Regret buying my flat - what should I do?

(35 Posts)
Plantlover101 Mon 08-Aug-16 23:15:51

Hi folks,

Two years ago I bought my first home (in London) and thought I was buying in a decent area that felt reasonably safe, given my tiny budget.

While I love my little flat to bits, it turns out there has been a worsening problem with fly tipping and rubbish dumping in the walkways of the large development where I live which either I didn't notice at first or it wasn't as bad and it got worse over time. sad

Before moving in I viewed the flat three times and went to the neighbourhood on at least two other occasions. Not once did I see anything to suggest a problem.

Furthermore, the guy I was going out with at the time knew the area well and said it was "a solid area".

I moved in and was really happy at first but after a few months I noticed items such as broken chairs, old mattresses etc dumped outside the communal bin stores on the development, which is private land managed by a property management company.

The binmen won't remove it as it is not their job. The council won't remove it as it is private land. So once a week the management company is supposed to remove it, but always leaves some items behind - there was a huge filthy mattress left on the pavement opposite my flat for weeks on end and despite my requests, the management company didn't remove it.

Over time the problem got worse.

Eventually the management co put up fake CCTV cameras and signs warning against fly tipping as a deterrent. (I knew the cameras were fake because the guy at the managing agent's told me.) They won't put up real CCTV "because it costs too much".

However, they left that filthy mattress lying there so I got fed up and rang the council. I organised a meeting with council environmental officers and local police, which the management company attended and an action plan was agreed whereby the council would supply a template letter to the management company to send to all residents warning them about fines for dumping rubbish inappropriately.

Nothing ever happened and the council officer in charge (who came to the meeting) ignores my emails.

With the fake CCTV and warning signs, the problem improved for a few months but now the dumping of rubbish has started again.

I have finally realised I live in a bad pocket of what is otherwise a decent area, and the problem is not going to be resolved any time soon, despite my efforts.

Therefore, if I can't learn to live with it I am going to have to move. I spoke to the local estate agent today, who said the particular street in which I live had "gone downhill in the past couple of years".

However, my lovely neighbours opposite have been there four years and tell me the rubbish dumping has always been a problem.

My pal who lives up north said it "wouldn't bother her", that "everyone is not the same as you" and maybe "you should live and let live".

But I sooooooo regret buying this flat.

It is such a shame, as there are two lovely parks nearby and I live right by the station, so it's an easy commute.

The estate agent said he could "sell it this weekend for £250k", and I am tempted. I bought it for 190k but would have to find somewhere else to live and have been priced out of much of London now, if not all of it.

If I didn't find another place to buy I would be hit with a 5k early exit penalty by my mortgage lender, which would be annoying but not totally unbearable. Then it would be back to renting for not much less than £1000 a month. My mortgage is only £650 pm.

Or rent the place out. But would it be a bad idea to hold on to a property in an area that is going downhill?

Or should I "live and let live" as my friend suggests?

Please help! I feel totally stuck and helpless.

Wooftweetwooftweet Mon 08-Aug-16 23:23:07

If I were you, I'd rent it out. Rent should easily cover the mortgage. Also, if you are not sure we're you want to settle down, then renting would allow you to test drive areas before buying. I wouldn't recommend selling and renting as you would lose that 5k tie in, and also it can be difficult to get back on the ladder when you jump off. Speaking from experience.
But if the only real problem is some fly tipping, then are you making a bigger issue out of something here than the issue actually is? if you are happy there otherwise? Do you know who the culprit is? Is there anything else that can be done?

Flugelpip Mon 08-Aug-16 23:23:48

That sounds really annoying, Plantlover. I wouldn't listen to the estate agent too much as he sounds as if he has someone lined up for an easy sale and just wants the commission (but maybe that's me being cynical). Maybe you need to write down the things you really like about the flat (which sounds great!) and fall in love with it again. You seem to have done tons of research into the place so don't feel you made a mistake. London is full of fly-tipping - DH once found a pig's head in front of our old flat...

wobblywonderwoman Mon 08-Aug-16 23:27:39

I regretted buying my first home. I was only 23 and borrowed the deposit pretending it was a car loan and took a weekend job.

It was really cheap.

Yours sounds good - commutable. I would rent it out but I get what you're saying - you would still have to pay more in rent somewhere else.

Can you meet the management committee. Surely they need real CCTV and police warnings/ fines.

Nightmanagerfan Mon 08-Aug-16 23:30:52

Hello. I'm sorry to hear about the fly-tipping, I am in a very similar situation in London. We have had some success forming a residents association and getting this formally recognised and then having a meeting wire the local councilor who is in charge of estates in the area. They have taken it more seriously since then, though I do see stuff dumped at least weekly - including the contents of a night club that had shut down recently, fridge, staging etc! Nightmare.

Plantlover101 Tue 09-Aug-16 11:57:58

Thanks for your replies.

Wooftweet Yes, I could rent it out. Which means that I wouldn't lose the 5k early exit charge on my mortgage - but the EA said my 87 year lease would need renewing in the next year or two if I am looking to sell soon at a cost of about £7-8k, so it is swings and roundabouts. But if I were to sell it now he could still get a decent price for it, he says.

I don't know who the fly-tipping culprit is and it is not just one person - there are a number of people doing it - and I think it's mostly residents unfortunately.

Flugelpip: A pig's head? Ugh, that is disgusting! Which part of London was your DH in?

I do love my flat and once I'm through the front door I am really happy in it, the nearby parks are a big plus, and the station is just a five minute walk. I am priced out everywhere else anyway - I just looked on Rightmove and places in other relatively cheap areas I was looking at two to three years ago are beyond my reach now. So depressing.

It does comfort me a bit to hear that London is full of fly tipping.

My biggest regret is missing out on a flat not far away from where I live now but in a much nicer street (no fly tipping there) and with a 180 year lease or something and no service charge. I offered too low at the time (It was on at 200k and I offered 180k on the advice of a friend) and didn't get a chance to up my offer as they just sold it to a competing bidder for 10k more. I have lived to regret that decision. And now this one too.

Wobblywonderwoman: Why did you regret buying your first home? Glad I am not the only one though! Are you happier where you are now?

The police say fly tipping is not their department, that is for the local council to sort out.

Nightmanagerfan: Do you mind if I PM you? What you've said has given me some hope. Your situation is similar to mine - stuff dumped weekly. I am always ringing up the managing agent to complain.

Wooftweetwooftweet Tue 09-Aug-16 12:52:41

The lease thing isn't totally true. Sounds Like the estate agent is really pushing you to sell. We bought our London flat which at the time had 77 years left on the lease. It wasn't an issue and we extended the lease when we sold to bring it back up to 100 years. I think it was about 8k too. You could easily sell now or in 5 years without the lease length having any impact on the sale price.
Generally any bank will mortgage a property with 70+ years left on the lease.

specialsubject Tue 09-Aug-16 14:06:02

Renting it out to cover the mortgage - fine if all the other costs stack up and you are up for the hassle.

JinkxMonsoon Tue 09-Aug-16 14:12:02

I'd cut my losses and sell. Personally I couldn't handle the hassle and expense of being a landlord.

MaterofDragons Tue 09-Aug-16 14:20:37

I would rent elsewhere for now.
According to MSE 80 years is the magic number so you're ok for now:
www.moneysavingexpert.com/mortgages/extend-your-lease

YelloDraw Tue 09-Aug-16 15:08:36

but the EA said my 87 year lease would need renewing in the next year or two if I am looking to sell soon at a cost of about £7-8k, so it is swings and roundabouts.

The longer you leave it, the more expensive it is. You probably want to renew it in a couple of years time i.e. about year 83 or 84.

MSE and other sites have a good guide on how to go about getting renewal and costs.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon Tue 09-Aug-16 15:11:46

Can you set up a residents association? Be the change you want and all that? Get better residents relationships, encourage others to take a pride in the communal areas, etc?

wobblywonderwoman Tue 09-Aug-16 15:13:00

I regretted it because I bought it half an hour from where I socialise and 50 minutes from work (also a bit too close to parents who would comment on me not taking the bin out or similar )

But I sold and rented a room in a shared house. I went to South America travelling and came home and put a deposit on a house in an area I love. I met dh few years later. We have since bought a wreck that we have renovated and it'd lovely now. We got it cheap and I've rented out the other house.

EnriqueTheRingBearingLizard Tue 09-Aug-16 15:15:26

I'd second contacting your local councillor or councillors.

Two thins strike me from your posts OP
>>with a 180 year lease or something and no service charge<<
I don't think I'd ever buy a flat without a recognized service charge. All buildings cost to run and maintain and I'm suspicious of any flats that don't have a regular amount paid into a management fund, you could be hit for thousands in one go.

Secondly, you love inside your flat, it's conveniently located, you enjoy the parks and it's affordable. Those are all huge plus points.

I'd stay put for now but spend more time pressuring both the managing agents and the local councillors.

IrenetheQuaint Tue 09-Aug-16 15:18:18

Tbh most cheapish flats in London will have some sort of issue like this. It sounds unpleasant, but I'm not sure how it really affects your daily life? Are you sure you're not making too much of it?

alazuli Tue 09-Aug-16 15:33:04

I agree with IrenetheQuaint. I'm looking at cheap flats in London and there's always at least 1 thing wrong with them. OP in your case it seems the positives outweigh the negatives. Don't let this ruin your experience of owning your first home.

Flugelpip Tue 09-Aug-16 15:54:08

Plantlover we lived on a very nice street in a nice bit of Wandsworth that frequently had something lurking on it - a mattress, an old fridge, a cooker and the famous pig's head! The weirdest thing was that he saw it early one morning and a couple of hours later it was GONE. Horrendous.

I think your issue isn't so much with the flytipping but with the management company who sound utterly shit and must be very frustrating. They should be clearing everything away and if it costs them to do it then it's worth their while to spend more on putting people off doing it. One real CCTV camera and a sign promising a £1000 fine for anyone caught dumping stuff would end the problem.

I am very suspicious of that estate agent... I would buy something lovely for your flat that you can look at and feel happy about, so you rediscover your sense of pride in owning your own place. It is a great achievement these days. When you've zoomed up the property ladder to your dream home you'll look back on this flat with great affection, I promise you.

SauvignonPlonker Tue 09-Aug-16 19:32:27

IME, having lived in 6 different homes, is that there is ALWAYS a compromise when you buy. & live in a property.

You could sell up & find somewhere "ideal" only for noisy neighbours to move in 2 months later. Or a minor repair uncovers major works costing 20k.

Or you could move out, rent it to seemingly- great tenants, who proceed to wreck the place & you have to go through an expensive eviction process.

If your flat is ideal in other ways, then the compromise might be fly-tipping.

Is it really that much of a deal-breaker?

FenellaMaxwell Tue 09-Aug-16 19:42:45

The thing is, if you rent it out then the tenants will probably complain to you, the landlord about fly tipping so I am not sure you'd be any better off I'm afraid.

Hufflepuffin Wed 10-Aug-16 08:12:09

Do you have a contract with the management company? I wonder you'd be able to take them to small claims court if you kept a dated photo record of every bit of rubbish and every request to move it. I have no idea but worth a try!

panegyricS1 Wed 10-Aug-16 09:48:46

The council person is ignoring your emails? Print them out and send them, with a strong complaint letter, to the head of the council.

Keep on at the management company until they're sick of you, and do something about it just to shut you up! Proper cctv is needed.

Being a landlord is a hassle and your tenants are likely to complain or to move, given the problem. You'd just be swapping one headache for another.

heron98 Wed 10-Aug-16 11:39:59

I have to agree with your friend - personally if I liked the flat and the area in general the fly tipping wouldn't bother me.

But I live in a very messy student area that's full of sofas and mattresses. I would rather it were tidier of course, but we have a nice house we couldn't afford elsewhere and I love where we are so I can overlook it.

Nothing is perfect and if everything else is OK I would try and overlook it.

Plantlover101 Wed 10-Aug-16 12:20:35

Hi, thanks for all these comments - hearing a fresh perspective on things really helps.

Re the EA, I might have misrepresented him. He did mention the 80-year "marriage value" cut-off (which I'd already read about on Martin Lewis's website). The gist of what he said was that the lease is now at 87 years, meaning that if I sold now I would still get a reasonable price.

If I wait 3 or 4 years, flats with a lower lease are harder to sell, and any buyer will want a hefty discount. Or I will have to pay ££££s for a lease extension.

On the other hand, from what I'm reading on MN the London market has stalled because of uncertainty over Brexit.

Thanks to those who recommended badgering the management company. Their contractor who clears the rubbish away moans about the cost of it and makes me feel I'm being a nuisance.

I pay total charges on the property of £1,660 a year, of which the service charge is £1,356. If every flat owner (including landlords who rent to tenants) pays the same, the managing company must in theory be getting £108k a year in service charges, yet I received a copy of their accounts the other day and they reckon their income in service charges is only 17k. They spent 19k maintaining the grounds and building, so are 2k down. I am baffled! Surely there are more than 16 leaseholders paying service charges on some 80 properties?

They only come to collect stuff that's been dumped once a week. Is that reasonable or unreasonable? I really don't know.

To those who've wondered if I'm making too much of it, I have wondered this too. However, I'm not the only one who's upset about it because the management company told me that other residents complain.

If it was the odd chair or fridge sitting there it honestly wouldn't bother me, but dumped items on a weekly basis include old laminate flooring, old kitchen units, sofas, old white goods, mattresses, bin liners whose contents are spilling out - nappies, cans, assorted food waste - you name it. These items are in the main walkways and you sometimes have to tiptoe through or round it.

There is a tip a couple of miles away but people don't bother to take their unwanted items there or pay someone to dispose of them responsibly, so leave them in the grounds to be removed for free. There is no way they would get away with it in the surrounding residential streets, which is council land.

When I had my old carpets replaced, I paid Carpetright extra to dispose of them properly - I would not dream of dumping them in my neighbourhood. Others, it seems, do not have such concerns. This is what upsets me.

In our beautiful park people think nothing of dumping bin bags full of rubbish which are then strewn across the grass. Why?????? I genuinely don't understand.

I came out of the local Co-op one day and saw a woman drop a piece of paper on the pavement. I picked it up (thinking I was helping her) and said: "I think you've dropped this," to which she replied, "Oh, it's okay, I don't want it." The bin was not even yards away. I couldn't believe it.

There are decent people on my estate, like my nice neighbours, but unfortunately there are a good number of people like this litter lout.

Maybe I am just a grumpy old woman. At this rate, I will be moving to Singapore, where the streets are pristine. grin

Plantlover101 Wed 10-Aug-16 12:30:52

Flugelpip - so it happens even in "naice" areas. At least the pig's head disappeared swiftly. Curiouser and curiouser, lols!

Hufflepuffin - I will investigate this possibility. I think I will end up going to the Citizens Advice Bureau in the end anyway.

I take the point also from PPs that if I rented the place out, good tenants would quickly move on and I would be left with the kind of people I wouldn't want.

Thanks everyone - all of your comments are really helping believe it or not!

GerdaLovesLili Wed 10-Aug-16 12:34:59

I too have a flat in London. The difference is that I have owned mine for 22 years. It had got gradually worse and worse with all the issues you have mentioned and more. (Drug dealing violence, knives, matresses, crappy nappies regularly thrown over the back wall into the park. etc.) And the council and police either don't care or can't cope. There seems to be a tipping point where things will not be able to improve once more than about half the properties are rented rather than owned. The renters think their landlords are responsible for every little thing, they don't care about their gardens or even other little things that would take five minutes to make look better, and the landlords only care about the money and don't care who they allow to rent the property.
We used to be able to keep the common areas looking nice, all taking turns to do a bit of weeding or picking up the small amount of litter arrived. But now only 8 out of 24 of the flats are owner occupied, the renters couldn't give a shit, and we are overwhelmed with all of the issues you mention.

We are all planning to sell and move. We can't cope any more. Bye bye London. I won't miss you.

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