Tag Archives: Landlord woes

Mixed Emotions

Sunrise/sunset: 09:04/13:58 Daylength: 4hr54min

We are, once again, reaching the time of year when the hours of daylight start to drop away faster and faster. We currently have almost five hours when the sun is above the horizon, but it is only two and a half weeks until the polar night arrives. I am feeling very tired at the moment and the lack of sunshine might be having an effect on that, but this week the landlord woes I wrote about before have taken an odd and unsettling turn.

I will say first though, that outside of that, I have had a very interesting week. A couple of weeks back, an e-mail dropped into my work in-box about a table top exercise in Tromsø. The subject was emergency readiness in an Arctic setting. There were two scenarios that would be looked at. One was an outbreak of bird flu, the other a more subtle situation where there began to be sickness in reindeer, where the cause was not known. The meeting was being held under the auspices of the Arctic Council in line with the One Health Initiative. I was not aware that there was an Arctic Council, nor did I know anything about the One Health Initiative, so as you can imagine, it was a steep learning curve. That said, I found myself included (alongside my colleague Anja) more or less by accident, in two projects which are of huge relevance to the job I do, but on a scale that is so far above my pay grade that it felt like a whole new world was opening up.

To explain a little, the Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum which includes the eight countries which exercise sovereignty over the land that falls within the Arctic Circle, so Norway, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Russia. There is also a focus on including indigenous groups so that their concerns are properly represented and their knowledge brought forward.

The One Health Initiative is a movement which brings together medics, vets, researchers, environmentalists and other professionals to work towards a better understanding of the interdependence of human and animal health and the way that changes in the environment might impact these balances. Many of the diseases we monitor in animals at Mattilsynet (the Norwegian Food Standards Agency) are zoonotic (they can pass between animals and humans) or might become so. For example, we are currently keeping a close eye on bird flu, which can pass to humans when there is close contact between birds and people, but so far doesn’t spread easily between people after it made that jump. Similarly, we monitor salmonella (which spreads readily between humans and animals) and diseases like BSE (mad cow disease) and illnesses in other species that are related to it.

My job then, is right on the front line of dealing with that monitoring. I take samples from the animals, send them off to the lab and receive information back about whether they were positive or negative. Because I am interested in the wider picture, I quite often dip into Mattilsynets national emergency readiness website to see what is happening in other areas, to get a taste of how disease outbreaks are being handled. If an outbreak occurred in my local region, I would doubtless be involved in any testing that occurred, but generally all decisions about what happens from there are taken much higher up and other activities (for example, the disposal of the carcases of animals that present a risk) are then handed off to other agencies. I might be peripherally aware of it going on, assuming it was occurring in my locale, but I wouldn’t have any direct involvement.

Mattilsynet had apparently been contacted a good deal earlier about this exercise, but hadn’t responded. As it was getting later and later, the woman organising it had reached out to someone she knew in the local region, who had then put out an urgent call for representation (and unusually, had made the suggestion that someone relatively new to Mattilsynet might be suitable, as they would perhaps learn a great deal). Anja said she could go on days one and two, but asked if anyone could go on the third, or better still every day. I, despite still being up to my elbows in seasonal meat inspection, tentatively suggested that I might actually be free all three days. So I can only say that I went from a small, local perspective on emergency readiness as it relates to zoonotic diseases (with a quiet eye on the national situation in moments when time allowed) to a global perspective on the same topic. My mind was genuinely so blown by this that it took me until day three to really pick myself up and start to properly contribute, which I am proud to say I did.

Unfortunately, there was another factor thrown into this mix. On the first day of the exercise, in the morning, a letter from Husleietvistutvalget (the rent disputes tribunal) thudded into my digital mailbox. As regular readers will know, my ex landlord is making a vexatious claim against me for a huge sum of money and I previously have responded to his accusations, in what I believe was a careful and truthful manner. This new letter was his response. In a way, it was easy to respond to. It was filled with bizarre lies, which in some cases were easy to undermine.

For example, he has thrown away and replaced a cooker, which he says I had set on fire. This was an ancient cooker, which was acknowledged by his wife when we went round the flat together at the end of the tenancy. I was surprised to read then, in this latest letter, that it was actually relatively new and had been bought in 2018. The “proof” he provided was a receipt for a cooker bought in 2018. Had I been less prepared, or had he been luckier, I would have been at a loss regarding how to counter this claim. However, my photograph of the kitchen area had a reasonably clear (if rather distant) picture of the cooker. Though his receipt was for a Gram cooker, it was possible on my photo to home in on the logo on the cooker in the flat, which was a Zanussi.

There was other stuff, of a similar nature. The receipt he had sent for a sofa was one where, zoomed in, you could see it was bought in 2020 (after we moved in) and not now. It wasn’t the sofa in the apartment, so this was neither proof that the sofa we used was new when we moved in, nor that he’d had to buy a new one after we had left. To be honest, his lies have now reached such a level of inconsistency and outrageousness that I’m not too worried about the way the case handlers will view it, but I am worried about what he might do if and when he doesn’t get his way. He also has some money of mine, which was a rent payment, accidentally sent after I moved out. When I called the bank, shortly after realising what had happened, they advised me that if he didn’t send the money back, I should contact the police. I am now seriously considering whether I should go to the police and make sure they have details of the whole sorry case, from the start, when he stood in the apartment shouting at me, rather than explaining what he felt I needed to do to rectify faults he believed I needed to address, to this latest missal, which suggests to me that he is really starting to lose the plot.

Anyway, it was unfortunate that this fell onto me during this wonderful conference. However, despite that, I still managed to enjoy my trip. By the end of it, I was wondering how on earth I could get more involved, as it seems unlikely I will be included in the next exercise, which will be in Alaska. I even started to look up Masters Degrees in Public Health, but at 53, spending two years back at university would be a huge and significant change. It has certainly given me a lot of food for thought though.

I was very tired as I was driving back yesterday, but I stopped to take a picture of the snow, which has now come down from the mountains, though it is still patchy at sea level.

Snowy track leading out across the moors on the E6 north of Buktamoen.

And now I have to go. My car has been in at the garage in Tromsø. It had a major fault that could only be fixed there, and now I have to go catch a boat so I can pick it up. Have a lovely week all!

Don’t Try This at Home

Sunrise/sunset: 07:28/17:40 Daylength: 10hr11min

A lot has happened this week. I’m starting to feel that life couldn’t be much more up and down if I was strapped into a roller coaster beside a demented grizzly bear.

Last weekend was mostly good:

John and I drove down to Narvik on Sunday to buy a snøfres or snow blower. I can see, when I look at the estate agent pictures of my house from last winter, that it obviously gets a lot of snow, so working out how to clear it is important. I like snow, which is just as well, and at least I now have a garage – no more getting up at 4a.m to clear one car, then a second ten minutes later. But I will still have to clear the driveway, which is longer than the old one. John found the snow blower on Finn – a Norwegian website that has everything from second hand stuffed otters to holiday booking and jobs.

The bloke selling it laughed at us when we arrived with my car and no trailer. I seem to have been beset by arsehole men of late (not sure why – I wouldn’t have said it was typical here) but happily John had brought his tool kit. He very quickly removed the wheels and the funnel that directs the snow, and we soon had it in the boot to drive home. Here’s John checking it out when we got back.

Sturdy, orange snow blower

In addition to the snow blower, I have also invested in a Roborock Vacuum cleaner. This must surely be the best invention ever for those of us who don’t like housework. In order for it to work, the floor must be clear, so that was a good start and gave us the final push to put away the last few things that were still lying around after moving. The first time I set it going, I discovered that you can watch its progress on the Roborock app. This was oddly fascinating and I sat and watched the lines building up as it cleaned the floor in sections. I actually watched this for about 40 minutes as it wove in and out of the hall and kitchen! A couple of days later, I showed John and he was equally mesmerised. And all that comes with the added benefit that the floor is unprecedentedly clean.

The highlight of the weekend was a visit to Trude’s to see the puppies. We had a puppy cuddling session and then coffee and I even came home with some plants for the house.

Puppys at the milk bar

Monday wasn’t a bad day until the evening. I was checking my online bank when I noticed there was very little left in my current account. This does sometimes happen, but I wasn’t expecting it, right at the start of the month. When I checked the outgoings I realised, to my horror, that an automatic rent payment had been paid out to my ex-landlord. I went and checked, with shaking hands, and realised that the monthly payment, which I had stopped, had restarted.

The bank helpline was still open, so I called them. They told me it was my responsibility, that the stop button was only for a month, and that it was now on me to try to get the money back. I was reeling. It was a lot of money as I was paying 14,500kr per month rent (well over a thousand pound or US dollars).

John was frantically searching online – a difficult task as all the information was in Norwegian – and he told me I had to contact the person I had sent the money to, to establish that it had been sent in error and that I wanted it back. My first instinct was to message the wife of Mr Abusive, so I did so, but then thought afterwards that I should tell him as well, given it was his bank account. I’m glad I contacted her as well as him as, though neither of them responded, I can see from her messenger (and thus can prove) that she read it, which might turn out to be quite important.

My bank have not been particularly helpful. I will be making a complaint, as if I click on a button that says “Stop transfer” and a button pops up that says “Start transfer” I assume that the process is stopped until I start it again. When I looked again, I can see there was also an option to delete. It was a while ago, so I’m not sure why I didn’t take that option, but with a word like “transfer” which can refer to an individual transaction, or the monthly transfer of funds, that the bank should have made it absolutely clear that the stop was only temporary and would restart the next month.

Of course, Mr Abusive has not sent the money back. I presume that he thinks he will keep it as a kind of “deposit” against the 40,000kr he thinks I will have to pay him. Taking a deposit in your own bank account is illegal in Norway though, so I hope that the rent disputes tribunal will take a very dim view.

In the meantime, I have contacted his bank – apparently they are obliged to take “reasonable steps” towards getting my money back. My own bank told me I should contact the police, if he doesn’t pay it back. I think they might be referring to a particular branch of the Norwegian police force, who work in debt collection, rather than him being arrested, but that is all still to come.

In the first instance, I have been able to obtain legal assistance from Jusshjelpa i Nord Norge, a group run by the university in Tromsø, where law students assist people with legal issues. I have also informed the rent disputes tribunal and they have extended my response deadline so that I can find out whether he pays me back or not. If he doesn’t, I will be adding it to that case, which will be legally binding, if they decide in my favour. Given Mr Abusive’s ongoing behaviour, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear who isn’t being honest and reasonable here. Legally, he should send the money back and wait for the tribunal result, but it’s looking unlikely that he will do so.

Anyway, having picked myself up from that debacle, I was feeling tired, but pretty happy towards the end of the week. The house and my life in general are still giving me a good feeling of happiness and stability. So I was looking forward to the weekend yesterday, when I was on the sheep line at work. We use sterilisers for our knives, which are filled with water that is usually simmering. My knife fell into the water. I was wearing a latex glove with a cotton glove underneath, so I put my hand in to retrieve the knife, as I had often done before. Unfortunately, this time there was a hole in the glove. It took a moment for the pain to hit, but I had to rush off the line, ripping the gloves off and leaving Vaidotas alone.

It was one of those horrible moments. I was wearing loads of protective clothing and it was becoming increasingly clear that I couldn’t continue without running my finger under cold water, so I had to throw off all the gear as quickly as possible and rush to the Mattilsynet room, where fortunately Ernestas was sitting at the table. I asked him to go in for me, and went to run my finger under the tap. Having looked at the NHS website last night, I can see that the first aid advice for burns has changed from ten minutes under cool water to twenty, but having stopped after ten minutes, I was still in so much pain that I had to ask Trude to take me to the doctors’. Another change of clothes was required. I guess, in an out and out emergency, they’d take you in your white “clean area” clothes, but a scalded finger didn’t really qualify. I was in enough pain that I had been sitting with my finger under another tap at the surgery for fifteen minutes, before I noticed I hadn’t actually done my trousers up.

So now I have a bandaged middle finger on my right hand. Second degree burns, apparently. There’s a blister encompassing a good section of my finger tip and another at the top of the nail. The pain seems to be under control for now, but typing is definitely not as easy as it usually is. Fortunately, I will be inspecting live animals on Monday, which will only require me to wield a pen, rather than a knife, so that should hopefully be okay.

Sunset taken on a walk with Triar near the house

And now I need to go shopping, partly for food, and hopefully also to buy an outfit for Anna’s graduation, assuming I feel up to it. She and I are also planning a trip to Stonehenge when I go over. We share a love of the ancient, so that definitely qualifies.

And I’ll leave you with a photo of a snow capped mountain. It’s rather distant and therefore difficult to photograph, but beautiful nonetheless. Have a good week all!

Snow capped mountain scene, taken from my veranda

How Much?

Sunrise/sunset: 06:35/18:42 Daylength: 12hr07min

As regular readers will know, I had something of a run in with my landlord a couple of weeks back. This week has been dominated by a letter I received on Monday from Husleietvistutvalget – the Norwegian Rent Disputes Tribunal.

I genuinely hoped, when I was opening it, that they had been reasonable. There was some cleaning I hadn’t finished, which I would estimate would have taken a couple of hours, though I’d have paid them if they had got professionals in to clean, or indeed if they had requested payment for even four to five hours cleaning they had done themselves. My hope was dashed immediately. They are trying to charge me for twenty three hours of cleaning time and appear to have decided, presumably filled with rage, to throw out multiple items, which they claim were so filthy that they could not be salvaged. Fortunately I took some photos while cleaning.

Bedroom used by John and Anna

When you look at that picture, what do you see? I hope you would agree there are signs it has been cleaned adequately and everything was in good order. One of the pillows is, perhaps slightly stained, but that is surely part of wear and tear after two years of use. My ex landlord claims that the room was so dirty that it needed to be completely cleaned again. In addition, the duvets, pillows and the mattress topper were so filthy and stained that they had to be thrown out. Never have I been so glad that I am reasonably competent at taking photos.

In total, they are trying to claim 40,000kr worth of cleaning and damage (around £3,500 or 3,800US$). I have no experience with such disputes. I have always received my deposit back in full, so their outrageous claims really floored me, though with a few days to gather evidence and calm down, I am sure I can get it down to a much more reasonable figure. But the whole thing has been incredibly stressful. After fourteen years of living in Norway, two years of collecting together handing in paperwork and a year of waiting, I finally received a letter to say I was now a Norwegian Citizen on Wednesday. What should have been a wonderful, happy, once in a lifetime event has been completely overshadowed by their vexatious claim.

Fortunately, a couple of my colleagues have been providing rock like support. I have been at the abattoir all week and confided in Trude, who has given me information on how things should have gone after the landlord and me and John had carried out the inspection together when I believed I had finished cleaning. She says the requests for additional cleaning made then should have been binding and final. I hadn’t been sleeping and on Friday asked her if it would be possible for some slight adjustments to be made to the rota because the last thing I want is to find myself too unwell to work. She arranged them immediately and better still, has worked out the rota a few weeks ahead so that, despite the fact that there are still staff on sick leave, I will be able to take a few days holiday in October, so that I can go to the UK and see Anna graduate. I was almost in tears when she told me.

The other colleague who has offered most support is Marit. I have to collect together my evidence and write a report with my version of what occurred. Marit has agreed to go through my statement, which has to be written in Norwegian. She has also offered to ask around to find a good solicitor. Husleietvistutvalget might offer mediation between the landlord and me (I very much don’t want to go through that) or they may produce a written report. Their decision is legally binding and if either party disagrees, they have to challenge it through the court system. Unless I am asked for a ludicrous amount of money, I will almost certainly pay it, but I can imagine if things don’t go the landlord’s way, that he may well decide to take things all the way.

Some good things have come of it, of course. I will be able to see Anna graduate, another once in a lifetime event. I also feel very well supported by my colleagues. You always find out who the really good people are when you are in trouble.

While all this was going on, I also decided I should do something I hadn’t had time for, with all the house moving, so I called Ann and asked if I could go round and see her new house. She and her partner Stejn have bought a smallholding with some barns and a small amount of land. The house needs a lot more work than mine, but they seem to be getting through it. And it is in a truly wonderful place. I took some photos (of course I did) while I was there. As you can see, there is a dusting of snow on the top of the mountains now.

Autumn trees with a snow topped mountain
A view from the valley below the house

This picture was taken on the drive there, beside Bardufoss.

Waterfall with autumn trees

Anyway, I have to go now. I have to write a report for Husleietvistutvalget and then translate it into Norwegian. I wish I could spend my weekend doing something more pleasant, but there is a fairly short deadline of two weeks from my receiving their letter, so I had better get on and get it done. Hopefully, by next week, things will be a little less stressed.

Thanks for reading. Over and out!