The landlord has served me with a Notice to Quit. Landlord is the wrong word, for a start. The term implies he is the Lord of the land. Housing Provider seems softer, more gender neutral, less powerful. There’s no immediate sense of grandeur and entitlement to the phrase Housing Provider. Landlord could denote some sense of decency bestowed from a great source, could describe a custodian of land people, but it doesn’t, not in this case anyway.
I rent my home via Cluny Estate Agency in Forres. the house is owned by Grigor Butler of East Grange Farm and The Loft, an inherited estate of over 400 acres with many properties and a thriving wigwam business and restaurant. Every three months Rebecca from the estate agency comes for the regular inspection. She comes with clip board and pen to note any outstanding repairs. She was here last Thursday. She rang the bell and when I answered it and opened the door for her she greeted me with “Well, at least the doorbell works.” I asked her why she said that. She replied “It just feels like one of those properties where nothing works as it should.” I pointed to the gaping hole of the letterbox “that still isn’t fixed.” I replied. She chewed the tip of her pen and giggled nervously.
We went into the kitchen. I turned on the tap to fill a jug with water for the house plants. The tap pissed water all over the side of the sink, the work surface and dribbled down to the floor. I wiped it up.
“The tap still leaks” I said. ” The grout at the side of the sink is worn and mouldy, the counter top is damp and swollen now. Willie the handyman came, took it apart, told me it was past repair and put it back together again.”
She may have written that down.
“Has anything been repaired since we last met?” She asked.
“The extractor fan over the hob works, but the filter inside it saw better days ten years ago.”
“A filter is just a couple of quid, you could get one yourself.” She replied. “Has the hob been fixed or replaced?”
“No, the hob was condemned by yourself and Willie six months ago, but it’s still here. The knobs don’t work well. It takes great skill and care to heat soup.”
“Is there anything else?” she asked.
“The felt on the shed roof is now completely worn and the rain is getting in to the shed. The gutters are full of wee trees, shrubs and leaves, they leak, they drip. The shower still drips all the time which has caused black mould on the tiles and grout in the bathroom. The seal for the oven still needs replaced. The cold tap for the bath doesn’t work.”
I wandered around, watering the plants. She followed me chatting all the time about what a difficult job she was having trying to get these repairs done. She implied I should do them myself.
“The problem is, Bex” I said “that it’s a few quid for a letterbox, a few quid for a new shed roof, a few quid for a new shower, a few quid for the grout and those few quids are more than I can afford, so we need to talk about who is actually responsible for the repairs here and when they will actually be completed.”
“Realistically” she said “the repairs won’t be done any time soon and if this is a problem for you, you should find somewhere else to live.”
I sat down, picked up a pen and paper and wrote that down and then read it back to her.
“Is this what you are telling me? That I can note the things that need to be done in order to maintain this property, but if I complain I will be evicted?”
“Yes.” she said.
“Would you like me to quote you on that?” I asked.
“No.” she said.
That was Thursday. On Saturday of the same week I received in the post a Notice To Quit. I had a full blown panic attack as I read it. I was neither able to speak nor eat most of the weekend. My daughter was distraught, she cried all day and all night. She loves her home, her friends, her school. She volunteers locally, cycles where she wants, has a kayak on the beach and had just had shelves put up in her room the day before.
We survived as tenants by keeping silent when our landlords threatened us. Historically we have just put up with the inadequacies of our houses because we didn’t want to be threatened in this way. We bend over, roll over and allow those that own the houses and land in Scotland to shaft us at their whim. We accept their power, allowing them to rule over us and dictate how and where we can live.
Enough of this. I have been part of the downtrodden and vulnerable single mother brigade for far too long. By not speaking out against abuse and maltreatment I have perpetuated the notion that I am not worthy to either live in peace or dwell in a home of my own choosing. I love my home, I care for this house, this neighbourhood and my community. I hope and I pray that the politicians, the activists and the land reform teams can use my story as a prime example of how and why Scotland needs housing and land reform.
My daughter and I face homelessness for Christmas again- because I demanded the dangerous condemned gas hob be replaced. Because I called into question the integrity of Cluny Estate Agency and the housing provider Grigor Butler.
Be Brave, we need land reform #ourland #bebrave