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Would you rent a property without seeing it first in lockdown?

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The idea of renting a property without seeing it first would have seemed nonsensical for many prospective tenants a year ago.

Most would have thought that only by seeing it for themselves could they check what they were signing up for and whether their new home fulfilled their wish list.

But since the beginning of the first lockdown in March, we’ve had to change how we approach things, and that includes – for some people – how to rent a property.

Some are opting to rent without ever having been in the property and we spoke to one for whom it wasn’t an agent’s flashy virtual viewing that swung it, but the existing tenant’s home video. 

Would you rent a flat in this block next to Wembley Stadium in North London without seeing it in person first? See the case study below to find out about a couple who did just that

Would you rent a flat in this block next to Wembley Stadium in North London without seeing it in person first? See the case study below to find out about a couple who did just that

The global pandemic and the temporary closure of the property market meant that moving home was almost impossible – apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

And even once the property market opened again, the new restrictions in place – such as social distancing – meant things were approached differently, including initial viewings online and a limited number of people at those viewings that did take place in real life.

As a result, although virtual viewings have previously been occasionally raised for propsective tenants and buyers with varying degrees of success, they are now far more heavily promoted – and accepted. 

Virtual viewing: Camilla Churchill rented a property in London without seeing it in person first

Virtual viewing: Camilla Churchill rented a property in London without seeing it in person first

This is particularly the case among tenants and some are choosing to rent a home for the next year or longer, without ever having been in the property.

We spoke to some tenants who only saw their rented property in person when they collected the keys, and found out how approaching a rental in this way had worked out for them.  

Camilla Churchill, 29, rented a place in London’s Greenwich with her boyfriend, having previously lived in a house share.  

She said: ‘My boyfriend and I lived in New Cross with two other friends. When the first lockdown hit we wanted to extend our lease for a few months but our landlord didn’t let us. 

‘We went to two viewings in person but the opportunity for more quickly tapered off and we had to rely on dodgy fisheye lens photos or poor quality videos online.’ 

But she went on to explain: ‘We struck gold with our current flat as after speaking with the agents, the tenants filmed us a video of their own. 

The tenants filmed us a video of their own… they filmed every nook and cranny

‘They filmed every nook and cranny from every angle and explained which furniture would be left for us.’

But did an online viewing provide the information required to lead to a successful rental?

She said: ‘It answered so many questions. The property is even better than it looked in the original listing and we are so glad we took the gamble.’

Renting a new build 

Another  couple we spoke to had moved into a new build one-bedroom flat in north London – again rented without ever visiting the property.

Pictured: Couple Kristin and Oliver rented their flat on the basis of a virtual viewing only

Pictured: Couple Kristin and Oliver rented their flat on the basis of a virtual viewing only

Kristin Tamm, 44, a TV producer and her partner Oliver, 36, a technical engineer, were living in Germany when they signed up to the rental.

They wanted to live and work in London, and made the leap in August 2019. Kristin explained: ‘I initially saw the block of flats on Instagram and then contacted the agent about having a virtual viewing.

‘I saw five different flats at the site on FaceTime, while I was sat in Munich.’

‘I was travelling twice a year to London and decided to make it my permanent home with my boyfriend.’

They paid six-months rent in advance, signing a tenancy agreement for that period and paying a total of £13,000 upfront.

Would she do it again? She doesn’t hesitate in responding with an emphatic ‘yes’. 

Indeed, at the end of their initial six-month contract, they signed up for a further year. They are currently in a one-bed flat and would like to move to a two-bed flat at the same site, so that they have space for friends and family to stay over once covid restrictions allow.

The couple's flat in a development in North London was rented fully furnished

The couple’s flat in a development in North London was rented fully furnished

The flat is in a so-called new Build to Rent block of flats, developed by Quintain. Such Build-to-Rent developments are made for the sole purpose of renting out the flats and none are available to buy.

The appeal of this London Wembley Park development is that tenants pay no deposit to rent a flat there, while utility bills and broadband are included in the monthly rental costs.

Prices range from £1,450 a month for a studio to £3,145 for a three-bed flat. Tenants are allowed pet dogs and cats, for an extra monthly fee, with costs varying from £50 a month for a dog and £30 a month for a cat. 

Kristin added: ‘Everything was set up when we arrived, It was furnished, with pictures on the wall. We were the first to live in the flat and it was clean and tidy. There were no surprises and everything was as we expected.’ 

She said if she could improve anything it would to be more central despite the underground only taking 15 minutes to Baker Street and she would also like to be closer to a large area of open green space – although the development does have a communal roof garden. 

The development in North London has a communal roof garden that tenants can use

The development in North London has a communal roof garden that tenants can use

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Social Democrats activists consider deferring request on leadership contest

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A group of Social Democrats activists who want to see a leadership election in the party is looking at deferring their request to consider such a contest until after a new general secretary is appointed to the party.

A draft letter to the party’s national executive, signed by two councillors and 14 others, seeking the leadership contest emerged on Friday evening.

The letter, which has not been sent to party authorities, requested the national executive meet to hold a vote to call a leadership election.

It pays tribute to the party’s current co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall, who it states “have done exceptional work”, but adds that “it is now time to move to the next stage”.

The party released a statement later the same evening saying its TDs are “united behind co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall”. This statement was shared on Twitter by all six of the party’s Dáil Deputies.

One of the councillors who signed the draft letter, Kildare representative Chris Pender, responded with his own social media post saying: “Anyone who’s read the letter will know it states we don’t have an issue with the leaders, but we believe in the democratic right to vote for that/those leaders.

“A leadership contest would give members the opportunity to show support for the current leaders, if that’s what they want.”

Cllr Cat O’Driscoll, who sits on Dublin City Council, was the other public representative who signed the draft letter.

Motivations

Sources insisted the motivations behind seeking a contest include giving the Social Democrats’ membership a say in who leads the party, as well as an issue of timing. They say with no general election expected imminently, it would give the next leader time to prepare.

It was also revealed on Friday that Brian Sheehan, a former director of the Yes Equality campaign, is to step down from his role as Social Democrats general secretary in early September. The decision is not connected with the call for a leadership election and those behind the draft letter were unaware of Mr Sheehan’s decision to leave the job.

However, it has prompted a rethink of the request for a leadership contest.

The Irish Times understands the activists are considering a new version of the letter that takes Mr Sheehan’s departure into account and would not seek a discussion about a leadership contest until after his successor is in place and has had some time in the job. A source suggested the approach with any new letter would be “a bit more cautious”.

On Monday, a party spokeswoman ruled out any contest for the leadership, either before or after the appointment of a new general secretary.

“The rules of the party state any leader must be a TD and all of our TDs are united in their support for the party leadership. The general secretary position is entirely unrelated to the party leadership,” she said.

Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall have jointly led the Social Democrats since its establishment in 2015.


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Instagrammer captures abandoned Welsh property in series of eerie photographs

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Who would live in a house like this? Instagrammer photographs abandoned Welsh property – complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday, dishes still in the sink and a newspaper dating back to 1956

  • Photographs reveal the rooms have been untouched for decades and house opened bottle of Champagne  
  • Discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales 
  • Kyle said: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory’ 
  • ***Do YOU know who lived in the abandoned house? Contact izzy.nikolic@mailonline.co.uk*** 

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An abandoned Welsh house has been captured in a series of eerie photographs complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday and dishes still in the sink.  

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx.’  

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. 

A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up and dishes still in the sink.

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: 'Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can't be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx'

Pictured: A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx’

The property has been dubbed 'Granddad's abandoned house' after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property 

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex (pictured) while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

Mr Urbex said: 'I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn't too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open'

Mr Urbex said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open’

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales.

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home.’

He said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open.

‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many.

‘The porch area had been trashed, however the seating still remained intact and of course the champagne bottle for his 90th birthday still left on the fireplace.

He added: 'Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many'

Dishes are left undone in the sink in the kitchen

He added: ‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house. He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was’

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone's 'dream family home'

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home’

Mr Urbex added: 'Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind'

Mr Urbex added: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind’

‘I found it quite sad really given all the memories just left to be forgotten about. As well as the house there was a caravan hidden at the back in all the overgrowth which had more memories inside, old books and so on.

‘I managed to uncover an old bike in the shed which looked like it had been there quite a while.

‘Alongside all of these findings I came across a newspaper dated from November 3 1956.’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house.

He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was.

‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind.’

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Foley to bring school reopening plan to Cabinet on Tuesday

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Minister for Education Norma Foley says she has every confidence schools will reopen fully from late August and early September.

Ms Foley said there was ongoing engagement between her department and public health officials on the matter but all schools were set to reopen.

Strong mitigation measures would be in place in schools to ensure that they would continue to be controlled environments, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Monday.

Covid-19 infection rates among children were at their highest when children were not at school and public health experts had pointed out “on a consistent basis to schools being a very significantly controlled environment”.

The safe operation of the Leaving Certificate exams and enhanced summer camps indicated that the safe operation of education could be maintained, she said.

A plan would be put in place to allow schools to “draw down” CO2 monitors and the Minister said she was confident there would be enough monitors for all schools by the start of the new school year.

In relation to Covid-19 vaccines for children, Ms Foley said the “expertise” lay with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) from which her department would take guidance.

“I have received confirmation that the 16 to 18-year-old cohort should be in a position for online registration in the coming days, and I have been advised that the 15-year-olds cohort are still being considered by NIAC and there has been no definitive timeline given,” she added.

Ms Foley will bring a plan to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining enhanced public information campaigns, the outcome of antigen testing pilots, and the purchase of C02 monitors to assist in ventilating classrooms.

Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place.

Government sources were adamant on Sunday that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns among public-health officials that the wave could grow following the reopening of indoor dining today, before peaking in September.

“Schools will reopen,” a senior Coalition source said.

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