I really do need to update about this because it's moving a lot quicker than anticipated, so...
On 16th May, we found out that the tenancy on our house is not being renewed for a further term, because the landlord is intending to turn ours and our neighbour's property into a children's home. (Or something, TBH I'm not that clear about the details.) I actually feel worse for the neighbours because they've been in their house for eight years and have kids, and it's always a much greater upheaval when there are children involved (I know this keenly from working where I do...) Understandably, we were both quite upset about it because we were promised we could stay in the house for at least five years, and it will have been three by the time the tenancy ends in July.
Paul received the news at lunchtime and then told me when I got home, and I think for the first ten minutes or so I was just in shock, before I had a meltdown. I was off sick the following day because it had triggered a migraine and TBH I just needed a day to process it all. Had another meltdown on Friday morning over the thought of potentially having to move a washing machine/fridge, but overall we are both coping with it much better this time around. Three years is not really long enough to get overly attached to a house, and the main reason we wanted it was because it was big - if we'd had more time when moving it probably wouldn't have been our first choice.
Anyway, our current agent (Ash) is really good and he promised to sort out a property for us. Initially he said he had some renewals coming up and if any of them were leaving we would have first refusal; he has since offered one that's in the process of being refurbished, and if we like it we wouldn't have to pay fees / deposit because he would just move us over to it wholesale. So basically he's doing what any decent agent should do and I hope he's doing similar for the other family as well.
Also, at least this time I am not simultaneously dealing with chronic health issues so I am much more mentally able to deal with it. Conveniently, letting agent fees are also being abolished as of 1st June, so the timing is pretty good.
We went to view a property on Tuesday (21st May) which is a four-minute drive from our current place. It would involve three buses to get to work but the first would only be a very quick journey into Blackheath. We really liked it and the agent / rep we spoke to appeared upfront with us about the fees issue - we asked outright what they would be and he assured us there would be no fees and the agency would not attempt to do a hard sell to get us to sign the contract before 1st June. We filled in the application knowing that we also had some other viewings lined up, including the one with our current agent.
On Saturday we went to Pride for the first time in years because we were marching to represent BCC's LGBT+ and Allies network (which was awesome) and Paul received a call from the agent saying we could have the house if we wanted it. As it was a bank holiday we wouldn't be able to do anything with it until Tuesday.
So, yesterday the agent sent over the application form, which still had all the fees listed on it. Paul rang them up to ask them what that was about and they said we had two options: one was that they would call the landlord and see if he was willing to pay the fees, and the other was that we could wait until Saturday but someone else might get the house in the meantime. We agreed to wait until Saturday because the rep at the viewing categorically stated there would not be any fees to pay. Paul then rang them back to say as much and actually managed to speak to the rep we saw at the viewing, who was very cagey and unhelpful over the phone.
There also appeared to be a £180 charge just for using their website and when Paul asked what that was for / whether it was refundable, the rep was completely unable to answer because the team who knew about it were "in a meeting", and suggested we should just pay it and they'd tell us what it was for later.
So at that point we decided it was probably best not to rent from them because we didn't trust a single thing that had come out of the rep's mouth at the viewing. We had what we thought was a very open discussion with him about, for example, the fact that the place wouldn't get redecorated and painted magnolia (it had some nice wallpaper / interesting colours), or that they'd put our washing machine "in storage" if the landlord wasn't willing to swap his out. After the fees debacle I was fully expecting to move in and find the place "neutral" and that we would never see our washing machine again. :P
Anyway, thankfully we also had another viewing lined up yesterday for a house in Oldbury, just off the Hagley Road. It's a bit smaller than our current property but it's delightfully quirky with plenty of storage space, and we actually got to meet the landlady as well as the agent. She seemed lovely; we had a joke about Leo ("It depends how big the cat is - is it a tiger?") and she even told us that there were two big dogs in the house next door. We put in an offer for it on the bus on the way home and this morning found out they had accepted it, so we've now paid the holding fee.
The rent is higher than our current place, but I won't need my train pass once it expires in January so that'll save me £20 anyway; I'm happy to pay a bit more if it reduces my journey time to and from work, and it's only 5 minutes out of Bearwood and on the 9 route so definitely more accessible. There's a good row of shops a few minutes' walk away (opposite the Toby Carvery), plus both Quinton and Bearwood a short bus journey away.
We initially asked for a 36-month tenancy but the landlady wants 12 months in the first instance in case we're dodgy, which is fair enough - she has assured the agent that it's definitely a long-term let, so hopefully after the first 12 months we can sign up for a longer-term contract.
In the meantime, we have the joy of packing all our crap again (there are some boxes we haven't unpacked from last time), but I've been planning on replacing some furniture anyway so I might dump some of it before we even move and replace it afterwards, and do a tip run / bulky waste collection at either end. We have offers of at least five cars to help with the move and people who can drive a van, and my mum has offered to buy us a new mattress as well in the absence of being able to physically help with the move. All in all, it's moving very quickly and more positively than we thought it would.
In other news:
My grandmother has been in hospital lately because she fell over at home, and she's been moved to a transitional unit now whilst they figure out what to do next in terms of accommodation / carers. They have finally diagnosed her with vascular dementia, which is a relief at least in the sense that we know what the problem is. It also turns out her ears are completely clogged with wax and that's not helping with the confusion, because she literally can't hear anything.
My uncle doesn't want her going into a home but he is unable to care for her full-time because of his work; ideally, they could both do with moving into a retirement property where carers are available, but obviously they're very hard to come by and/or very expensive.
She had gone into hospital about six weeks ago, I think, and my uncle then went incommunicado for about four weeks so we had no idea what was happening until he left a long and rambling voicemail last week updating us about the diagnosis, etc.
Apparently my father has been next to useless throughout the entire process, by either complaining about stuff at the hospital or wanting to be kept informed about every little thing. This in particular has highlighted to me that keeping my distance from him is the best thing I can do. His behaviour is textbook abuse/control. My grandmother told us a few years ago how he kept parking the car outside her kitchen window and staring in at her, then denying it - I'm still not sure how accurate her account really is (at least in terms of frequency), but he definitely has form with gaslighting because he did it to my mother years ago (and much worse, which I'm not going into). So yeah, I think any residual guilt I may have about cutting off contact has lapsed now. I can't be doing with that shit.
Anyway, that's all we know for now, but hopefully now that there's a hospital team on board they can come up with a solution. We offered to support my uncle however we could just before Christmas and then there was basically radio silence until she was in hospital. There is admittedly only so much we can do, both working full-time and being unable to drive, but the offer was there anyway.
Obviously, I will update about both of these things as and when more is happening - the former probably sooner than the latter...