There’s a small but highly malevolent force in this city, and it’s hell-bent on coming between me and my perfect apartment. You might know it better as ‘the landlord’.
I’m trying to find a new place to live, and have been eagerly trawling listings online, making endless phone calls and fantasising about spacious pads with sweeping Burj Khalifa views. But these infuriating people are determined to keep getting in my way.
I won’t complain about the prices. I already knew about the prices. But the rigmarole you have to go through just to take a peek at some properties? That, I wasn’t prepared for. One landlord would only rent to certain nationalities – and told me in no uncertain terms I didn’t qualify. Another told me I could look at the apartment he’d advertised, but only if I pretended to be a member of the building’s maintenance staff. Why? Because the current female tenant hadn’t been informed she was to be turfed out next week and might get suspicious if he showed me round. ‘Just pretend to be a cleaner! We can trick her…’ he giggled. I made a run for it.
A third advertised a studio that turned out to be a bedroom in a family’s flat. The lady of the house said I wouldn’t be allowed to use the kitchen or fridge. So where could I keep all my perishables, given that the thermometer is inching towards 40°C? She pointed to a bedside table covered in toys and, seeing the dubious look on my face, said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll move all those teddy bears before you move in, at no extra cost!’
I got lost looking for a fourth place. When I asked the landlord for the nearest landmark, I was told: ‘Yes, just look for the line of really big dustbins outside.’ He was right – I only had to follow my nose to find that particular gem, which was priced at about double what my budget allowed for.
Of course, if it’s not the landlords slowly chipping away at the sanity of house-hunters, it’s their evil minions – the agents. When they’re not demanding bogus viewing fees, they’re showing you flats that aren’t actually available. Or telling you to get into the back of their brother’s van to go to see the ‘luxury penthouse’ that’s 20 minutes’ drive from where they said it would be, surrounded by a ring of sewage, and you have to vault though broken windows to get in. There’s no security but there are more than enough cockroaches to scare off any intruders (okay, that last one didn’t really happen).
So, I’m three weeks into my search and my Plan C apartment just fell through. But I’m still cheerful. Because I know wherever I end up, there’s bound to be a terrific Lebanese restaurant on the street corner, it’ll be a 10-minute drive from the beach, and the sun will be shining every time I step outside the front door. Aaah, home sweet home.
Helen Elfer is deputy editor of Time Out Abu Dhabi.