Radha welcomed me into her home. I paid her the deposit and one months rent in advance. She gave me a contract and I read it through. It seemed pretty straight forward.
Or so I thought…
I signed it and kept a copy of it to myself. We then went out into the garden and sat down with a cup of tea and just chatted for a little while getting to know each other. I also got introduced to another lodger she had who stayed in one of the rooms upstairs. She then moved out shortly after a couple of weeks.
Radha was a short woman originally from India, quite overweight, with dark skin and was also religious – from the Sikh community. I had noticed large pictures of the Sikh Gods as I walked in during the viewing. There was also the little praying area in her living room where a small little shrine hung on the wall – a replica of their place of worship, The Gurudwara. Radha had explained that she had been off work for a few weeks with health problems. It seemed like she was going through a lot with what she was telling me, but said it was nice as she could spend more time with her grandkids, who would be dropped off and looked after for a couple of hours. I thought it would be a bit much running after them since she wasn’t really well but all they would be doing was watching telly and staying quiet chilling on the sofa. I had met her family too who all seemed friendly.
She told me a few house rules and what I could and couldn’t do. It seemed fair enough but when I was told that I couldn’t use the oven, I thought it was very odd. Instead, I would have had to use a Halogen oven, which I had never even heard of before. I get this method of cooking would mean it was more cost effective for her and she had sworn by it on how well it cooked food. I had a section of what was my area to store things in the fridge and cupboards, and she showed me a tiny section where I could freeze my food which was in one of her huge cabinet freezers in her shed. It was a tiny section at the end, which I thought was a bit ridiculous but then I thought maybe she might let me have more room to use once she got comfortable with me.
For a little over a month or two, it seemed okay, but then I noticed little things slowly starting to add up which didn’t make sense.
I had gone into work one day and was asked by a couple of people how it was going living with Radha and how I was settling in, when a colleague had mentioned that she had never worked a summer before and noticed that every summer she was always looking after her grandkids. I thought at first that she may have been taking it off as part of her holiday entitlement and she had used it then. But then if it seems to be a pattern of it being every year, then it would seem suspicious for the managers. Summer was such a busy time of year for us at work and it is very difficult for one department to have everybody off.
The rent. I had paid in cash, which in hindsight, I had wished I had done some more research at the time and wasn’t so naive. But I had never done any of this before and thought it was fine . As a lodger, I paid in cash in hand, and I thought it had been logged and recorded in some kind of rent book with receipts of proof. I always paid my rent on time and gave her an envelope with the cash in it. She would then supposedly go to the bank and cash it in to her own bank and it will then probably go towards paying her mortgage, Right?
That’s what I thought. But I never got a receipt of some kind of proof I had paid her. I started to get very suspicious and since I had been there a few months I tried to find my contract, which I was certain had been kept safe amongst all my paperwork. But I couldn’t seem to find it. ‘I’ll try and look through it again some other time and re-read it ‘ I thought whilst chatting on the phone to Robbie. So for a while, I carried on paying her the rent in cash and felt really unsafe putting it in my bag. So I brought up the subject in conversation that I needed her bank details and do a direct transfer, as it’s much easier and safer but she always came up with excuses; such as problems with her card and having issues with her bank. It all seemed convincing at first . But when I heard her having conversations with her sons and daughters and hearing a slight mention of them asking her for her bank details and saying she will text them, I realised that she must be doing something very dodgy.
Radha also smoked heavily and liked a drink. Since she was in ‘too much pain to go out’, she kindly had asked me to get cigarettes and booze for her sometimes whenever I was on my way home. It wasn’t right because she was on strong medication and she suffered with diabetes. It would kill her. I had some chats with friends and they thought she was just stupid, but she’s an adult after all and it’s down to her to make those decisions.
Radha was sometimes very sweet and pleasant and other times, she could be quite mean and nasty. She’d make the occasional snide comments that would be hurtful and upsetting. But I would just bite my tongue and ignore it, and assumed that the medication would be causing her moods. She swore a lot too and sometimes it came across as aggressive. Out of the blue during conversations, she would come up with ridiculous accusations that I had slagged her off to her friends, that I had left things lying around on the floor in her house which wasn’t true, that I misplaced things or used stuff in her food cupboards. Whenever I confronted her calmly, she didn’t like it and would get on the defence and put words in my mouth. It was very stressful and didn’t think she trusted me at all.
She would be very particular on her standards of cleaning around the house. I was given only a couple of chores to do once a week. And okay, my cleaning isn’t exactly spotless but I would like to think I did a good job and I spent a while doing it to try and please her. She would moan a lot about little things and not just the cleaning. I have long hair and my hair would fall out and it would stick to her rugs and on the floor. She would point it out when I was hoovering and it would really annoy her. I couldn’t help it! Even tying my hair back wasn’t gonna make much difference. It would really wind me up to the point that I felt I had to tip-toe around her. When I was out with friends, she worried a lot and got a bit possessive and texted me asking when I was coming home. It was like I was her child! She made the excuse that she was like this because she wanted to make sure so she could lock the door before going to bed. She was paranoid of burglars. She had said to me when I first moved in that as a landlady, she liked to treat her lodgers as friends. Friends..? Whatever!
There was a one-off incident where two of her friends came round in the evening. They had a few drinks and Radha was very drunk. Bearing in mind, she had taken her dose of very strong painkillers so that was a toxic mix and very dangerous. Her doctor had apparently prescribed it to her to only take two tablets but she took four to help her sleep (Radha only had four hours of sleep a night, as I had discovered during my time living there).
She knew I had work the next morning and I asked her politely to turn the music down a fraction so I could sleep. Sleeping downstairs in my room wasn’t easy at all, as you could hear everything and Radha wasn’t exactly quiet. She said she would turn it down, but she ignored it and kept turning the music up full blast. So I turned it down when they were talking and laughing loudly in the garden. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done it as it wasn’t my house and I had no right to but I couldn’t deal with it much longer. So I did it again. I didn’t think they would notice as they were too pissed out of their skull. But when her friend came inside, she saw me and it all kicked off. There was shouting and her friend’s husband started getting angry and threatening me. It was pretty nasty and I stayed in my room out of their way crying myself to sleep. I learned my lesson and I apologised to Radha. But I thought she would have had a bit more respect for me and if she was planning to have a party, she should have let me know in advance. After all, you are supposed to treat your lodgers with respect too. I went to buy ear plugs for the next time she ever threw a party, but they didn’t have one for a while.
I had lived there for just over 3 years and it was absolute hell. Within those 3 years, Radha has shown her true colours and didn’t really care about me at all except for her money. My work had to let her go in the end as she had been off sick for over a year and they couldn’t pay her anymore. She was refused to claim some benefits as they didn’t think she was ill- enough after doing an assessment on her. She wanted help elsewhere and so her family had helped her out temporarily. She had put her house on the market a number of times, but an offer never fell through. She had jobs done on the house on the cheap, as she couldn’t afford it and always paid the price for it because they were cowboys who wanted the money off her first before anything was done, which nine times out of ten, they ran off with and never returned to complete it. She never learned from her mistakes, and I was starting to think she was even more stupid than I thought.
Later on in 2018, I had fallen on hard times. I needed to claim job seekers allowance but she refused as she was on ‘benefits’ herself. It didn’t make sense as it wouldn’t have affected her. I called up some housing services for advice and they said it was illegal for her to refuse. She was definitely doing something dodgy with benefits but unless I had some kind of proof e.g the agreement in my contract so I could argue it, it was my word against hers. I had another look for it but still couldn’t find it anywhere. It was hopeless. The only way was to move out of there.
There were some positives things apart from all this. Robbie and I had got very close within those years and became a couple. He was there for me and has been my rock ever since. He was aware with what was going on and thought she was an absolute nightmare. I had told my family and they insisted I leave.
Question was… where?