Me looking at the state of my cards on the table…
I NEED A NEW HOME! I need to get out of London, as soon as possible, and I really need your help. No, I don’t want your money, but I was hoping that you, or someone you know, could help me find my new home?
See, what I really need is someone to help me look for that new place, and persuade the landlord to take a chance on me. But to do that, you need to know “the whole truth” about me and my situation.
I’m not exactly a highly sought-after tenant, so I’ve decided to try a different approach to house-hunting this time around. This will be my third move in ten years, and both in 2013 and 2015 the whole process nearly crushed me. I only managed to secure a roof over my head after sending out hundreds of desperate letters, literally begging estate agents and landlords to give me a chance.
Well, I’m done being made to feel like a beggar, pleading for scraps at the back door. It’s time to put all my cards on the table.
HI, I’M EVALENA, OR LINNEA, DEPENDING ON WHERE WE MET
I’m a retired Swedish author, editor and writing coach who lives in a queen size bed on the outskirts of London. I had to give up a job that I loved because of my disability, but I still try to make myself useful by sharing my knowledge and experience through my blogs and my writers’ group. I also released my first book in 2022. I have four more scheduled for release in 2023, and if I get to stick around I hope to follow that up with a few more titles in the years to come.
I was born with a degenerative disease and have developed a long list of co-morbidities. That’s fancy lingo for “I need care and assistance around the clock.” My now adult children have been my primary carers, and before the pandemic I had four of them and my grandson living with me. However, my immune system is as temperamental as it is dysfunctional, so we’ve had to adjust and adapt since lockdown. I now live with my middle son (we can call him #3 – he doesn’t want his name or face online), as my full-time personal assistant.
We have been living in a privately rented house in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham since 2015. We have the best landlord and for that alone I would love to stay where we are, but the effects of the cost of living crisis are making it impossible. We need to get out of the greater London area in the quickest and safest way possible. I’m not too fussed about where on this island my next home is, as long as my needs can be met there, but I feel the north calling my name.
So, let’s talk negatives and why I am such an undesirable prospective tenant.
Well, first of all, my income is almost entirely based on benefits. If I am very lucky, this writing project of mine might start to bring in a few pounds in the coming years, but right now this is the way things are: I get Disability Living Allowance at the highest rate for mobility and care, and income-based Employment and Support Allowance with the Support Group bonus. I also get Housing and Council Tax benefits according to the rates of the borough.
My current home was acquired through the Barking and Dagenham Bond Scheme. It was a transfer from Redbridge that was handled by Council officials once I had managed to find a landlord that would have me. Since this move is one I am choosing to do, I don’t know whether I’d be covered by the bond moving into a new borough. I am, essentially, one of those despicable DSS tenants that estate agents tend to avoid like the plague. But that’s not all.
ABOUT MY FAMILY
My three girls: Bellatrix, Mama Cat (aka Rummy), and Lily.
I have five adult children and a grandson. As I mentioned earlier, #3 lives with me full-time. He is quiet, housebroken, and known to be friendly with delivery people and neighbours.
Bellatrix, my kangarottercat-dog, is more or less glued to me night and day. She’s 7 and a well-behaved little lady, but she hates foxes with a vengeance and wants them to know as much. She is housebroken and completely uninterested in the neighbours as long as they stay out of my bedroom.
The cats, Rummy, 13, and Lilly, 7, are technically my son’s pets. Two properly housebroken ladies who neither scratch the walls nor terrorise the neighbours. We did have a cat who stole their laundry when they hung it out to dry, but she moved to Sweden so we’re all good now…
None of us smoke or drink – not even the cats – and we don’t have any antisocial behaviours apart from being decidedly asocial. I am a wheelchair user, but I spend almost 100% of my time in bed. My crappy immune system has kept me in covid isolation since March -20, and by the looks of it, I’ll have to stay locked up at least through this year too.
We normally get on well with our landlords and neighbours. Swedes are, generally speaking, very neighbourly and like to pop around, or invite you in, for a cuppa. Fika is an important part of our culture. We also have a tendency to pop over to borrow a cup of sugar when we’re baking if we’re running low. This, I admit, has been a bit of a hard sell in London.
With one exception, we have stayed for a long time in the properties we’ve rented. Both in 2013 and 2015 we had to move because of changes our landlords made. The first one sold the property and the second decided to live in the house themselves. The only reason we are looking for a new home now, after almost eight years here, is that we simply cannot afford to stay.
So, let me list the grand total of my sins, the ugly truth that makes it nigh on impossible for me to find a home, for you:
- I don’t work,
- I have pets,
- I am disabled,
- I don’t have a great credit score (no credit cards or loans),
- I don’t have any rich UK relatives, and
- I need to shave around £1000 per month off my rent.
Sadly, my disability has proven to be the thorniest point to get past. Why? Oh, because new (ish) regulations have put higher demands on UK landlords when it comes to providing disabled tenants with safe accommodation. It now makes more sense for most of them to pick a tenant that doesn’t come with an extra set of rules, or more boxes to tick.
However, in my experience, landlords tend to like me if we get to meet and/or talk, the crux is often to get past gatekeeping letting agents. (Which may be a London problem.) In fact, my current landlord offered me this house against the letting agent’s explicit recommendations. As a result, they lost a client and we signed a contract without an agent involved. At that point in time, it was a win-win for both of us.
ABOUT MY NEEDS
My dream is to live somewhere reasonably close to water.
I need a home with two or three bedrooms. As a wheelchair user, my home needs to have a spacious lounge/reception and a downstairs wc/bathroom. Ideally with a shower, but I realise that is a lot to ask for. Bedrooms can be upstairs (I use the lounge room), but if at all possible I would prefer to live in a place where everything is on the same level.
The home, including the entrance, must be wheelchair accessible. For me, that means being able to get in and out of the house in my chair, and to be able to move around unhindered between the rooms indoors. I have spent the past ten years in homes where my mobility have been severely restricted, and I would very much like to think that I’ve done my time now. I don’t need a landlord to provide a ramp or any other adaptations, but they do need to allow me to have them fitted. I would also like to have access to a garden.
My dream is to relocate to an area with more nature around, or relatively close to, the property. I love water and would like to live close to some body of water. A paddling pool in the back garden may count at a stretch.
Having done our homework, we believe that our next home may be located somewhere up north. The exact location is not as important as finding a place that would work for us. To sum it all up, that means we need a place that:
- Has 2-3 bedrooms.
- Is free from mould.
- Accepts DSS-tenants, pets and people with disabilities.
- Is accessible: I can’t live in a house where you have to climb a few steps to get indoors, or in a building with a lift unless the flat is on the ground floor. Upstairs bedrooms are okay as long as there is a spacious lounge downstairs.
- Has a downstairs toilet and bathroom. Ideally, this room should be wheelchair accessible, and it’s a bonus if it has a shower instead of a bath.
- Has a downstairs/ground floor area that is fully wheelchair accessible. Bonus if it’s all on the same level.
- Is close to local amenities. I must be able to get my groceries delivered there.
- Has a park and/or a body of water within a reasonable proximity.
- Is accessible by public transport, including national rail services.
- Has a local hospital that isn’t hours away.
- Offers a parking space close to the entrance. Bonus if it has a garage.
- Has good internet access. I need to be able to get online 24/7.
- Doesn’t cost more than £750pcm.
My rent here has increased to £1,700 per calendar month and the situation is untenable. I have a dream that includes being able to travel to see family and friends once it’s safe for me to do so. That will never happen if I face financial ruin, so things really do need to change. There’s a used van or motorhome waiting for me in the future, and I need to be able to save up so I can buy it when we meet.
All I want is a home that is safe, accessible and affordable. A place where I can continue to write my books and blogs, and maybe even start to earn a small income from them.
It sounds so simple, but I’m well aware that I’m asking for a lot here and that a private landlord will be reluctant to take a chance on me. But that’s where you come in, dear reader. I’m still writing this in the hope that you, or someone you know, knows of a place that might be right for me.
Now, I have told you about myself, my family and my needs. Hopefully, these words will resonate with someone who would consider me as a tenant. As previously mentioned, my pets are well-behaved, housebroken and quiet, and the same goes for the kids. Seriously, my whole family is lovely! The only problem is me.
I might scuff the paintwork with my wheelchair, and need a grab rail in the bathroom or, perhaps, even a ramp to get inside. (None of which would cost the landlord a penny!) But on the upside, I am a good tenant who will look after your house as if it was my own; treasure it for as long as we shall stay there; and save you from the hassle of looking for a new tenant every 6 to 12 months. I may have seen my finances go down the drain, but in the 40 years since I left my parents’ house, there has never been a time when I did not pay for the roof over my head.
If there’s anything you’d like to know, if you need specific income details, or just generally think you’d like to have a chat, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! If you can’t help us, but you know someone who might be able to, then please pass the link to this post on to them.
I am neither my disability, nor my benefits, yet I cannot get out of London on my own. I need you. Please, help me find my new home and the next cuppa is on me.
This post has previously been published on All of Me.
After 25+ years of anonymous blogging on a number of free platforms, I decided to go pro and put all of my writings on a private wall in the imaginary pirate ship I have named after one of my most prominent character traits: Resilience.
In my personal blogs, I primarily write about living the dream and how to keep on living and loving when everything around you seems to be falling apart. Professionally, I write about writing, personal and professional development, business studies, communication and writing.
My ambition was for the Resilience to become a source of inspiration, but I also hoped this old ship of mine would provide a space where we could talk, teach each other our tricks, and learn new things together. So far, it has worked better than anything I’ve ever dreamed of. Wanna tag along?