Property: Paradise postponed

Rural idyll? Robert Nurden has a cautionary tale for jaded urban folk who dream of renting that charming cottage in the country

This is a tale of barking dogs, a smoke-filled bedroom, three redundant cookers and two mute estate agents. It is a story of how renting and letting can bring headaches as painful as those induced by buying.

Not another townie sounding off about the strange ways of country folk, letting agents, landlords and tenants? Well, yes, actually. But it may also be a useful pointer to other urban folk thinking of moving to the sticks.

These days a lot of people leaving the city are holding off from buying, and renting first. "Renting is coming back," says a spokesman for the Association of Residential Letting Agents (Arla). "Rental now has 11 per cent of the market, compared with 7 per cent in 1989. Greater job mobility, contract working, climbing divorce rates and the fact that people are settling down later are the reasons. Before, the mother-in- law and Mrs Thatcher pushed us into home ownership, but not now."

He also says that renting is the popular option for those in between selling and buying. "But legislation has made renting complex. It has become so involved that we offer training for agents to keep them up with what they must know. Unfortunately, a lot can still go wrong - usually in rural areas."

I had decided to leave London and move to the country. I rented a two- bedroom, stone cottage in a picturesque village in Northamptonshire and rented out my two-bedroom terraced house in E7. I no longer needed London adrenaline on a full-time basis; part-time would be fine.

In theory, the operation was simple: I was the only one moving, and if it all went wrong I could return to my London house. It was also going to be quite lucrative: my pounds 400 a month mortgage would effectively be paid by my tenants, and I'd get an extra pounds 60 after the agents had taken their cut of 15 per cent.

The day I moved in, there was no electricity. Nor did the boiler work. To keep warm, I lit a log fire in the lounge grate. I got warm but when I went to bed in the room directly above, I walked into a pall of smoke - there was a brick missing in the chimney.

A local firm came to repair the boiler, and discovered that the pipes didn't link up with it. When I took my list of complaints to the agents, they promised to "get someone in", but four weeks on the situation was the same.

I'd seen three dogs next door when I looked round the cottage. What my Kettering agents had omitted to tell me was that "next door" was a breeding kennels and that there were 13 dogs there, the rest cooped up in outlying sheds. Or that they barked all night, particularly at 5am when they were fed. Already I was pining for the hushed glades of E7.

At 5.30am I went out and shouted at the dogs to shut up. The next morning my parka-jacketed neighbour threatened me. Wagging his finger in my face, he said: "Don't you ever do that again, I can get very nasty." I'd seen the pheasant hanging on the outside wall of his house, guessed he had a gun, and in that instant decided I wasn't going to live there any longer. My rural dream was in tatters.

"People who come here to rent always take the first thing they see," says Barbara Parsons, of Knight Goodwin in Stamford, Lincolnshire. "If they come from the city, they panic and think they have to get in fast before the property goes."

Part of the problem is the shortage of properties to rent - the agency has the names of 50 people on its books actively seeking places.

If tenants lay themselves open tomurky histories, landlords, too, are liable to be ambushed by unexpected rules. Two days before my move, my London agents informed me I'd need to pay for a gas inspection. Rob, fresh out of gas school, gleefully declared two appliances illegal. My gas fire and cooker, which I'd been using for eight years, were "dangerous".

A second-hand gas cooker would cost about pounds 140, plus pounds 45 to fit the required tap. But I saved money by buying my tenants a second-hand electric cooker (pounds 125) as the necessary plug and switch were in the wall.

Then my agents called to say the tenants couldn't cook because there was no wiring behind the wall. So I decided to sell the electric cooker and buy a gas one instead. The firm would deliver that evening and install it.

I got a call to say they hadn't come with the right parts and were going round the next evening. The tenants now had three cookers in the kitchen, all unusable. But the firm failed to turn up that evening and the tenants had another weekend of take-aways.

As for me, I've diluted my rural vision and am renting a two-bedroom house in nearby Stamford, one of the loveliest towns in England. And it's OK. I wouldn't leave it for anything.

THE INS AND OUTS OF RENTING

Tips for tenants

1. You may have to pay agency fees for administration and inventory, but refuse to pay introductory fees.

2. Ask to see Corgi gas inspection certificates.

3. Expect to supply names of bank or building society, employer and previous landlord as referees.

4. A month's rent in advance, plus a deposit, are normal.

5. Nowadays, the initial rental period is usually six months.

6. Expect to pay bills for gas, electricity, telephone, council tax, and TV licence.

Tips for landlords

1. Because of the complexity of rules, it is now wise to let through a good agent, linked to an association such as Arla.

2. Always make an inventory and get tenants to sign.

3. Get rent paid by standing order.

4. Agents advise on tax liability and procedures for Inland Revenue.

5. There are two types of house insurance: legal expenses cover and rental insurance cover. Insure property for letting.

For more information, send sae to: Arla, Maple House, 53-55 Woodside Road, Amersham, Bucks BP6 6AA.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker