Tag Archives: moving

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10 things impending homelessness is teaching me

It’s looking increasingly likely that our family will experience a brief period of homelessness after this Sunday. We’ve known about our impending exit from our current address for a couple of frustrating months, and a couple of housing options for us have either fallen over at the last hurdle, or been rabbit holes of non-feasibility. So we’ve spent the last two weeks frantically searching for rentals that are suitable for our soon to be numerically growing family.

Here are ten things this experience has taught me. So far.

1. We have too much stuff. I have no idea how we accumulated so much gear, but trying to pack it all up is driving me nuts. Why do we have so many unused platters that we were given as wedding presents, and two sets of cutlery still boxed? There’s not even any sentimentality attached to this stuff. It just is. It exists. It occupies space. It is a non-liquid asset that is almost impossible to turn into something that looks like its value.

2. Getting rid of stuff is only slightly easier than moving it. The garage sale fiasco taught me this, and again, the sort of return on investment you get for selling stuff second hand makes it hard to justify parting with anything that has even a modicum of utility.

3. Real Estate Agents are not really interested in the renter. We’re at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to their customer base (sellers, buyers, owners, renters).

4. Renting sucks. $400+ a week to rent a house that essentially has no kitchen is ridiculous. The uncertainty of life in a place that isn’t your own is starting to drive me nuts. We were verbally offered a year extension on this place with no rent increase, then a offered a modified (written) year with a $15/week increase, then a six month increase – before we managed to get our paperwork in. It’d be nice not to have to worry about other people’s whims.

5. Moving sucks. We don’t even particularly like this house – we love our neighbours. But the time sink involved in searching for a house, inspecting houses, applying for houses, organising to move your stuff, packing, and unpacking, is an awful experience with no real redeeming features.

6. It’s not really possible to do anything else well during the “moving” period. I’m meant to be preaching the next two Sundays. I’m not in the headspace to produce anything beyond the obvious.

7. Uncertainty is awful. We’ve spent the last five days (including the long weekend – so I don’t blame them) waiting for real estate agents to call us back on a couple of applications. It’d be easier knowing for sure that we don’t have a house after Sunday. The anxiety of phone calls (or emails) not coming is worse than having a clear problem that needs solving.

8. Good friends and family are a blessing. While this week is rapidly driving us insane, it’d be much worse without the help of friends and family who have come round to help us pack, move furniture, or just to hang out at our garage sale. I don’t know how people live without the sort of community being united in Jesus provides.

9. Tough and stressful stuff gets in the way of the big picture. It’s easy to get so down about this (hopefully) temporary hiccup in the life of our family that we forget to be thankful for what we’ve got – a marriage based on love and promises made to stick through this sort of misadventure, a wonderful daughter who brings us joy even as we clean, a church family who offer tangible and intangible support, and friends to temporarily live with if all else fails.

10. There’s no place like home. For those of us who trust Jesus, the comfort and security of the houses we turn into homes is a taste of what’s to come. Eternal security in the house Jesus is preparing for us. Security and comfort now is shadow of a future reality. I wish I could keep this in perspective.

Here’s what Jesus says in John 14… It’s good advice for the present, and for keeping focused on what’s important.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come backand take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Moving out of your rental property? Need a Bond Cleaner? Avoid Brisbane Property Solutions

So our move from suburb to suburb within Brisbane has been somewhat protracted. Partly because of the incredible incompetence of our bond cleaners. We used Brisbane Property Solutions. They rank well on google. They are endorsed by a bunch of real estate agents (all of whom will be receiving an email with a link to this page). They offered an expensive, but according to their website, comprehensive, bond cleaning service. Backed with a “bond guarantee” and an intangible “satisfaction guarantee”

Thorough clean?

We knew our property was dirty – that’s why we hired professionals. It had copped some water in a storm before we moved in, and had some reoccurring mould problems. The walls were a bit dirty. The floor copped a pounding during the move – because we moved when it was wet, so there was some mud on our dining room floor.

Here’s what Brisbane Property Solutions says about themselves (all spelling mistakes their own):

“Our move out cleans are carried out by dedicated mobile teams of cleaning profesionals who specialise in properties in need of a thorough deep clean either at the end of a tenancy or before the start of one. Our teams are equipped with all the necessary cleaning products, tools and equipment to undertake your move in/out clean in the fastest possible time frame with an eye for detail that is unrivaled by our competition.”

This sounds like these guys will deliver the product they offer, on time, and with a certain eye for quality and detail. And “necessary cleaning tools”… so one would assume that a standard sized house, with a bit of mess, would fall within the normal terms. Or so we thought.

As it turned out – our house had some unforeseen issues – including a dead, and badly decomposed rat, which they found sitting on top of one of our kitchen cabinets. The oven was messy, as a result of a fire which we attempted to put out with flour. But we’ll get to that. Lets keep breaking down the claims on the site:

“We understand how important it is for you to have your property professionally cleaned and checked prior to moving out. We have carried out thousands of move out cleans in Brisbane and know how to satisfy landlords and Real Estate agents. We have created an extensive checklist (Below) outlining all of the standards required by letting agents to assist our move out/in cleaning crews.

Book this service with us and you can be rest assured that every square inch of your property will be professionally cleaned and polished its not just a promise … It`s our guarentee !

Sounds good. Especially the bits I bolded.

“Don’t forget that our move out cleaning service is fully guaranteed and insured – if you are not entirely happy with the job we’ve done then we’ll come back and rectify any issues free of charge within 48 hours of completion ! Because getting your Bond Back and your Satisfaction is our number one priority !

Brisbane Property Solutions currently works with in excess of 30 real estate agents & property managers throughout and as such we are real estate preffered suppliers for services.”

A 48 hour period was a bit out of the question for us – but we were pretty confident on the basis of the above words, and the checklist, that we wouldn’t need it.

So we called to book. And despite the website listing the costs as:

Bond/Deep/Construction/Pre-Sale Cleaning Services 1 Cleaner 2 Cleaners (Recommended)
3 Bedroom Property $299 (6hrs Labour) $349 (8 hrs Labour)

We were told the second cleaner was required for the purposes of the guarantee – and that the price listed did not include GST. Despite their Customer Service Agreement stating that all prices are inclusive of GST:

“5. All prices that are displayed on our website are inclusive of GST, Chemicals and the labour of the required staff unless otherwise specified.”

Other relevant clauses in different sections of that document include:

“3. If at the commencement or during the course of providing a service or services, it is apparent that the actual cost of the Service will exceed the quote provided by BPS, BPS will provide the Customer with an option to pay an increased amount to complete the Service, or pay the quoted amount without the Service being fully completed.

4. The Customer must inform BPS whether any cleaning services required are for an ‘end of tenancy or move out clean’ at the time of quotation.”

And:

“6. The customer agrees that unless BPS has deemed a job complete our customer satisfaction guarantee is thereby nil and void. In the instance a customer books only the minimum time period i.e.: 3hours of an end of lease clean and more time/service is required we will not guarantee our work as we have not completed and signed off on its completion.”

On the booking page there is the following disclaimer:

“Please Note:Prices are exclusive of GST. If additional services are required ie: carpet cleaning or pest control additional charges will apply. The above Hours of Labour are calculated as an average of labour required to complete an average sized bond clean – Prices may vary depending on the size & condition of your property. Brisbane Property Solutions offers a 100% customer satisfaction guarentee – Please refer to our customer service agreement for further information.”

This time they say prices are exclusive of GST. But intriguingly, offer this “100% satisfaction guarentee (sic).”

So we booked the second cleaner, at the already increased price of $389. And arranged to leave the front door of our now vacant property unlocked. They were unavailable on our preferred date – so our carpets were steam cleaned before they arrived. By a different company – who performed their job adequately (though not brilliantly).

Our cleaner called at approximately 7am to inform us that our house was a big job, and to attempt to claim that our study, quite a narrow room with a built in desk and bookshelves, was actually a bedroom. Which was odd, because there is no room in that room for a bed. She also informed us that she would not be cleaning the cement rendered walls in the kitchen, and the glossy rendered wall in the dining room because she didn’t want to damage them. These were the two messiest walls because they were home to our turtle tank, and coffee machine, respectively – and they were a large part of the reason we booked the cleaners.

So much for having the “necessary tools”. She told us they’d found the rat, and that the oven was dirty, and they’d spent a long time just on the kitchen and bathroom. I said we really wanted to make sure the walls and floors were done, and mentioned that our carpets had already been steam cleaned.

A few hours later she rang back to say that the only work she could guarantee was the kitchen and bathroom, and she asked what we wanted as the allocated time was drawing to a close, and she had to go off to do a private cleaning job in the afternoon. I said I wanted to make sure the walls and floors were done. She said that she was worried that it didn’t look like much had actually been done. I said I would get back to her about booking additional time at an obscene hourly rate. After that phone call ended I weighed up the costs involved, and sent the cleaner a text message asking if two hours would be enough for her to have the place looking like something had been done. She rang back, and in the phone conversation I stressed, again, that we wanted the floors done, and we wanted it to look like we had spent some money on a cleaner. I authorised the additional work on that basis. Phoning Lisa, at the company’s head office. I would later have an incredible conversation with Lisa, which I recorded, where she spends an amount of time insulting me for missing their 48 hour guarantee period…

Time passed. I did not hear back from the company at the end of that period. There was no inkling given that the walls and floors had not been completed.

On Saturday we had our first real opportunity to drive across town to check out the state of the place, and clean the rendered walls. We bought some cleaning gear for those, and opened the front door. I think there might be a mark on the landing from where my jaw hit when it dropped. This is a story best told in pictures.

Here is the list of jobs the company claims to undertake in a standard bond clean:

ENTRY
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Screens Dust & Wash down
Light Fittings Dust & Wash light shades removing all bugs
Floor Mop/Vacuum paying particular attention to all edges & corners
LOUNGE/DINING ROOM
Doors/Walls/Skirtings Dust & Wash down
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe down – For stains consult your proffesional
Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all fans
Power/Light Switches Wipe over with damp cloth
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
KITCHEN
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Screens Dust & Wash, ensure all oil & grease is removed
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe – Stains consult your proffesional
Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all fans
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
Cupboards/Drawers Vacuum inside & clean inside & Out -Wipe down doors
Benches/Tilings/Splashbacks Wipe down with spray and scrub stubborn stains if needed
Sink/Disposal unit/Taps Clean & Remove any build up stains ( Jif works well) rinse thoroughly
Stove top/Grill Remove all oil & grease, ensure all rims are cleaned (oven cleaner works well)
Oven Use oven cleaner scrub well, ensure any residue is removed
Exhaust Fan/Range hood Clean all filters with oven cleaner and hot water
Dishwasher Wipe inside & out remove filter and clean complete final clean with empty load
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
BEDROOM / S
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Screens Dust & Wash down
Door Frames/Wardrobe tracks Vacuum & wipe over with damp cloth if have mirrors clean leaving no streaks / smudges
Wardrobe/Drawers/Shelves Vacuum & Wipe over with damp cloth scrub walls inside if needed
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe with clean damp cloth and water if necessary
Exhaust Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all exhaust fans
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
BATHROOM / S
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Tiling Dust & Wash down
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe clean – Consult your proffesional for stains
Exhaust Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wipe all light shades removing all bugs
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
Bath Clean thoroughly using bath cleaner
Shower/Shower Screen Clean thoroughly removing any build up
Basin/Vanity Clean thoroughly & vacuum all draws
Mirrors/Cabinets Vacuum as necessary & wipe out. Polish mirror with window cleaner & paper towels
Towel rails Wipe over with damp cloth
Toilet (doors/walls/floor) Clean with stripping agent & rinse thoroughly Remove Seat & Clean
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
LAUNDRY
Doors/Walls/Skirtings Dust & Wash down
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe with clean damp cloth and water if necessary
Exhaust Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all exhaust fans
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
Wash tubs & cupboards under Vacuum & Wash remove pieces of soap, scale & lint
Washing Machine/Dryer Wipe & Vacuum inside & out
GENERAL
Balcony/Deck Sweep away dust & cobwebs, mop if needed clean windows ensuring no streaks / smudges
Garage/Storeroom Sweep out , Wash walls
Staircases/Railings Remove all cobwebs & wipe down with damp cloth

And as you’ll see from this gallery, we’ve every reason to be disappointed with the results. We understand it was a big job, but we purchased the additional time with particular instructions regarding what we wanted done. And it wasn’t…

Tomorrow, I’ll share a follow up post with my interactions with the company since. There’s plenty to learn from in terms of what not to do so far as customer service is concerned.

10 new house resolutions

We’re probably half way through unpacking our boxes and setting up our new house. Losing some built in bookshelves means this process may take a little while – but in the meantime we’re figuring out what life in a new house, with a new family member, should look like.

Here are some resolutions we’ve made as we’ve unpacked, and arranged, our array of earthly possessions.

1. No clutter. If it doesn’t have a home – it’s gone, if we haven’t used it recently, and its not sentimentally valuable, aesthetically pleasing, or incredibly useful in a particular situation – then it’s gone.
2. No paper (see the post from the other day).
3. No “rainy day” kitchenware – the crystal glasses, and fancy cutlery, the punch bowl and cake tray (it’s a combined thing), and the platters – are out of their boxes and ready for use. Some have been in those boxes for 8 years, as 21st presents. If we don’t use them – see point 1. We will be having fondu in the next few weeks…
4. Books, DVDs, media things, belong downstairs. Only one will be brought up at a time.
5. Efficient storage. Robyn loves organising things. She has a label maker, and is ready to use it.
6. Open house – we want to have people around, to share our house with others. This has always been our policy, but we’ll be a little more proactive. We have a guest room. Come and stay.
7. Tidy house – one of the inhibiting factors for 6. in the past, has been mess. If we keep things tidier, as planned, having people over will be easier.
8. Regular cleaning of incidental stuff – one of the worst parts of moving out is doing those cleaning jobs you never do – behind furniture, in cupboards, all that stuff… we’ll try to tackle these on a more regular basis.
9. Neighbourly relationships – we really enjoyed living next to good, long term, friends in the last two years. We’ve already started to strike up a bit of a rapport with our neighbours in this new place. We’re thinking about copying my parents and holding street gatherings.
10. To the cloud – wherever possible files and stuff will be scanned and uploaded. Books will be electronic. Music will be digital. Movies will be streamed. Part of this is related to point 2. But not bringing in physical stuff that needs to be shelved is a big paradigm shift for me, and a bit of a sacrifice – I like tactile stuff.

A moving day

Yesterday we bid farewell to our home of two years. It was idiosyncratic and mould ridden, but it was familiar. We also, thanks to a bunch of willing helpers, said hello to our new home, in Camp Hill.

Which is reasonably well set up upstairs (though has a minuscule kitchen), and full of boxes of stuff downstairs.

Blogging will be sporadic in the next few days as we finish up the cleaning at the old place, and the setting up at the new – and as we rely on mobile broadband for interwebs.

We’re glad to be in our new house, and looking forward to this year, and the dust settling.

If you’re in the neighbourhood, and have my number, drop by for a coffee. If you don’t have my number and want to drop by, shoot me an email or something, and if you’re not too weird, we’ll sort something out. There’s plenty of room here for interstate and international visitors too.

All quiet

Thanks to some helpful friends we’re almost settled in to our new place.

Today was full of paperwork. Centrelink is painful. We spent 3 hours in the line and the waiting area.

We checked out the college, I watched a recording of Manchester United beating Arsenal, we bought some pot plants and had dinner with my folks… and we are internetless at home currently. So you’ll have to excuse the slow posting over the next few days.

We have arrived

We’re “home”. Well, home for the next four years. After two days of exhausting driving we have arrived safely in Brisbane. We’ll be unloading the truck at our new house in Grovely tomorrow morning if anybody reading really wants to swing by to help.

Moving day

We left Townsville at lunch time today. We were going to leave first thing this morning, but our removalist no showed yesterday (they called to tell us at 3pm).

It’ll be sporadic blogging only today and tomorrow.

I used my phone for this post.

I’m officially unemployed…

As of 5.30pm yesterday I am officially no longer employed in the secular workforce. My employment status in the unsecular workforce is undetermined (I have to fill out some forms and get a medical before the Presbyterian Church will pay me to be a student).

We’re leaving for Brisbane on Thursday, we should arrive on Friday. We still have some packing and cleaning to do, and myriad farewells and goodbyes to say.

I loved my job at Townsville Enterprise. I’ll miss both the work and the people.

I scored a good bit of swag in the leaving process. It’s a strange thing that employers give gifts to people who leave and not to those who stay. I scored a watch, my iPhone and some cufflinks. I was blown away by the generosity of my employers and the nice things they said about me.

I managed to keep my tough guy veneer in check though.

Unemployment does have its benefits though – I can now say whatever I want about people, places and businesses in Townsville – and will be doing so with my own hottest 100 (things to do in Townsville) which I’ll start writing in the car as we drive to Brisbane.

Realty Check

Robyn shared some of our moving woes in her post yesterday. Not to be outdone I wrote a complaint letter. Complete with thinly veiled threats that only a PR person working for one of Townsville’s most publicised organisations can get away with…

To give some context – this is a copy of the letter the Real Estate Agent sent us yesterday:

Dear Robyn and Nathan,

Re: Our address

As per phone conversation today, you have been advised that an extension to vacate has been declined.

We respectfully wish to advise that if you do not hand keys back on the 27/01/2010, we have been instructed by the Lessor to lodge a claim against you with the Small Claims Tribunal, this will also go against your permanent rental history.

You were notified on the 26/11/2009 that you had to hand the keys back on the 27/01/2010.

Please feel free to contact the office if you require further information in relation to this matter.

Yours Faithfully,

J0hn Gr1bb1n Realty PTY LTD.

Here ’tis. I’ve replaced some letters with numbers just to avoid this coming up on google in the next few days. Once we’re out of there I’ll change it back for the world to see.

Dear J0hn Gr1bb1n, Karen Ernest and any other relevant staff,

Following a further phone call today regarding our exit of the property at <address> I thought I should put an official response in writing on the record.

My wife Robyn and I have been tenants at the Diprose Street Property since August 2007. We have paid the rent on time every week, have had the property inspected regularly with only minor issues to be corrected after each inspection (eg the dusting of a fan, floor mats under chairs etc). Despite one (I believe) official written warning about the placement of our wheelie bins on the curb, I consider us to have been good tenants who are above reproach.

The same could not be said of our lessor. I wish to place this note on the record – but would ask that it not be mentioned to the landlord until we have vacated the property. I am concerned that if the decision is left up to him we will not receive our due bond back after vacating the property, and I will be carefully documenting any discussions regarding our bond in order to make a case with the RTA if I feel these concerns are warranted.

We have reported minimal maintenance issues in our time in the property – and when we have the response has been less than timely on the behalf of the lessor.

For example, our rangehood cover detached within two months of us occupying the property due to some construction issues – a cupboard door opens into the range hood and disturbs it (we did not mistreat or “swing off” the cover as alleged by our landlord). Despite our timely reporting of this issue the maintenance has not taken place some years later.

We reported a dripping hot water tap in our shower which was not fixed for over a month – costing us money in electricity bills.

Living on site with the landlord has proved a terrible experience – so much so that I will be doing all that I can to make people aware of the situation at Diprose Street. I am not without resources in this department (as you might surmise from my signature block). Let me give you some examples of situations that have been less than professionally handled by our lessor – to the point that I requested that if he must address us in person he address me, and not my wife. Based on some telephone exchanges with your staff over the years I surmise that some of them feel similarly about dealing with the lessor in question.

Some time ago one of the other tenants in the property had a fire, their barbeque caught alight and caused some damage to the property. The lessor, when conducting maintenance on a dripping toilet, told us about the situation. And then yelled at us in a threatening manner about how these properties were his, he built them, and how he would not tolerate damage of this nature.

My wife’s father is a mechanic by trade, and on a visit (about 18 months ago) he changed the oil on my car. He is also a farmer and has a disposal barrel for oil and waste on the farm. He took the oil home with him to dispose of carefully, leaving a drip tray next to our bins on the garden bed to be disposed of in the wheelie bin the following week. Our lessor jumped to the conclusion that we had poured the oil in the garden bed. Berating my wife with an abusive and aggressive tone (leaving her close to tears) and refusing to listen to any response. He promised to monitor the trees and extract the money from us if they died. There has been no subsequent apology or acknowledgment that he was incorrect in his assumption.

These standover tactics are uncalled for – and not fitting of the lessor/lessee arrangement. This is just a snapshot of life at <address> and serves to explain the trepidation we feel regarding our bond handover and the disappointment we felt upon receiving your letter dated 15 January 2010. The phone call referred to in paragraph one of the letter included a promise from myself to pay whatever amount is generated by us overstaying our lease by one day. The threat (attributed to the Lessor in the letter) to lodge a claim against us to the Small Claims Tribunal seems unnecessary and heavy handed, as does a threat to tarnish our permanent rental history on his behalf.

While I agree that we were notified on the 26th of the 11th regarding the date for us to hand our keys back there are mitigating circumstances in our request for a one day extension. We are relocating to Brisbane. The removalist we selected after obtaining a series of quotes (which we started doing early in the piece) closed down over the Christmas Period and only reopened last Wednesday. They had not advised us of their ability to collect our belongings on our preferred date (the 25th of January) prior to closing for Christmas – and it was not until last week that we learned they were unable to make the collection until the 27th. We are seeking to do the right thing by our Lessor, and by you, by having the carpets and blinds professionally cleaned after our furniture is removed. This is not possible until the afternoon of the 27th (we have booked both services). I believe a one day extension in this case is not only reasonable but warranted. The refusal, on behalf of the lessor, seems petty. But I would expect no less having lived under his gaze, and spoken to fellow tenants, over the past two years.

Please be advised that if the situation regarding our bond, the Small Claims Tribunal, or our rental history transpires in a less than adequate manner I will be using whatever means I have at my disposal to make our dissatisfaction with the process a matter of the public record. I do not want any future tenants to experience the pain we have without fair warning.

Yours Sincerely,

Nathan Campbell
Corporate Communications Executive
T0wnsvi11e Enterprise Limited

Pack to the future

The packing has started. We’ve only got three weeks left in Townsville and we’re destined to spend those days surrounded by boxes, packing tape and piles of stuff.

I went to bed last night thinking that today was the day I’d be back at work – but I woke up, dressed, and then remembered that I had booked today off as part of my Christmas break.

Blogging is likely to be sporadic both in work hours and after work as I tie up loose ends here and there.

Robyn has set herself the rather ambitious challenge of packing one room per day while I’m at work.