“The landlord likes to put some pretty quirky rules in the agreement. One of them is ‘No immoral use of the internet.'”
“That means no porn.”
My Spareroom Adventures in London
As anybody who has moved to London knows, finding a place to live can be a difficult task.
I experienced this for myself, having recently taken the plunge and moved to the capital for a new job. I was more fortunate than most London newbies as I already knew some very kind people (with even kinder sofas), but knew I would eventually have to undertake the unenviable task of finding my own place.
From the off, I decided I wanted to move into a shared house – partly because I didn’t fancy auctioning off my kidneys outside the tube to pay the bills, but also because hangovers are much more bearable with company rather than repeats of First Dates and a tube of Pringles.
For that reason I decided to check out Spareroom, having been given generally good reviews from those who have used it and deciding there was only a small chance of moving in with a neo-Nazi.
Spareroom #1 – No porn allowed
One of my first viewings will no doubt live long in the memory. Initially the signs were good – friendly housemates (a guy and two girls), running water and a room that I was able to fit in without having to learn to be a contortionist – and it seemed like I was passing the interview process of being an acceptable housemate (FYI: Just say you watch The Walking Dead and lie about making them tea).
It was at this point they sat me down and told me that the landlord has some pretty strict guidelines he likes them to adhere to…
“The landlord likes to put some pretty quirky rules into the agreement,” the guy told me, barely concealing a smirk that made me wonder if there was going to be a forced hazing ritual before putting pen to paper. “One of them is ‘No immoral use of the internet.'”
“That means no porn.” One of the girls piped up, staring so intently at me I felt like I had my Google history tattooed on my eyeballs.
It’s pretty difficult to work out what to do in that situation; if I acted indignant I’d look like a furious porn-addict, whereas if I went along with it I risked getting evicted when the child-lock picked up any episode of Game of Thrones.
“We have found ways around it though.” The final housemate tried to reassure me in the least reassuring way possible. Petrified I had gone from Through the Keyhole to Through the Gloryhole, I told them I’d be in touch and bolted it.
Spareroom #2 – Six-legged roommates
The next day I met the landlord of another house. This one was even nicer than the first and again seemed to have some cool housemates with similar interests. One of them was making pizza. It was the dream.
Once the landlord had given me the tour, he decided to leave us alone so we could have a chat and they could vet me properly. Again, warning signs began to emerge as one of the housemates darted to the door to check he had actually gone.
“Has he told you about the bedbugs?” she asked intently.
“Bedbugs? No…” I replied, wondering which weird fetish was going to make it into this tenancy agreement this time.
“Eugh, he never tells anybody about the bedbugs,” the other one housemate growled. “Well, don’t move in here unless you fancy waking up with insect bites every morning. We’ve had them for about three months and he won’t call an exterminator. Also he takes rent in cash.”
I downed my tea, thanked them for their time, went home and burned my clothes.
Spareroom: The best of the rest
The next fortnight or so was an interesting mixed bag of viewings around London. I got to do a nice bit of travelling having viewed houses in Hackney, Walthamstow and Oval and lived off enough meal deals to last a lifetime (I’m sure my stomach is still lined with Tesco’s southern-fried chicken and chipotle sandwiches).
Along the way I had a few more interesting run-ins – the police bust next door to the open-house (“Oh, you must be looking for 28! This is 28A. Now move along.”) and the illegal sublet where I’d be sharing the basement room with the washing machine stick out. I began to wonder if my friends actually lived in London or were just lying and commuting from Bedford or Luton.
Thankfully there was light at the end of the tunnel as I managed to find a place in Brixton where the housemates don’t seem like complete nut-jobs, the bed was insect-free and I didn’t have to sleep next to something that dined on liquitabs.
I’m just waiting for the no-porn rule.