Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Utility Issues Part 3

The third post in the utilities series, on restrictions on installations by the property. 

First an update on the Npower issue...I got a letter before we went on holiday (to the wrong address) asking us to contact them for more information. I emailed them as it was too late to ring by the time I opened the letter and we were going on holiday the next day. So I sent an email to say I was going away, I had told them I was going away over the phone the week before, something along the lines of please god do not ring me while I am on holiday just correct the address and send me a goddamn bill. I got a letter when we got home (again to the wrong address) saying they had tried to ring me (while I was on holiday) and needed me to ring them, well I tried last week, twice, waited on hold for nearly an hour in total, then gave up. Then the other day I get another letter (addressed to me at the right address - progress!) in response to my email 3 weeks ago, saying sorry, my complaint has been recognised and they will contact me by email from now on. no bill. nothing since then via post or email. It's just getting beyond a joke now, I give up. 

If we ever get this bill do you think they'll wait 10 months for payment? 


Sometimes there are restrictions on what you can have but it is a reasonable request from the landlord. For example our flat is in a listed building, and because it is in a basement has had a damp proof coating applied to all the walls which shouldn’t be perforated. The landlord therefore said we could get internet or whatever installed as long as there were no holes drilled in the wall, or digging up of gardens, or any changes to the front of the house. This is fair enough I think and we can work around it. However it did cause us an issue with one company.
We moved into our current flat in December, but didn’t get internet until February (we even were without TV for a few days, and had to actually talk to each other). We were with Virgin Media at our last house for TV and internet, and when we told them we were moving they offered to transfer our internet. The rep or whatever he was, Lyndon, for our area rang us numerous times before we moved asking if we had decided to take our current service with us (actually a bit pushy), I had compared prices and they were pretty comparable and we had a good service from them in the past so I agreed a date for them to come a few days after we had moved in to get the internet set up. He would come by before so we could sign the new contract (not something I’ve ever had to do before, usually we just set it all up over the phone). I had said to him that we rent, and there was not a Virgin line into the house already. I did also say that the landlord had said we could install what we wanted as long as there was no digging up gardens or drilling in walls etc. He said as long as we have a phone line they could do it through that.
Lyndon turned up with the contract a few days after we moved in, and I just happened to ask if he needed to see the lines already installed to see if they were suitable, he responded by showing me where they would run the cable down the front garden (burying it, so digging up the garden) and where they would drill it into the flat. Obviously this internet was not a possibility for us then, I reminded him that we rent and drilling holes in the wall was not allowed, and that I had told him this before. He said how else did I think they would get internet into the flat? As I’m not an engineer I didn’t have an answer for this although I did remind him what he had said about the phone line and he just kind of laughed at this like I was suggesting they bring it in via fairy dust and unicorns. Our BT internet now comes through the phone line so it is perfectly possible by the way Lyndon in case you’re reading. He then asked me to ‘just sign the contract’, which I declined and asked him to cancel the installation, he asked me to just tell them on the day to not do it. How ridiculous is that? I was meant to wait in all day for the engineers to come then tell them to go away, what a waste of my time and theirs! He asked me to sign the contract again, and when I told him I was not signing up for a service I could not have he stropped off up the steps saying ‘fine I’ll cancel it, fine!’.
Well, I didn’t believe that he would cancel everything so rang the helpline a few days later only to find he had actually rescheduled the installation for a month later. I don’t know whether he was planning to contact us again and try to convince us but I asked them to cancel this and not to contact us again. It’s a shame as we had been with them for a few years and it ended on rather a bad note. I was actually at home on my own at the time and did find his behaviour completely inappropriate and even quite threatening. I’m no stranger to shutting the door in someone’s face or telling them where to get off and I don’t respond well to pushy sales (I’m more likely to just back off if I feel like I’m being pushed into something, even if I want it really!), but if I was a little more easily scared I might have ended up being bullied into signing up to a contract that we didn’t want. Tom was disgusted when I called him afterwards quite shaken up and told him what had happened, and encouraged me to complain – I did call them and inform them of their representative’s behaviour but never heard anything back.
We then had to start the process all over again and had to get our BT phone line reactivated before they could use it for the internet, so it took a while to get that all sorted and installed. In the end it all worked out but a few things I learnt from this were:
  • Ask specifically what they will need to do to install, and lay out what your restrictions are. If they aren’t sure they should be able to send someone round to have a look and see if they can work with what you have. If you aren’t sure ask your landlord or agent if what they’re suggesting is ok. 
  • Do not sign anything that commits you to a contract before you are sure the installation is going to be possible. If possible get things in writing, I had only spoken to this one person and had no emails or anything to back up what he had said. It was therefore his word against mine on what we had discussed about the installation and he didn’t seem to have listened at all. 
  • If you find a sales rep or a member of staff is not clear on the details or are being pushy or acting inappropriately ask to speak to someone else and report their behaviour. 
  • Speak to the main helpline where possible to confirm the sales reps identity, this random guy from Virgin just rang me up to change our service over (from a local number) – he could easily have been a con man but I did receive confirmation via our existing virgin media account of his appointment and the installation date so that backed him up, and we never got to the point of sorting out any payment plans. For example, I had someone call me when we first got the cats selling petplan, he did turn out to be legit but I wasn’t going to just hand over by bank details to some bloke who had just ring me up saying he was from pet plan. I took his name (so he would get the sale if he was legit) and the policy number (it was a really good deal) he had set up and rang the main helpline number, they confirmed it all and set up the policy and my payments from there. 
  • If someone is coming round to your house then it might be good to have someone else there, or do not let them inside. 
  • Do not let anyone you have not invited or are not expecting into your home, and do not give them any of your details, until you have confirmed who they are with their company. If you are expecting someone they should have an ID on them, check it before you let them in. My sister and I had a sales rep knock on our door once saying he was from a well known satellite TV company, it was pretty late and dark. Our door was around the side of the building and pretty secluded, and it was just us 2 home. We said we weren’t allowed to get satellite TV installed so thanks but no thanks, maybe he could just leave us with a card in case they changed their mind (i.e bye, don’t call us we’ll call you). He didn’t have a business card we could take or a phone number he could give us or even a card with his name on. He kept asking to come in as it was so cold/raining so we could ‘discuss their offers’. My alarm bells that he might not be legit were going off already and I was trying to end the conversation and shut the door, but every time I said ‘ok thanks bye then’ and started closing it he started asking us questions like ‘were we friends living together?’ ‘Did anyone else live there?’ I told him my boyfriend was upstairs (he wasn’t), gave up on politely ending the conversation and we just shut the door in his face and locked it.
  • Do not hang around talking to people on the doorstep if they've just turned up and you weren't expecting them, especially if they don’t seem quite right or pressure you to let them inside, if you don’t want their product/service/to give to their charity/find Jesus or whatever than just say no thanks and shut the door.
That's the last in the series on utilities and renting. I don't have any more rental specific examples (although I could happily share my experiences about a few more companies on here and see how far I can get without one of them noticing...), but if you have any queries feel free to send me a message!

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Hotel

While we were away in Albania we stayed in a hotel in Tirana for the first and last night's of our holiday. It was pretty fancy! I think hotels are often a good source for home inspiration, as nice ones are often well decorated.

This is the bed, that's Tom trying to start the apple tv with the iPad (actually weren't that impressed would have preferred normal tv). The bed was so comfortable, the pillows were a kind of gel and I have to get some for at home! It was also huge, I could have slept on it width ways! After 2 weeks of thin not very supportive mattresses at the apartment this was like sinking into a cloud...seriously I think my spine sighed...
The door on the right is into the bathroom, a glass door, and the full length window on the left is a window into the shower. It looked pretty cool but did mean no privacy in the bathroom!
Excuse the mess, I just ran round and snapped some quick pics with my phone and the camera (one I found it in the hand luggage!) before we unpacked and got out to explore Tirana! It's an interesting city, we had some nice meals in places near the hotel but as we were only there for one night at either end of the holiday we didn't really get the chance to explore too in depth. There was a nice park with a lake near to the hotel though which we had a walk around on our last day.

The bathroom was pretty awesome despite the total lack of privacy/sound insulation. The sink...
The shower. It had loads of settings to either be a waterfall, rainfall or just normal shower and I could have spent all day in there!
We also had 2 hours access to the spa and pool which we took full advantage of and it was a very relaxing end to the holiday! It's the same people we rented the apartment from that run the hotel, and it was all very well done. We had a driver and a car to take us to the apartment and the airport (although they forgot to get us from the airport on arrival!) and the spa access was a gorgeous end to the holiday.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

We've been away...

I missed a post last week, sorry to anyone who noticed! It was because we were here
On holiday for 2 weeks in Vlore Albania. I didn't want to tell the internet at large that we were going to be away for 2 weeks, especially after putting so many photos of our home on here so I tried to have a backlog of posts scheduled to go up over the holiday but didn't quite make it for all of them. 
The holiday was a great opportunity to unwind, as we were self catering in an apartment with a few restaurants nearby and the beach but not much else! We spent the 2 weeks relaxing, eating, reading, sunbathing and swimming in the sea, I'm not usually too keen on swimming out of my depth in the sea as I'm not the strongest swimmer how could we resist when it looks like this?
Albania was an unknown to us as we had never been before and knew nobody who had but it was a pleasant surprise. The weather was better than we expected this time of year, although not many people spoke English we got by (although we found Albanian hard to learn more than the real basics, but we found a lot more spoke Italian than English if I'd have known I'd have learnt some!), we did stand out in a way as I didn't see any other tourists the whole time we were there but everyone we met was friendly.
As this is a home blog the apartment is what I wanted to focus was pretty! As I said back in this post it was featured in an Ikea catalogue a while back, and literally everything is from Ikea. From the towels and plates to the appliances and kitchen! So here's a quick tour of the apartment, it was a 2 bedroom in a modern building, in a very quiet area. I think only a few other people actually lived nearby a lot of the apartments were vacant (possibly unused holiday lets as we were out of season)
Living area, with sky Italia which (once we figured out how to change films and programs back to their original language) was handy as the nights were chilly so if we weren't at one of the 3 local restaurants we got loads of snacks in and watched films. The sofa had the pouffe in front of the coffee table at first but we dragged it over to make a big bed/sofa we could sprawl out on!
Dining, love the light and the table the glass really helps to not obstruct the window too much.
Kitchen, nice and had a dishwasher and washing machine but no freezer, kettle, toaster or microwave so not what I'd call fully equipped but we got by!
Bathroom, very red! Not my favourite colour but it was pretty funky. The bath was lovely and deep and the glass tiles around the top let in a bit of natural night.

Bedroom 1, we slept in here 2 nights and it looks lovely but that bed creaked and wobbled all the time and wasn't overly comfortable.

We decamped to here after, as it was more comfortable (well less wobbly the mattresses were both thin Ikea ones which my back did not like!) and as it was at the back there was a bit less noise in the mornings. We kept the other room as our dressing room!

The balcony, just gorgeous!

And the view, the main attraction! We got some nice days and also some pretty cool storms and sunsets. Waking up and sitting looking out here having a cup of tea in the morning was really the highlight.

There were unfinished buildings on all sides however Albania seems to be a country under construction so they are literally everywhere. Only a few days the noise from the one over the road got to me as they were just drilling all day long. This photos sums it up for me really, beautiful view, big half built concrete tower block which we saw no work being done on while we were there.
All in all we'd go back to Albania, they are still building up their tourist trade so it's not quite 100% there yet (although bonus to this it's quiet and everything was so cheap we brought spending money back which is a first!) but they've had difficult times more recently than I realised. So it depends what you're looking for, maybe not an action packed holiday (although we were out of season and hear there are more activities, trips, places open etc in the summer) but for a nice relaxing holiday just taking in the sights it was just what we were looking for!

You can find the apartment we stayed at here if you're interested in going!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Friday Inspiration

This eclectic dining area is cute and looks very lived in with lots of character, it's in a small flat and their use of space is pretty good with the living/dining/office space.
I am always on the look out for a reasonably priced trunk which is the right size and shape to do this in in our living room.
The grey sofa and the art above it here make a nice relaxed but interesting look
Have a fun weekend everyone!xx

Monday, 14 October 2013

Utility issues part 2

The second part of the utilities and services series. Also update from the first post back here. I got a letter from NPower last week to say sorry they had not been able to resolve my problem, complaint has been raised etc etc. Great, only they sent it to the wrong address, our landlord dropped it off to us. I tell you it's like a comedy of errors, they've had another email from me. 
Issue two - You are not allowed to get a new service installed, or change existing suppliers.
Our first place had cable TV already installed, but they wouldn't let us get internet! We got one of those mobile internet dongles for the laptop but this was back when they were pretty new and it was rubbish. Looking back now I would have fought them more on that and insisted they let us get internet installed, it would actually not have affected the place that much as the cable company should have been able to use the existing holes and it wouldn't have meant any work on the walls. I was only 20 at the time though and pretty much just did what the agents said (how times have changed!). If you are in this situation some steps you could take are:

  • If you are offering to get a service connected that is not available already, then highlight how this would benefit them in future. For example I'm sure that maisonette must have internet by now, as nowadays I’d never rent a place that didn't have internet! So if they had let us put it in when we asked it might have saved them a cost doing it themselves. This would be the main attraction for a landlord, say if you want to install satellite TV, when you move out this can be something to add to the advertisement that it has satellite TV installed already.
  • If you feel that it is essential to your living requirements, for example you work from home and need internet connection, then make it clear that you expect this to be possible, don’t feel bad making demands. If you are offering to pay for and arrange the installation, and it doesn't mean putting holes in the walls or otherwise damaging the property then there is no reason you shouldn't be able to get new services and utilities installed. 
  • If they still say no and you feel it is a reasonable requirement, then get into the contract, does it say anywhere in there it is not allowed? What is the wording on services and utilities? Get legal advice if you can. Unfortunately you don’t always win, but any reasonable landlord should let you get basic stuff installed, it’s a shame but we got so sick of the agents and restrictions at the maisonette we moved out.
  • What is a reasonable request? Gas, electricity, drainage and water are all basic requirements and it should be in your contract that the landlord is responsible for maintaining these. When it comes to TV and internet although it is something most households have it probably isn't in your contract. The best thing is to ask before you move in what the situation is, but if you've already moved in and they are saying no you might have a fight on your hands
  • Back in this post I covered not being allowed to change utility providers. You should be allowed to change the provider to one of your choosing, the landlord or lettings agent cannot dictate where you get your gas or electricity supply.
We also stayed with the same suppliers that the maisonette was with for gas and electricity and I had a terrible experience with the electricity company. More on that back here. Part 3 on working around restrictions from the building/landlord coming soon. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Friday Inspiration

Ah Friday, it's here!

Again not much to report, the NPower issue is still not sorted out but I'm trying to be zen about it.

I love this teal wall, the bookshelf, the table, the chairs, the light fixture, the clock...OK I am in love with the whole room and want to move in right now.
The fireplace and high ceilings are lovely enough here but that floor is beyond gorgeous...
Midcentury chairs and table, and a funky light fixture - am I becoming predictable?
Have a great weekend everyone!xx

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Simple Lavender Parcels

I've been posting in the wedding blog recently, check it out here if you're interested in weddings! In Mondays post I showed you how to make the lavender bags from dress sleeves, but only using the sleeves seemed a bit wasteful so I also made 2 lavender parcels for use in the drawers.

Cut a rectangle of fabric (again size depends on how much lavender you want to use) I wanted these pretty small
 Sew up 2 sides to make a pocket
 Turn inside out and fill with lavender
 Sew up the top
Fold the top over into a point, hiding the stitching. I just added the bead for a little decoration and to disguise the stitches a bit (I am not a neat sewer!) but I think it looks like a little clutch bag!

I also did this one following the same steps at the start but I didn't sew the top of the pouch closed just folded it over and sewed it down, adding the button to hide the sewing.

They take literally a few minutes to make, 10 minutes tops and I am no expert at sewing (I actually really suck at it) so I'd say most people could whip up a few of these one evening!

Now I have my lovely lavender bags all ready to make my clothes smell pretty.
This project has given me the confidence to try sewing a little more, as I thought I was terrible at it but they turned out great, baby steps though I won't be whipping up dresses just yet...maybe some pillow covers though...

Monday, 7 October 2013

Simple Lavender Bags

It feels like forever since I've actually had a project to share with you so this week I'll skip the decluttering post as I've not had much time to actually get any of it done and share the lavender bags I made (ages ago) from the lavender out of our garden.

The lavender had been drying for about a month in various places round the house, then sat on the coffee table for a few weeks until I got around to doing these, so it was nice and dried out.

I used an old dress which I had spilled nail varnish over and ruined, using the sleeves is easiest as they're already hemmed on the cuffs and are already tubular.

Cut off the amount needed (this will vary by what size you want and how much lavender you have to fill them)
 Turn it inside out and sew up the one side
 Turn it right way out again, and you get this nice little pouch
Sew the hemmed cuff part closed, making sure to only sew the insides of the hems together so it can't be seen from the outside. I don't recommend using your leggings to hold your needle but I don't have a pin cushion...
Add in a ribbon halfway along for hanging by just placing it between the 2 sides and continue sewing them together (this is a bit fiddly but I got there in the end)
Other ways I did think you could attach this if it really gets impossible would be to just loop the ribbon and sew it onto the top front of the pouch using a button or cute brooch to hide the stitching (unless you are really neat and can make the stitching look pretty - this is beyond my skills)
 Fill it up with lavender (I also used some dried mint for freshness) before sewing the last bit
I'm pretty proud of them, I never sew and am pretty bad at it but these are so easy even I managed it. All you need is some material, ribbon, needle and thread and of course the lavender. This project was 100% free as I used things we already owned but if you had to buy it all in it would be under £5 I think as you only need a minimal amount of fabric, some hankies or scraps would do.

I also used some more of the fabric for some smaller little parcel ones for inside drawers, post on those coming up soon!