17 June 2010

Living with a boy, part 2

R and I had already decided to live together and with us only wanting to rent for 3 months, private landlords were a better bet than agencies who usually prefer tenants to let for a minimum of 6 months. Cue Gumtree. It is like (read: better than) Craigslist.

By the way, I've always wondered why Americans can't say the name Craig? Well, they do say it, but they pronounce it Kregg? What's that all about? It's Cray-g!!

So, I'd used Gumtree before but never actually got anything directly out of it. This time, I'm determined to make Gumtree work for me and swoop a deal!

Almost immediately, I think I'm onto a winner -- a 1 bedroom flat in a very popular block of apartments in a very central location (for anyone who knows the Manchester area; The Quadrangle on Lower Ormond Street opposite the BBC - brilliant location right?) all for just £90 per week. Wow! That would be just £45 per week for each of us.

I quickly reply to the advert expressing my interest, requesting further details on bills and asking to arrange a viewing.

In the mean-time, I spy another very similar advert on the same street, for just a little more (£105 per week). There seems to be some confusion in the advert though as the poster mentions another area of the UK (Sunderland) in the title but everything in the advert implies Manchester. So, I conscientiously reply to the advert with the same questions, first trying to ascertain exactly where the flat is.

I receive a pretty rapid response to the first advert via e-mail. One of the most convoluted e-mail responses I've had in a long time.

Exhibit A: E-mail #1
Sender: Jennifer Cole
Oooh, we have the same name! Yay.
Thanks for the interest you have in my flat. My flat is still available for rent and you can rent my flat as long as you pay your rent at when due. Rent is £90 pw and deposit is £500, returnable at the end of a month stay in my flat. Utility bills inclusive (water, gas, council tax, TV license and wireless internet) for £0.00 pcm.
At when due? What are you talking about Jennifer? And wow, council tax for nothing?!
However, my flat is fully furnished in and out with all necessary house use. At this stage that you want to rent my flat, I need to know some few question about you. Can you take care of my flat as it is? How many months do you intend to rent and pay for? Do you have references in Manchester?
You have furnishings on the outside as well as the inside? I don't get it. Take care of your flat "as it is"? Well, how is it? I haven't seen it yet.
Kindly reply for further information and I would like to know where you are coming from to stay in my flat

Mr/Mrs Cole
Er... are you a man or a woman? Perhaps whatever I want you to be? At this point, I assume it is from a husband and wife team, simply choosing not to go with the traditional Mr & Mrs Cole.

My benefit-of-the-doubt principle goes into overdrive and despite her atrocious writing skills, I decide to give Jennifer a chance. Maybe she's Chinese and married to an English man? Who knows.

I reply with the answers to her questions; yes, we have references, yes, I assume we can look after the flat (but we do want a viewing!), we're coming from Manchester and can we arrange a viewing.

I wait patiently.

I decide to revisit the advert on Gumtree to look at the information and pictures again. I'm thinking "I know someone who lives in that apartment block and it doesn't look like that -- but maybe they had it customly decorated. Oh but wait, a flat in an apartment block shouldn't have a fireplace?!"

My visit to Gumtree reveals that the advert has been removed. Wow, she's keen. I only sent an e-mail not signed a contract. Then I discover the second advert has also been removed.

Alarm bells should have been ringing by this point...

*Ding* Another e-mail hits my inbox, this time about the second advert which mentions Sunderland but implies Manchester.

Exhibit B: E-mail #2
Sender: Lora Colin

Thanks for your interest in my flat. I mispost my AD to Manchester section. My flat is still available for rent and you can rent my flat as long as you pay your rent at when due. Rent is £105 pw and deposit is £400, returnable at the end of a month stay in my flat. Utility bills inclusive (water, gas, council tax, TV license and wireless internet) for £0.00 pcm.
This looks spookily familiar. Also, if it's actually in Sunderland, I'm not interested!

Everything else in the e-mail is the same, apart from this time pictures are attached (also looking amazing!) and Lora signs off;
Mr/Mrs Colin
These just aren't genuine adverts are they? Then again, maybe I am being too cynical? What could they be after; my money, my body, my passport. I don't have to wait long to find out the answers to those questions...

Exhibit C: E-mail #3

Ohhh hello again Jennifer.
Thanks for the reply and the sincere interest you have in my flat.  I spoke with my lawyer...
You're lawyer?! WTF Jennifer? In which e-mail did we say we had previous convictions for murder? Anyway, so you spoke to your lawyer...
...concerning your stay in my flat and we both agreed to have you in my flat as long as you'll take good care of my flat as how it is. However, it is unfortunate that my past bitter experience of inviting people to come and view or reserve my flat without any form of confirmation of their financial ability and not keeping up to time as at when scheduled, has brought about great loss to me. I have traveled all the way from Ireland to take some interested candidates round my flat  because that's where i work with M. Gould (Scunthorpe) Ltd.
I'm really sorry to hear about your past bitter experience and great loss (who died exactly?). As bad as my Geography can be, I'm pretty confident Scunthorpe is not in Ireland. M. Gould is a real company by the way, and presumably nothing to do with this scam.

At this point, I exclaim "Oh. My. God." and begin reading the e-mail aloud to R and his housemates.
Some outside tenants do not have the money to pay the rent and yet they disturb the the landlord to arrange a viewing with their friend or relative who are in Manchester, also some do not meet up with the appointments which has led to the dismissal of some landlords in office by their employers.
So wait, let me understand this, some "outside tenants" (maybe that's people to you and me?) wanted to view your flat, which "disturbed" the landlords (what like needing-counselling disturbed or...?!) and because they cancelled the appointments, the landlords got the heave-ho? Wow, that's harsh.
Henceforth, my lawyer and I have decided to carry out a simple test on financial ability to pay for my rent before coming for viewing. I would not ask you to send your  bank statement. At least 1 month rent and security deposit which is £500 which is refundable after your 1 month stay in my flat, would be required from you to transfer through Western union money transfer agent. You can make the transfer with your name as a sender name and your partner or friend in UK premises as a receiver.
OK, so you don't want my bank statement. That's good. You want me to pay you £500 via Western Union? Well, that was my initial thought when I read this ridiculous e-mail but upon closer inspection, Jennifer wants me to transfer £500 to my partner (is that partner in crime or...?). Apologies for my interruption. Please, do go on.
Once you have done this, scan the receipt to me and if  you do not have scanner, you may write out the details on the receipt as i will send it to my lawyer to verify if it's truly genuine and available in your friend's custody, after verification, then we can proceed for the viewing and you can as well tell your friend or partner to pick up the money and also, i will refund back to you the cost of transfer when we meet.
I am so grateful that you thought of a contingency plan in case I don't have a scanner. So, you want the receipt with all the transfer details on - and why would that be? Oh, that's so you can pick up the WU transfer money before my "partner" has the chance to and even though I haven't given the money to you, you still rob me of it! Brilliant.
I look forward to reading from you soon.
Well, Jennifer (fraudulent stealer of my name), you will not be "reading" from me soon!

I really wanted to reply with a funny response. Perhaps replying to Jennifer and CC'ing Lora Colin. If their English had been better and they hadn't sent the same scam e-mail to the same address in the space of an afternoon (scammers clearly have no quality control -- did they not notice they'd already e-mailed me once about a different advert?), they might have more success. Not with me of course, you understand.

At least that lesson was for free.

And so, the flat-hunt continues. The next day, we found a brilliant place and this time, it was real...


  1. Oh the rage this has inspired. I also laughed at your commentary but people like this drive me mad, not least for their poor spelling.

    Mr/Mrs Colin

  2. Oh Jen, I laughed out loud to this!! Maybe cause it was so familiar. I've just been renting my spare room out and have been getting the same kind of mails telling me they want my flat and need all my details so they can send me money immediately. Oh yes!

    I've been missing a trick though - I need to start getting people to send me a deposit before I let them come and see it!!

    Rapunzel x

    So where are you living now? Do tell!

  3. Love this! What complete idiots!

    P.S. I pronounce Craig with an "ay" sound. In case you were wondering ;)

  4. That had me laughing out loud. You have to sometimes, otherwise you'd go crazy! As you say, at least it didn't cost you anything. Good luck with your house hunting x

  5. What is with English people saying Diana wrong? It's DianA not Dianer. That mispronunciation is my Craig.

  6. Haha I didn't know these were around in the UK as well. We also get scammers like that on German websites. They are always out of the country here, taking care of whatever business and will send you the keys to the apartment just as soon as you've transferred the first month's rent to them via Western Union.
    In short, as soon as Western Union is mentioned in an ad or email, you can be nearly 100% sure it's a scam. Good thing you didn't fall for it and that they made it so easy for you to figure out.

  7. Haha it's like they've composed a poorly written e-mail, entered it into an online translator, jumbled up some words, translated it again and this is the result!

    It's worrying that some people actually fall for this!

    Without meaning to spam (I assure you that is not my intention) my eldest is currently renting through One UK Manchester and he said they've done an excellent job thus far.

    I think the prices are slightly higher than the prices that you stated in this post but it all depends on your budget!

    Best of luck to you and R!

  8. Oh my goodness! The Mr/Mrs thing took the cake for me, especially since both "different" people signed off that way ... so glad you didn't get scammed, you are a smart cookie! Really hope you and R find a decent flat without having to make some bizarre transfer first :)

  9. Thanks for sharing! I just went through the same thing before moving. I got a few Nigerian scam emails and I was able to spot them right away. You know what they say... when it looks too good to be true...................

  10. Hi there, awesome site. I thought the topics you posted on were very interesting. I tried to add your RSS to my feed reader and it a few. take a look at it, hopefully I can add you and follow.

    House, Flats for Rent in Manchester