The Yorker Archives: Getting your deposit back.

This time of year is one fraught with distress for students. Results are rolling in thick and fast, it’s at least a four month hiatus from all your university friends, student loans aren’t coming in until next October… and for many of us, our delightful landlords are dangling our deposits just out of reach.

As second and third years will now know, getting your deposits back this summer is a very simple process. You have to have not broken or stolen anything. You have to return keys and other bits and bobs back in time. You have to have hired Kim and Aggy, spend seven full days sobbing over a blue-tack mark on your wall, hoovering the ceilings and polishing the underside of your desks. Also, make sure the oven LITERALLY sparkles, the loo could be used to eat your dinner off, and there isn’t a single stray micro-speck of dust floating in the atmosphere of your bedroom. Otherwise, kiss goodbye to that £300.

Students aren’t exactly notorious for their cleanliness. It’s a fact jumped on by landlords, as they fear for the state of the carpets each time they let out a property to a group of scruffy undergrads. Hence the relatively large deposits and the forty-seven page cleaning manual doled out to many tenants at the end of summer term. They’re just worried they’ll have to rehouse all those traffic cones you brought home after nights out all year, or pay for a professional cleaner to get rid of all the kebab mould from the kitchen. Fair enough.

The requirements set out by your landlord in order to return your deposit may seem tantalisingly obscure, but in reality, you needn’t worry too much. Minimise the possibility of any clashes by being sensible and logical when leaving your student home.

  • Put everything they provided you with in the places that they were in on moving in day. That means the Henry vacuum you haven’t used all year and is being used as a bedside table in your room needs to be put back in the utility cupboard. That way, the landlord won’t think you’ve stolen the entire cutlery collection and charge you for it, when in fact it’s all there underneath your bed. 
  • Double check what they expect to be left in the house. This means examining the inventory you should have been given. It can be pretty easy to quickly become attached to certain household items (tin openers that miraculously work, for example), so unless you’re 100% certain that that kettle is yours, you’d be better off cross-referencing the inventory with everything you’re stowing away in the moving van. 
  • Take photos of the house right before you leave. Not necessarily for nostalgic reasons, though I’m sure in twenty years’ time you’ll get a great laugh out of looking at the shower you used to use. Rather, these photographs or recordings will provide you with some kind of proof of how you left the house. If there are any disputes over cleanliness or missing items, then you will be able to consult these pictures. 

Although it may seem like a mammoth task to polish your student digs up into pristine condition, making sure you put a little extra elbow grease in may be the difference between getting your deposit back and being forced to beg your parents for Efe’s money. Also as your deposit should be protected by the Deposit Protection Scheme, any really serious disputes can be taken to them. Happy scrubbing!

[FIRST PUBLISHED http://theyorker.co.uk/lifestyle/cashflow/11826
ALSO PUBLISHED http://onestowatchmedia.com/2012/07/01/claiming-back-your-housing-deposit-a-student-guide/]


Gentlemen’s Rules & A Lady’s Insight.

Oh alcohol. There’s an allure in pouring you down our throats so strong, so overpowering, that means we’re happy to sacrifice the following day for you. We’ll happy splutter our way through god-awful cocktails, down shots of acidic filth, and chug on gassy pints in order to maximise your effects. We condition ourselves into thinking that whisky doesn’t scorch the back of our throats, that cider doesn’t smell like the dodgier subways in city centres, and that Fosters doesn’t taste like shit (okay, maybe too far) in order to enjoy you.

So far gone is our obsession, our determination to experience every humiliating consequence that booze affords us; that drinking, at some point in the hazy and probably forgotten past, became a platform for natural human curiosity.

Who can remember the most? Does this stain? Can I shot this? Who can throw up the least? What’s the fastest way of getting this vodka into my face? What would actually happen if I tried to kiss the bouncer? Can you be arrested for this? Where are my clothes?

It’s beautiful, really. Aside from all the vomit. And social damage. Other than that. Forget that. The point is, drinking does a strange thing to us. It makes us question who we are (and where we are, and who it is in our bed, and…), and it brings us closer together. If we can both down a pint in less than four seconds, then it probably means we should be best friends. Or something.

I was recently given the rare and questionable honour of being allowed to sit in on your standard rugby lads social. For those of you who, like me prior to the event, only know of rugby socials from the infamous headlines they make, this was both a daunting and exciting offer. I was being given a prime spot- a real life woman feminist on the inside of a banter-heavy LAD social. I was eager with a morbid curiosity to see how offended I would be, what laws would be broken, and what limits these boys could be pushed to.

Under strict instructions to not to take photographs (so as to protect the secretive nature of the pre-drinking), and more importantly not to partake in the drinking games (for my own safety), I watched, mystified, by the events unfolding in front of me. Several, several pints were set out on the table at arrival. The boys were suited up, arrived on time and took their seats. After calming down the general hubbub of 20 guys chatting happily away- with a general sense of dread and excitement bubbling at the sight of all the drinks prepared before them- the drinking began.

The pre-drinking session strictly adhered to Gentlemen’s Rules. I’d never seen these in action before, but they basically consist of self-governed laws that tell you what you’re not allowed to do during a drinking session. Swearing is out. The word “drink” is out- “consume” or “beverage” replaces. I think there’s a rule about using only your left hand. Toilet breaks must gain permission from the leader, the social secretary. People must be referred to using their full titles (as assigned by the social secretary) or their surnames. There are plenty more rules that probably went straight over my head- but the general gist is that you have to behave yourself. The penalty for breaking a rule is you have to drink. Or consume. Whatever.

So far so civilised. Guests were at the disposition of the witty social secretary, who had set up various drinking challenges for the boys. Pint downing competitions, readings of poems, a race to see how quickly members could produce then drink a cup of “Earl Jag” (pronounced /erl yay/- Earl Grey with a generous shot of Jagermeister, for the uninitiated). Some members, for their previous sins, had to chug a lethal and vile looking combination of cider, Jagermeister, ale, and god knows what else. Drinking game rules were heartily enforced, and any pint-downing punishment was cheerfully accompanied by a bizarre loutish rendition of Yellow Submarine.

They were all considerably less sober than when they started, and in fear of being vomited or spilt on, I scarpered from the midst of the group to a safe corner to watch the nature documentary unfold at a distance. Wise move on my part, because the social become more animated and less orderly as the night went on. The atmosphere was incredible- of solidarity and competition. I’ve never seen so many people having such a good time doing something that they’re all aware will make them vomit- sorry “chunder”- in the impending hours. Partly, I was jealous that I couldn’t get more involved in the excitement. Mostly I was just relieved that it wasn’t me being forced to sing “Goodbye My Lover” topless on a chair having just downed several ales.

So what did my insight to this ritualistic and overtly masculine bonding session provide? I’m not really sure- in my keenness to make my experience as authentic as possible (for purely journalistic reasons, you understand), I’d had two whole pints of fruit cider and a shot of blackcurrant poison and neglected to take notes. In any case, I was impressed with how organised the rowdiness was. Guests happily submitted to the rules and tormented each other tirelessly on failure to adhere.

The social was deemed a success by all, not least by the takings at the bar, and everyone uprooted ready to go the nearest club for a night of more drinks, fist-pumping and general debauchery. In high spirits, the boys went for a quick “tactical chunder” to facilitate more drinking later on and pootled off on their merry way. The damage was minimal- only a few things had been broken within repair, no one had spilt or vomited anywhere inappropriate, and I hadn’t found even the smallest thing to take offence by. I was impressed. This rugby social proved that while the whole uniLAD debate fades into obscurity, these boys still know how to have a good time, without ending up in the columns of the Daily Mail. And almost everyone left with as many eyebrows as they started the night with, so everybody wins.


Being Flattered vs. Being Followed.

 Yesterday, the results of a survey commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Committee  (EVAW) were published. The results, while wholly unacceptable, wouldn’t surprise many women. 21% of women had experienced unwanted sexual attention, and 43% of young women had experienced sexual harassment in public. In fact, I’d argue that these figures are puzzlingly low.

Ask any female about this kind of thing, and you’ll get an extensive list of anecdotes. Being beeped at my white van men, being groped in clubs. It’s all part of being a woman, apparently.  Just something to put up with, not something anything can be done about. Chin up ladies, it’s supposed to be a compliment, after all.

What’s probably most frightening about this kind of attention is how women seemingly marginalise it, despite it being uncomfortable and unwanted. I know this from experience, and my experiences aren’t particularly exceptional.

I’ve bought tops and never worn them again once some drunken stranger has attempted to see what would happen if he unzipped me. I’ve phoned male friends at three in the morning while walking home, just so that the group of men lingering outside the kebab shop don’t think that I’m unaccounted for.  I’ve had grown men jeer at me in bars. I’ve been called a slag for confronting some drunken ugly bugger for grabbing my arse in the pub I meet my friends in regularly. It was me who left the pub, not him.

Yet worryingly, I’ve never considered my experiences “that bad”. In comparison with some shocking tales you hear, these things are trivial and barely worth complaining about. They’re just small instances that have happened and don’t ultimately matter. Some would argue that I’m pretty lucky to not have gone through worse. This attitude is just wrong. What would happen if a man was being inappropriately touched while queuing at a bar? Or if he overheard a group of people making smart comments about what he was wearing? It’s not too difficult to imagine a brawl ensuing. But when it happens to a woman, we all just put our head down and try to see the funny side. I can get a bit shouty and angry about women’s issues (as my friends will happily attest to), but even I still downplay street harassment.

When I was in secondary school, I had a guy follow me home a handful of times. He was a friend of a friend, way older than me, and was judged to be an all-round NICE GUY by everyone who knew him. He’d linger around on the road from my school to my home, waiting for me. He tried to engage in conversation that I clearly didn’t want to participate in, and insisted on walking a few paces behind me if I managed to overtake him. I’d wait at the end of my road for up to half an hour until he got bored and wandered off before going into my house, because I didn’t want him to know where I lived. After a while, I stopped seeing him around and figured he’d gotten the hint. About three months later I saw him while I was nipping to the shops trying to take a picture of me on his phone. I was terrified- heightened by the fact I was with my younger sister and I was deathly scared that he’d transfer his interest onto her. I was 15, she was 13.

This encounter- while I agree is a slightly more extreme type of street harassment- is still something I make light of. I joked with my friends that I had “a little stalker”, implied that I was followed due to my -ahem- irresistible charms.  Even while discussing the matter now, in light of these survey results, it took me a while to realise that this even counted as street harassment. What’s more disturbing, with hindsight, is that I was only 15. Before I’d even surpassed the legal matter of being considered a minor, I’d already had this pretty scary experience, and I was already brushing it off as nothing.

So what can be done about this kind of thing? Cuff everyone who wolf-whistles women? Dole out ASBOs to the men who shout out “nice arse” in the middle of the street? It’s obviously difficult to prevent or police this kind of thing, but it seems as though the main issue with street harassment is the perceived acceptability, both from perpetrators and victims. If these harassments were purely verbal or physical, if 40% of young women were being physically harassed in public, we’d all be kicking off. Yet add a sexual nature, and rather than duly becoming more sinister, it (unfathomably) becomes less of a big deal.  This isn’t a case of slapping the wrists of gropers, followers and catcallers everywhere; it’s a case of re-educating a society.

EVAW are currently campaigning for training of police and transport staff so these situations are understood and dealt with properly. There are campaigns (such as this one) encouraging women to report harassment. As Vicky Simister was quoted in The Independent yesterday as saying; “It’s not just about slapping cuffs on people, it’s about changing the way we think”. We need to be not okay with being harassed.

Happy International Women’s Day! British Women.

Today is the official day of recognition for women’s achievements, rights and challenges globally. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best individual and groups of female minds in Britain that we believe deserve recognition for their work and successes over the last year.

Her book “How To Be A Woman” shot this Times columnist into the book charts, and into the hearts of feminists everywhere. The book describes itself as a re-writing of “The Female Eunuch”, and is possibly the wittiest ever rant on women’s rightS and women themselves; Moran brought admitting to being a feminist out of the gutter and into the totally acceptable for women everywhere.

Though not technically a cause originating from the UK, The London SlutWalk saw thousands of women join with hundreds of thousands others from around the world to protest attitudes towards rape last year. A global event, it raised the awareness of sexual abuse victim’s rights, and firmly shouted that victims of abuse aren’t to blame for their treatment.

Turn on any radio station and chances are you’re going to end up listening to the ballad-powerhouse that is Miss Adele Adkins. With topping charts and picking up more awards than she can carry becoming an average every-day task for the songstress, there doesn’t seem to be much Adele can’t do. By breaking the mould of high-polished high-energy pop music, she’s stunned the world with her breath-taking vocals, and given the media something to think about when it comes to what your typical talented female should look like, too.

One of the unsung heroes of British feminism this year- most likely because she isn’t too keen on doling out interviews- is the highest ranking female in the British army. With an incredible career spanning 26 years, Moffat is tackling any inequality in the military from within, and encourages women to sign up to the British army, saying there’s never been a better time for women to join.

The girl guides have been steadily rising in numbers and influence over the past year. Promoting women’s rights campaigns has seemingly become another badge they can stitch onto their sashes, having been invited to advise at the UN Commission on Status of Women this month. Two British serving members of Guides will help develop international policies on gender equality at the global conference held in New York- a far cry from baking cookies and earning your washing-up badge.

That’s just five British female stand out achievements- there are hundreds more influential and incredible women that have gained so much this year. From your grandmothers, to the head teacher of the primary school down the road, and from the female chairperson of the big company to the women Olympians. Happy International Women’s Day!