House hunter Laura Evelyn sent the Twittersphere into hysterics this week after she tweeted the list of ‘house rules’ handed over to her by a prospective landlord.
“Absolutely no pork allowed in the house” was a personal favourite of mine, followed by a ban on showers lasting longer than 15 minutes. One enterprising tweeter responded suggesting turkey sandwiches as a replacement for hangover-cure-staple the bacon sarnie, something I will be testing out this weekend.
I currently live with two friends who I’ve known for years. Our shabby maisonette in Camberwell suits us fine, although we’re very much living the student dream, despite two of us having full time jobs. The prospect of buying anywhere ourselves is more terrifying than the thought of cleaning out the sink. And we all avoid cleaning out the sink.
Although happily settled now, I’ve had my fair share of house-hunting horror stories. Days before going into my third year at university, I was still without a home. My second year house had disbanded for a number of reasons, not least because two members had taken off on a year abroad.
There’s a certain stigma attached to students who look for housing online and as I registered with spareroom.com I worried people would wonder why I hadn’t managed to find friends of my own to live with.
The website is much like an online dating site, except instead of requesting ‘good sense of humour’ or ‘enjoys long country walks’, you select ‘double bedroom’ or ‘no pets’. The website then generates a number of spare rooms and it’s up to you to sort through the chaff and select the ones that look promising. Next, you simply drop them an email, pitching yourself to potential housemates. If I remember correctly I said I was clean, friendly and liked a good cup of tea.
I got a number of responses, but the one that sticks in my head was a group that invited me to tea. I arrived bearing wine, planning to bribe my way into the house with alcohol and witty remarks. It quickly became apparent that this was not a friendly meeting; this was a hard and fast interview. I felt like I was in front of Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden from Dragons Den. They dissected every last aspect of my personality, asking my opinion on politics and current affairs as if they were trying to expose me as a secret Nazi.
A day later I received an email from the leader of the group informing me that they had chosen someone else as no one had come up to scratch. Shortly afterwards I saw the room re-listed on spareroom.com. I can’t say it didn’t sting. Unlike being rejected for a job, I felt I had been rejected purely on the basis of my character. Needless to say when I bumped into said leader in Covent Garden a couple of months later, I reacted somewhat coldly to her offer of a drink and a catch up.
So flat-hunting in London is a treacherous task. Not least because once you’ve navigated the dodgy boilers, the damp and the never ending need for pest control, you have to deal with the people inside the rooms. In fact, maybe Laura Evelyn should renounce the pork and move in. She might have stumbled across the best of a bad bunch.