‘The Sociedad Publica? You’re renting your flat out with the Sociedad Publica?’ said Jose the barman, shaking his head.
‘Yes… I was thinking of doing that, I just signed the nota de encargo today.’
Jose shook his head again, and spread his hands wide. One of them had a greasy glass in it, the other a greying dishcloth.
‘Listen, I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but I rented a flat out through them, only just got it back off them, a little short of the five years they ask for, and by Christ did it cost me to get it back.’
‘I just thought it might be a good way to do it, seeing as I won’t be in the country, they offer to sort everything out for you….’
‘Did you hear that?’ he grinned at his wife, who was carrying a plate of unidentifiable fried things from the kitchen hatch, and who turned to listen to him on the way out to the street terrace tables.
‘She says the Sociedad Publica promises to sort everything out for you-‘
‘Si, claro.’ His wife raised her eyebrows and huffed.
‘Look, like I said, I’m not trying to tell you what to do, they’re probably the least terrible of a bad bunch, (those were his exact words, the ‘least terrible’) but don’t believe any of that stuff they say on their website, it’s just to hook you in as an owner, get your flat on their books. They didn’t guarantee our rent when the flat was empty, they say it’s for every month it’s empty and it isn’t, it’s up to two months, at least that’s what they gave us. They never pick up the phone or get back to you when there’s a problem. And they don’t take the stress out of all of it, I can tell you that for nothing. They gave us a shitload of stress. I’m glad we got the flat back off them and we can do it ourselves now.’
‘Really? I thought they were supposed to be pretty organized. Though they’ve been a bit flaky so far…’
‘Flaky? Bunch of crooks, more like! They’ve been on telly and everything. Been massive complaints about them. Just saying, it’s entirely up to you.’
It was entirely up to me, wasn’t it? This conversation haunted me all the way back to the UK, along with the memory of the very Uncivil Servant telling me my flat would get its head kicked in and squatters crawling all over it, that they had ‘much better flats than mine’ on their books, that Lavapies was a ‘very dangerous area.’ And after all this they’d be taking the first month’s rent as advertising and management costs, then 18% every month after that. I’d barely be breaking even – a concept that was bearable if all the stress of being an absent landlady was removed from the equation, and they did their job efficiently and professionally. It’s just that… it wasn’t looking as though they were going to do that. A shitload of stress? I could source that for myself independently, thank you.
After a few days I decided that if it was entirely up to me, I’d rather have my flat back and take my chances in the private rental market. But that might not be so easy- I had signed it over to them for ‘comercializacion’ and viewings. They had my keys. I had signed papers, in an office, overlooked by a rude ‘nota de encargo’ officer and a drooping pot plant. It felt like a pact with the Devil himself. What if they told me it was too late now, I owed them money for advertising the property, for wasting their time, for employing an agent to carry out viewings, for being foreign, for not knowing my mysterious and often-trampled rights? I had heart palpitations and slept badly for two days. Then I decided to proceed in a Spanish fashion. That is, to apply a liberal dose of bullshit, shake it up, and sprinkle it with a little cunning:
‘Dear Sr. Fulanito,’ I emailed guiltily,
‘I would like to thank you for all the hard work you have put so far into preparing my flat for rental. However, I regret to inform you that I have just been offered a job in Madrid, and must return to take up residence in the premises. I will, therefore, be unable to keep it on your books as a rental property. I would appreciate it if you could inform me of the method by which I should retrieve my keys? And if you could inform me if I need to send you any further paperwork? Once again thank you for all your work, and if the situation changes I will, of course, be back in contact with you.’
Lies, lies, damned lies. Now I just had to wait and see if my calculated plan would work…..