Thursday 28 March 2013

Did you hear the one about the UK rental agent?

We trusted the rent of our house to a friend in the UK. Three months after we moved in January 2011he found us a tenant and 9 months later he sold the business. But all was good or so we thought, the agent managing the property stayed the same and the rent arrived on time. But in January 2013 I had casue to contact the agent to request an inspection report and to find out why the tenants wouldn't let British Gas in to service the boiler. The owners reply was 'that he will wrap the agents knuckles for not getting back to us'  and added:

'The rent payment has also been promised tomorrow and will include January and Februarys rent. '

When we leftthe UK we made sure there was enough money to cover our mortgage for a year, just incase we couldn't find suitable tenants and to be honest I wasn't checking the bank account because, foolishly, I trusted the company to inform me should a payment be missed or made late.

After checking the bank we discovered the last rent was paid the end of November 2012 and no one was doing anything to get this money back for us.

The owner of the rental agency then told us this:

'There is no excuse for our lack of communications over the last few months, which I fully accept has been a absolute failure on our part and I am personally embarrassed to be in this position. Can I assure you the tenants are under no illusion as to their obligations and that we are actively pursuing the outstanding rent to which I hope to have a clearer update for Wednesday evening .'

We then requested that an eviction notice was to be served, regardless of whether the tenants paid up on time or not. It was confirmed by the owner that it was served on February 21st 2013.

The rent was finally paid on February 29th and March's payment was made on the 1st. A new date agreed between the rental company and the tenant, but NOT discussed with us.

I then ask for confirmation that the eviction order is still in place for the tenants to vacate the property by the 25th April. The rental owner then informs me:

'The eviction notice was served and is still active but it came to light today in my meeting with XXXX that he had served it for the 24th May which is a month later than I had expected.
My apologises again for this delay, but we do seem to have a rent commitment and we will work at the property condition before they vacate. Please accept my assurance that we will monitor the situation closely, continuing to liaise with the tenants and their guarantor until the tenancy expires. We will endeavour to get a new tenant in place with as minimum void period as possible.'
He also informs me:
'Due to issues that have arisen and lack of attention to detail on a number of occasions we have released XXXX from his duties. As of today he no longer works for Fosse House, so I request that all correspondence comes directly through me.'
That was on 5th March. 
Today the rental agent sends me a generic email stating that he has sold the Malvern Business and that my new agent is.........wait for it........ XXXX the same bloke he sacked earlier this month for his incompentency.

Now. Now, now and Just now.......

When people here say ‘I’ll do it now’ they actually mean ‘forget it’

When people here say ‘I’ll do it now, now’ they actually mean ‘I’ll get round to it, in the near future, as long as you keep reminding me’

When people here say ‘I’ll do it just now’ they actually mean ‘you’ve got a fair chance I’ll get back to you sometime today’

And this is why after a week I’m still without my car. But it’s not just because there was a public holiday last Thursday and most people took the Friday off also, or the fact that the whole country is winding down to a complete standstill for Easter and doesn’t get going until the 8th April at the earliest. It’s also because I don’t know how things work here.

On Monday I had a big row with the warranty company because they told me my policy had expired March 17th so of course I went ahead and had the work done. I then discover warranty wasn't signed till April 5th, so they extended the warranty but then said as id already had the car repaired they couldn’t assess it and wouldn’t pay another row and now finally they paid R4000 towards the R6241.50 bill.

So all is good, well actually it isn’t because the garage also informed me that the ignition barrel was damaged and the quote for a new one was R4900.00. So on Tuesday a friend suggested that I call my car insurance company as they were the ones who towed my vehicle.

But for my insurance company to investigate I have to make a claim….now hang on, I have a contract with them, if they sub contract out to local towing firm, that’s still there responsibilty? Surely? I don’t pay part to them and part to someone else do I?

Before towing my car the guy did a vehicle inspection to check for damage, marking 2 cracks in the windscreen and nothing else. He wrote the break down up as mechanical/electrical and sat in the car with the lights on to do this. He requested I emptied out my car before he towed it and I saw him trying to remove my keys from the ignition. He was tugging, pulling and pushing the key. I yelled at him that there was a button to press to release the key, but he ignored me and continued. I walked up to the car, nudged him gently out the way and pushed the button to release the key.

Now my insurance company wants to know why I waited 6 days to report this? Why did I wait so long? Because I didn’t think about phoning them, I had enough going on with the warranty people and being without a vehicle, making me housebound as I can’t use public transport here.

It’s Easter weekend now, my car was towed this morning from the garage by the Insurance Company. I’m going to start taking bets on when I get it back and whether I have to pay and how much.

I guess Saturday 6th after driving to the garage in desperation and demanding it back, yes I will have to pay and the cost won’t be R4900.00 as quoted because that won’t include labour and VAT and they’ll have found another problem.

But your guess is as good as mine as I'm still dealing with people that say 'I'll  do it now'

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Do you know what to do when your car breaks down?

I do and I don't.

You see things work differently here in South Africa. I know what to do in the UK but what happens here with a break down?

Two years ago my tyre blew at 120k in the outside lane on the N1, when asked by OUTsurance where I was, I said 'on the N1 driving south to Pretoria, no I can't see any signs, but I'm at a toll gate, what does it say on the toll gate?, hang on I'll take a look, it says E tags and cash only' seriously you can read that blog post here.

So yesterday I drive to the fuel station, fill up, pop in the shop, pay the bill and start the car. Dead as a Dodo, zilch, nothing. I've had a flat battery in the past so I get the jump leads out, pursuade a motorist to help, I attach the jump leads and nothing. Another motorist offers his vehicle, again, nothing. So the pump attendants try a bump start and nothing. I park up. The lights work, the electrics on the sunroof work.

I call a friend who is in a building next door as I was on my way to a meeting, she collects me and all my stuff. I leave my details with the manager and I call OUTsurance.

Now I don't want towing home then have to pay for someone to collect my car at my cost in the morning. I don't know a reputal garage I can be towed to and it's 7pm so everywhere is closed. OUTsurance inform me they'll tow my car to a compund for the night then in the morning I can let the tow company know where to take my vehicle. Well I'm still none the wiser, so the guy at OUTsurance asks me how long I've had the car for and when I reply 2 years, he says 'take the car to where you had it serviced.

So this morning I ring the garage, they can take the car, I call the tow ompany and give them the address and the car is delivered. I'm waiting now for the garage to call me to tell me what is wrong and how much it will cost to have it repaired.

So what is the problem I hear you say? Sounds just like how things are done in the UK doesn't it?

But as an expat, here with hubbies work, it's this sort of thing that we should have been given advice on when we arrived. The day I picked my car up, I drove home and thought 'bugger, car insurance, who do I use?' Can you name me a car insurance company in South Africa? and remember this was back when I didn't have a cell, landline or access to the internet. I looked out the window and saw OUTsurance written on the side of a building, I ran over, took the number down and rang them from a phone box on a street corner.

This post isn't sponsored by OUTsurance, I have had problems with them about insurance with personal cover, but that was resolved and they've rescued me twice when I had no other way of getting home.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Dealing with Depression...the first step for an expat

Get rid of all the crap surrounding you. Easier said than done. I can't undo being an expat, I can't control how others respond to  me, but what I can do is deal with what I've got and tell those that say 'it could be worse' to leave me alone.  

\these 5 steps are things I've tried and I am doing....yes it can be hard getting rejection after rejection, but I'm at the stage where I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, there have been new issues chucked at me in recent weeks and some of the prvious problems are no more.

But I WANT things to change and no one else can change them for me, they can help and do it with me, but I need to keep making the effort, I can't rely on everyone having to 'cheer me up' all the time. Life is hard for hubby and the kids also and without further a do, here is my guide to 'cheer up and move on'

1. Talk about it

Easier said than done, family and friends can be jealous, they had no awareness of how difficult it is to make friends when you’re not hanging around the school gates or have a place of work, they don’t think about it, they don’t understand the dangers of South Africa or the cultural differences and the lack of company support.

The first step are to tell people how you feel. Don’t expect them to understand, all you want is acknowledgement not solutions sometimes. Talk it through with the kids, it affects their mood and everyone gets stuck in a downward spiral.

Explain to family and friends by telling them that the sunshine and the ability to dip in the pool does not solve all evils and a that not all expats earn hundreds of thousands of pounds, that’s just a myth.

You will alienate people but they are the types that are holding you back, wanting to see you fail, people who love to hear about your lives and see your photos yet offer little in return in ways of communication, love and support.

2. Don’t feel you have to justify yourself to anyone.

If you smile, laugh or joke don’t feel guilty, just say ‘Today I smiled, I laughed, I joked. Today is a good day and I’m enjoying it for what it is.’

3. Don’t seek alternatives

You can’t ‘snap’ out of it, searching for a replacement is short lived, you’ll end up an alcoholic and double your troubles, gain weight and feel ten times worse.

Embrace what you can do. Are there things you’ve been wanting to try but never had the time for. Sewing, baking, exercising, blogging. You’ll find something even if it does take a long time and then you’ll wonder where you’d have time to fit in your old life you craved for so much.

4. Go see the Doctor

And go again until you see the right one. Ask for medication and don’t be afraid to use it, it doesn’t get rid of the issues, but it does make things easier to deal with.

5. Get out more

Get out of bed and get dressed, do your hair and makeup even if you’re not going anywhere for the day. Even if you live in a compound you can go for a walk, take a cup of tea and a book outside. Smile when people walk past, say hello.

Check your local paper for things that interest you, so what if you go on your own and don’t feel you fit in; you don’t have to go again or even see these people anymore.

Make the most of networking online; join twitter, start blogging, Google keywords to find support and like minded souls. You’re reading this now, so you can do it, you just have to take the lead. Keep a journal; you’ll be surprised when you read it back how far you’ve actually come.

This is one of the unknown skills I discovered and I now use that skill to raise funds for adults in South Africa with disabilities.

Special Needs in Main stream schooling in South Africa

I've spent the WHOLE morning googling, I've spent many mornings googling and phoning schools and tweeting and asking and requesting help for my son's education is South Africa.

He is Dyslexic. His school (private) are unable to support him, they even disreguarded his UK assesment forcing us to pay to another one done and guess what? It's the same assessment. They now request we have a new assessment done as the IEB (Independent Education Board) need evidence less than 3 months old.....Do they know something I don't? Has there been a cure since then?

Our most sensible option is to return to the UK. this morning I was chatting to another expat who did just that for their childrens education, but there is no job for hubby in the UK unless he wants to travel Europe Monday - Friday and we don't want a part time marriage. So we nned to explore boarding schools. Our son was at The Downs in Malvern prior to us relocating and the support he had was terrific, but he was at the stage where his next school, Malvern College, and the fees were moving out of our price range and I needed at least another year of my career to be able to fund approx £23,500 per year in fees.

Not being able to work here has removed the option of boarding from us, we don't have rich relatives, nor does hubby as an expat earn the type of money that you hear about. It's a myth. So even if we did return to the UK, it will take me a few years to re establish my career, by which time he will have finished his GCSE's and I wouldn't have been around to provide the additional external support required.

One of his biggest problems is his lack of concentration after his inability to read, write and all the other issues, so all these additional lessons and therapies available out of school hours and at additional, considerable, costs are just not practical solutions.

If you have any experience of the South African education system or of Dyslexia, please let me know as I'm banging my head against the wall while my son continues to fail his school terms.

I cam across this website today. A parent's guide to schooling in South Africa, found a Question that I related to and wept as I read the response:

My daughter has special learning needs. Do regular schools have remedial programmes, or must she go to a special school?

It depends on the severity of the problem and on how well-resourced the school is. In 2010, there were 104 633 children in 423 public special needs schools. There are also private schools for children with severe remedial problems or disabilities.

South Africa has a policy of inclusive education, which includes various models to integrate special-needs children into ordinary schools. However, a lack of resources and infrastructure have meant that this policy has been slow to implement and children who have been mainstreamed don't always get the special education they need.

Some of the better-off schools, both state-aided and private, offer remedial education in one form or another. They employ remedial teachers and run small remedial classes alongside regular classes.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Supporting Adults with disabilities in South Africa

Second lot of bags ready for sale. Hubby is back in the UK end of March for a week so if there are any orders he can post them your side to guarantee their delivery.
All bags are hand made by me from recycled material, they cost £10 each + £2.20 p&p.
Tweet me or message me below. All I need is your address, prefernce of bag and I'll send you details on how to pay.

Some of the bags have zips, internal pockets, press stud fasteners, they vary in size, shape and colour. All are fully lined.

Proceeds will be split between @kwo_org to purchase items for the workshop and the rest will go towards my climb in November up Mount Kilimanjaro. All funds from that climb will go directly to @kwo_org

1. Zip and Internal pocket H32cm x W32cm

2. Internal pocket and Popper closure H35cmxW40cm

3. Popper closure H36cmxW40cm

4. Zip H29cmxW38cm

5. Popper closure H28cmxW39cm

No 6. SOLD
7. Popper closure H27cmxW38cm

8.external fastener H28cmxW34cm


10. SOLD                                          

                                                            11. Zip H25cmxW34cm

12. Popper fastener H24xW39

13. Popper fastener H24cmxW33cm

                                                   14. Popper fastener H35cmxW39cm
15.Popper fastener H34xW35
 16. .SOLD

17. Popper fastener H28cmxW38cm