We had every intention when landing in Scotland of being here six months. We had done a lot of extensive research on places to live, costs of living, and so on before we came there. Unfortunately things didn’t turn out the way we had been told they would, or how we wanted.
I had been online well before we landed chatting with realtors and letting agencies. I had appointments lined up in Perth with agencies and house sharing folks. Most of the apartments I found before we landed were around the 400 pound or less a month range and we knew that this was acceptable for us as costs went. The reality upon landing however was somewhat harsher. Even though I had communicated for months that we were coming all of a sudden people didn’t want to rent to us as expats. They had forgotten what our requirements for a place to let were (one bedroom fully furnished with internet). Since we weren’t asking for the moon we thought our request would be simple.
We went from letting agent to letting agent and however much you see it on TV where they work with an expat and show you from place to place with ease that is not the case. We were told in office after office that they simply did not have anything to show us and they didn’t seem all that interested in renting to expats.
We thought we had hit the mother lode when one agent in a local agency in Perth said she remembered that a two bedroom unit, renting for 495 pounds a month, fully furnished was going to come on the market, but we had to wait a month’s time to get into it. Being resourceful and desperate, we decided to see the apartment anyway. We did, thought it would suit us just fine and left to explore other parts of Scotland for the month we had to wait to get into the apartment.
We toured Perth, Kinross, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and then Birmingham staying for a week in each city while we waited. To say we enjoyed our tours of each city would not be an understatement. Scotland has beautiful vistas and lush and green valleys and there was much to see and do. Most of which Mike wrote about on his blog.
Our fateful day arrived and pulling our last two suitcases through Perth to the letting agency we found that they forgot to tell us one little piece of information; that the rent needed to be paid in advance. You see we didn’t have a credit history in Scotland and hence they decided that since they couldn’t do a proper credit check we needed to pay the rent in advance before we were given the keys. We toddled off to the local bank and there found out that they would not wire money from our bank in the US (even though it was the same international bank). That should have been our first clue that things were not going to work out well in the end.
A month after taking the unit we received in the mail a bill from the council tax folks for the whopping sum of 900 pounds. This equates to roughly $1200 USD. This bill is for the taxes on the property and the water bill. Here in the UK (and Scotland is still a part of the UK) the tenants pay the council tax on a rental. To get a 900 pound bill for taxes for a place we did not own was just outside the realm of reality so we marched down to the letting agency who said, oops, didn’t we tell you that you had to pay that too? Needless to say we were not happy and never in a million years would I suggest anyone deal with this agency again. So this little two bedroom apartment where the rent was 495 pounds is in reality 650 pounds a month, and its way overpriced. Because this is a socialist government the taxes collected pay for the free bus rides seniors get, medical care for the locals and other benefits, none of which we could use as expats, so why were we required to pay it?
Now to be fair and in answer to why did we rent this place it is the unit on the top floor of a four story building. There are no common walls between us and any other apartment in the area and the location is terrific as it is in the city center of old Perth. It is ideal if you want to walk everywhere and have access to shops and buses and even coffee shops. What was not ideal was that this apartment was now costing us the equivalent of living in the sunnier state of CA in the US and we had no TV, no internet connection and we were paying the utilities. To say we felt like we had been cheated would be putting it mildly.
We tried to chat with the owner, and you guessed it, once she had our hard earned cash she certainly wasn’t going to let that go. She said the bank didn’t allow money to flow in reverse and there was nothing she could do. Really? I wouldn’t let anyone rent from her either.
What have we learned? Never give anyone six months rent in cash, ask exhaustive questions about the rental and the costs that go with it and be prepared to leave the country in question if you don’t get the answers you want. In hind site, and what other kind is there really in this situation, when we were told that we would have to wait a month for a place to live, it would have been better to have left the country in question immediately. And that is what we will do in the future. If we get someplace and things are just not as they were told to us or they don’t seem to be lining up correctly we’ll leave. And it is that easy. This is a great big world and sooner or later someone will want to rent to an expat and treat them fairly. We just didn’t find that to be the case in Scotland.