Each week we have a nose around a different person’s rented property, and chat with them about their experiences.
This time we’re talking to Cia, 31, and James, a couple who moved from London to Bristol in January 2020, when James was offered a job as a hydrogeologist.
Cia was thrilled to move out of the capital city, as this meant she could afford to start doing some qualifications in horticulture, while continuing her work as a freelance content creator and copywriter.
The couple now rent a two-bedroom flat in Bristol. Ahead, Cia tells us all.
Hey, Cia! How much do you and James pay to live here?
Our rent is £1,000, plus £50 for a parking space.
Our bills are £260, which is higher than we’d like, but we have a gigantic water heater that we can’t do much about without completely turning it off, so we try to make sure we conserve energy wherever else we can.
What do you get for what you pay?
We have two bedrooms, one with an ensuite shower room, and a separate bathroom.
The living room and kitchen are one open plan room, with a huge window at the living room end, which takes up the entire wall (our houseplants love the light), and we also have a large balcony, which I’ve been slowly filling with outdoor plants.
Do you feel like you have a good deal?
Definitely, though I know we’re immensely privileged to live somewhere as lovely as this. We know it’s expensive, but it’s truly something special.
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Even though the pandemic hadn’t kicked off when we moved in, James and I knew that 2020 was going to be a hard year, because at the end of 2019 my dad was placed on palliative care and was told he had a few months to live.
Obviously living somewhere nice wasn’t going to make it any better, but we just wanted to find somewhere comfortable to call home, knowing that it would be a year filled with pain and sadness.
We got very lucky to find somewhere this nice, especially since 2020 turned out way worse than we could have ever imagined.
What do you think of the area?
We live in the south of Bristol. I haven’t really been out much because of lockdown, but honestly, it’s impossible not to adore this city.
Our flat is a 20-minute bus ride into the centre of town, and coming from London that seems like a blink of an eye to me.
We are really lucky because the development we live on has a communal garden built around a lake, with apple trees and wildflowers growing all over the place.
It’s absolutely beautiful and has been a total lifesaver throughout the pandemic.
How did you find the flat?
I spent two months checking Rightmove. When we found out that James had got the job, it was around the same time that my dad’s health was rapidly declining, so we decided not to add to the stress in our lives by racing to find a flat.
Instead, we put our stuff in storage and moved in with family until the right place came along.
James was able to stay with his Grandma in Gloucester while he started the new job, and I moved in with my parents in Derbyshire – I’m so glad I got to spend that time with my dad.
How have you made the property feel like home?
This flat was brand new when we moved in, so there was a possibility that it would feel a bit sparse.
But we have an absurd number of houseplants, and we love decorating with items that mean something to us, like travel mementoes and things we’ve made, so it became home very quickly.
Our coffee table was made by my dad and I a couple of years ago, and lots of the art on our walls is from places that James and I have visited.
I’m also waiting on some picture frames to display a gift from James’s grandma – knowing how passionate I am about plants, she gave me her gardening handbook that she’d used for years and years, and inside were loads of pressed flowers from her garden. I’m going to put the flowers into brass picture frames, and hang them up in our living room.
Have you found it difficult to decorate when renting? Is your landlord happy with you doing bits?
I’ve had landlords who would barely even let me look at the walls, much less put a picture up on them, but the company we rent from here aren’t like that. As long as we put it back to how it was when we moved in, they’re fine with us putting pictures up.
We’ve also just received permission to paint the walls. I’m going to have to be careful not to go too wild, but this is the first time I’ve ever been allowed to paint my home, so I’m really excited!
Do you feel like you have enough space?
Absolutely. This flat is double the size of anything we’ve rented before!
We also have really high ceilings. I didn’t realise how much that adds to a room’s atmosphere, but it’s brilliant.
Our second bedroom is a good size and we’ve turned it into a kind of ‘everything room’ – James has an office space set up in there, we use it as a home gym, a DIY project space, and when our new sofa bed arrives, it will be a guest room too (obviously we’ll tidy everything else away before people stay).
I work and do my Zoom horticulture classes in the living room – usually I sit on the sofa because I’m one of those people who fidgets constantly, but I have a foldaway desk that fits under the sofa, so I get that out when I need a flat surface to work on.
The light is so bright in here that our houseplants are growing really quickly, so things might start getting cramped soon though!
Are there any problems with the home?
Because the flat was brand new when we moved in, we had lots of ‘snags’ which we had to report – stuff like doors being on upside down (yes, really) or the shower sealant not being watertight.
That was a bit annoying, but nothing compared to the kinds of things we’ve dealt with in other flats (oh, the stories I could tell…).
The only ongoing issue we have is the cost of the water heater, but the flat is incredibly well insulated so we think it kind of balances out our energy usage.
Do you have plans to move again any time soon?
Not for a while – we’ve both moved house a lot and this is the first time we’ve lived in a flat that we love, so it would be nice to stay put for a bit!
Do you want to own a place some day or are you happy to rent?
James and I aren’t really fussed about owning a home right now.
We can’t afford it anyway, but even if we could, we really want to enjoy our freedom, and feel that owning a house might take away a lot of that.
We just want to see where life takes us.
Fair. Shall we take a look around?
What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.
Check back next week to have another nose around a rented property.
How to get involved in What I Rent
What I Rent is Metro.co.uk’s weekly series that takes you inside the places people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.
If you fancy taking part, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll need to take pictures of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your bedroom or living area.
Make sure you get permission from your housemates! You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’re paying for rent, as that’s pretty important.
We’re not just after the prettiest places out there, by the way. We want the reality of renting, so if you’re currently renting a place you hate, we’d love to see that too (and sympathise greatly!).
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