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Embarrassment

On Friday, I had a look at a flat - and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it was one of the worst places I've ever seen.

To be honest, I had a hunch about it anyway. Years ago when I was looking for a place to rent, I saw a place in the same building which was a little bit iffy too, so I guess I should have known what was coming. Ever the optimist, I hoped things had improved - how wrong I was.

The estate agent met us and as we came through the door, my eyes immediately went to the ceiling. There was a huge tide-mark there - evidently the neighbours had let their bath overflow. Damp marks such as that are nearly impossible to hide completely. The floor wasn't really any better. The carpet, at a guess, must have been at least 20 years old, possibly more. It had also never seen a hoover and the fibres were so old that it was on the verge of decomposing. It was disgusting.

The place was kept warm by a gas boiler, housed in a really bizarre cupboard, strangely situated almost in the middle of the front-room. The boiler was also very old. It had a tub underneath to catch escaping water.

On the side of the front-room was a little archway which led into the kitchen, approximately the size of a broom cupboard at around eight feet wide and four feet deep. Everything was old, falling to bits and covered in a layer of vintage grease, a bit like an old deep fat fryer - a sort of drippy brown. It was dark, damp and equally unpleasant as the front-room - just smaller.

The bedroom wasn't particularly unpleasant, just tiny. It housed a double bed and had space for little more. You might have got a chest of drawers in there if you were prepared to scuttle past like a crab, leading on to the bathroom.

Oh yes, the bathroom. In 1970's avocado, this was the king of ick. Every conceivable surface had a layer of black mould on it. The room was a living being. The ceiling had black mould. The walls had black mould. The tiling had black mould. It was not good.

As we looked around the building, we were silent, almost stunned at how bad it was. More than anything, though, I felt embarrassed because someone was actually living in this. It was hard to say anything remotely positive and the ten minutes of silence probably said a lot.

The place had a tenant, a girl in her early 20s. She was a cheerful and pleasant person, who I actually felt sorry for because she was probably paying several hundred quid a month in rent for this monstrosity. My first thoughts were,"how did the poor sod end up living here?". Worst of all, her landlord was taking the rent and doing absolutely bugger all. I actually felt quite angry by the time I left the building - not with her, but the vendor. It just seemed wrong. As a landlord, you're expected to adhere to certain basic standards. Gas boilers are supposed to be safety checked on a yearly basis, basic fire extinguishing equipment should be provided, along with smoke alarms. None of this was visible.

Returning to the estate agent, this property had a price. £75,000. A snip, eh?

If you were to buy this, you'd turn up not with a removal van, but several skips. The place has been subject to continual neglect and a ballpark guess from myself put the renovation costs at somewhere around £20,000. It needed a new kitchen, bathroom, carpets, boiler system and total redecoration, but was listed as....

"Ideal for a first-time buyer."

Which all goes to explain what is wrong with the housing market at the moment. First-time buyers are expected to live in overpriced hovels, just to "get on the ladder". Something has to change.
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