
heating turned off!)  It is vital for any new tenant to set the
ground rules down early with any landlord.

We had a great revelation upon moving into our new pad.  A nice,
clean flat suddenly revealed a darker side when any cupboards were
opened.  How anyone had managed to get a layer of scum, shit and
slime developed to such an extent was, quite frankly, astonishing.

There are two paths that a tenant can take here.  Either badger
the landlord into getting the flat to the state it should have been
when you moved in or make a record of the mess.  The first option
tends to be time-consuming and unlikely to be productive. 
Landlords are slow at the best of times and if you want to actually
move in sometimes it is just best to put the work in yourself! 
However, it is definitely worthwhile keeping a photographic record of
anything untoward.  There are few more annoying things than losing
your deposit when the flat is cleaner than when you moved in!

It is also essential that anything that you do get the landlord to do
is monitored.  We asked for the wooden floor in the toilet to be
replaced (don’t ask) only to return home one day and find a lino stuck
to the wooden floor.  Our concern over the floor was quickly being
overridden by a fear of an ever-decreasing toilet.  Next time a
job is being done I will be there, watching every move the landlord
makes.  It is an annoying, time-consuming exercise but necessary
if you are not going to get done over by your landlord!

The other joy of renting is the weird world of the contract.  Most
of these are of a standard nature and make for obvious reading of the
‘tenant should not burn down the property’ type.  However, it is
worth making sure there are no hidden tricks and to find the comedy
‘clause’.  Every document has a ‘comedy clause’, a piece of
writing so strange that you wonder how on earth it came to pass. 
Ours was this:

‘If the property is destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by fire bomb or
Act of God no party will be held responsible for the effect.’

I am glad to know that if the Almighty decides my flat is the place for
His first interaction with the world since its creation (you’ll have to
bare with my creationist bent here) then I will not be held
responsible!  What, I wondered, would be the effect of a firebomb
by God?  Should it not be ‘fire bomb and/or Act of God.’ 
Will my deposit be returned if the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
descend on East London?  And whose God does the document refer to;
are the actions of Allah, Jehovah and Krishna all covered by my

Whilst these are all questions that might concern the Bush
administration I have to admit I just signed the thing after a brief

So you’ve scoured London, found a flat in the area you want, signed a
contract and sorted out your relationship with the landlord.  What
else is there to do?  Well, in my case there was one more thing to
warn you about.  Don’t turn up with all your boxes and only then
realise the flat is on the fifth floor.  Bollocks!