Escaping to find a new home abroad

Updated: Aug 6, 2020



‘Start looking for a new place to live!’ After my mum separated from my stepdad, there were some financial difficulties which led them to put the apartment that we were living in Southend-on-sea up for sale. It was September 2016 and I had just found out that I was pregnant with our second baby! This one was also the result of a failure in the purpose of contraceptives. Bradley admitted a few years later to having punctured the condom without my knowledge which caused it to split during us having sex one night due to his desire of having another baby with me.


He believed that this time I would not have an abortion due to now becoming emotionally unable to go through with one, so he decided to take that chance. Not knowing about this intention at that time, I only suspected it to have been a faulty condom. I explained the situation to my grandmother, who was staying at our house for a visit, the next morning and further expressed that I didn't feel ready to have a second child with him. He still refused to pay rent, claiming that he didn't have enough to do so and I had no idea what he spent his paychecks on as he refused to tell me. I was still the one providing everything for our son and his alcoholic's behaviour was also taking a toll on our relationship, it was making me feel drained.


Within the hour, to support me, she came with me to a planned parenthood clinic and witnessed me taking the morning after pill with the help of a doctor. One month later, I realised that my period did not come which was extremely unusual. Taking a pregnancy test, I found out that I was pregnant as it tested positive. I took a deep breath. But, this time I felt calm and smiled. It felt like this was part of my destiny after all. In my mind, this baby defied all odds and wanted to be born. For the previous three nights, I had dreamt that I lovingly held a baby girl in my arms and her name was Scarlett. I had forgotten that pregnancy test on top of our bedside table and Brad found it before I could tell him the news when he got back from work. He had a shocked expression on his face and looked at me wide eyed, dropping to the floor as he placed a hand on his head.


'Would you be OK if we keep this one? I'm ready for her this time and I've been dreaming about her lately. I feel like this is meant to be.' I asked him with a slight smile on my face, hoping that his answer would be yes while placing my hand on his shoulder and kneeling down to his eye level. His expression softened and he smiled.


'Really? Yes please! I feel like this baby is a girl too.' He expressed joyfully.


Luckily, we found another two bedroom flat locally and moved there in October. We announced my pregnancy to our families after moving into this one. Most were shocked again but pleased and immediately supportive this time as I had successfully completed my Bachelors degree and started an internship at a Public Relations agency in London called Freud. Therefore, they felt like I was on more stable grounds than my last announcement. Plus, since I already had a child, they were confident in my capabilities of raising one.


My mum initially screamed at me that I had 'definitely ruined my life now' and did not like the name that I picked for my daughter. But, she quickly regretted expressing her several negative feelings towards this pregnancy, apologised for the way she expressed them and became extremely supportive after. My biological dad, however, was initially happy but called me at work several times while drunk and expressed his concerns plus kept asking for me to abort her. When sober, he would deny that he had any concern and claimed that he was excited and happy for us. Soon after these calls, I found out through his wife that he was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder which, to me, explained his moments of amnesia and extreme plus very constant changes of thoughts regarding this subject. Eventually, he settled on simply acting supportive as well.


Our gorgeous and healthy girl, Scarlett Luna Bryant, was born in June 2017. It was such a painless birth as the doctor gave me an epidural and nitrous oxide as soon as I felt my first cramp. It pleased me immensely that he did that, remembering the pain I felt previously I felt so grateful for that action! This labour lasted six hours which actually felt like it went by quickly and the pushing process was a lot easier, she was out by the 3rd push! My heart jumped with extreme joy at the sight of her and I'm sure Brad's did too. She had that same addictive and admirable new born baby smell that Scott did. I was fascinated by her very chubby looking cheeks and ocean blue eyes! This incredible moment was a great distraction from Brad's odd behaviour at the hospital.


Although Brad was present at her birth like he was with Scott's, he kept popping out of the hospital at random moments and disappearing for extended period of times. He also took my bank card from my bag without my permission and emptied the rest of the little money that I had saved up while I was sleeping on the hospital's bed, feeling exhausted from giving birth again. As he tried to take more money than I had in my bank account, I received a message on my phone from my bank of this, stating it as a suspicious action.


When I woke up and saw this, I called my bank plus explained that my boyfriend had forced me to give him my pin number and kept stealing it. They deemed this as an act of fraud and immediately froze my card, later changing my password for it as well plus opened a case for me to take forward to the police. I confronted Brad and informed him about this. He apologised, promising that he wouldn't do it again. After leaving the hospital, we picked up Scott who was staying at Brad's parents' house. They were the only ones who were able to look after him during my labour as he was not allowed to be present at the hospital with us during that time. Everyone had a lovely time meeting Scarlett while adoring her and Scott's loving reaction towards her was so precious!


One month later I received a letter from my real estate agent with this statement:


Dear Sir/ Madam,

Please find enclosed documents relating to possession claim D4******.

On behalf of the Court Manager of the County Court at Southend.


‘Isadora, I’m a nice guy. I don’t want to have to evict a young family but I need the rent to be paid. Where is the money?’ Said my landlord on the phone.


‘There must be a mistake! I’ve been giving Bradley money to pay it and he said that he did on time!’ I replied, crying, shocked at what I had just read and heard. I couldn’t believe it.


‘Ask him for the truth.’ He stated, sounding pitiful towards me.


While confronting Brad, he expressed to me that he had in fact been spending our money on something else and not the rent. He admitted to having developed an addiction to cocaine alongside his alcoholism and weed use during his teenage years which he tried to keep a secret from me. But, because of not seeking the needed treatment for it due to believing that he could overcome it on his own, the addiction became stronger as time went on. That same month he stole large sums of money to spend it on drugs from my bank account and any that I had in my purse or attempted to hide around the house. This resulted in me falling into around £1900 in overdraft debts.

Instead of getting an eviction we fortunately came to a different agreement with the landlord. With money borrowed from my family, I paid the rent arrears and terminated our contract early. Brad and I separated and moved out of there within the month. The emotional and financial abuse that I was experiencing became unbearable for me to deal with. He refused to treat his addictions. Brad also chose to live with his parents in their home once again. My stepdad (who lived locally and has always been a fantastic dad to me) kindly took me and my two babies into his house on a temporary basis as he was planning to sell it.


I then found a well paid job and accommodation in Geneva, Switzerland, due to my biological father’s help who lives there. As I was born and my biological dad lives there too, in a small studio, I chose to move alone with the kids in November 2017. Brad signed the necessary paper work for us to do so during a mediation session. We had also agreed to give our relationship another chance and therefore he was going to join us out there in December after completing a programme to help treat his addiction.


However, upon arrival I was faced with the issue that nursery spaces are extremely limited in Geneva with a waiting list of over 2000 people. This stopped me from starting work as I couldn’t find a reliable form of child care in time. Therefore, my only source of income came from a charitable foundation that is mandated by the government called Hospice Général. Luckily, I managed to get a spot in a local nursery for Scott on a part-time basis but nothing for Scarlett.


My second problem was that Brad changed his mind about living with us in Switzerland. He also refused to pay child maintenance money for them and did not want to give up his alcohol, weed and cocaine addictions plus refused to answer video calls when Scott wanted to see as well as speak to him. So, our relationship completely crumbled once again.


Another issue was that we were living in a 17m2 studio as a family of three people. ‘You can only stay here until Scarlett turns one,’ the owner of my property said that due to the small space, he does not have permission to keep more than two people for over a certain amount of time. Being in a race against time, I began to frantically look for a new place for us to live in. I did the following to try to get another roof over our heads:


1. Traditional real estate agency


Her birthday arrived but I still had not found another place to move into. Landlords all across the city felt skeptical about renting their property to a jobless and single mother with two babies due to the stigma attached to that status. They did not want to risk they’re property being ruined and the rent being paid late or not at all. My application to over 200 properties was rejected. The demand on properties in Geneva is high and those with the highest salary as well as in the most reliable situation during that present moment in their lives are prioritised.


I tried every estate agency in Geneva that can be found at:

http://www.les-regies-a-geneve.ch/


I even did several things to try to strengthen my application:


  • I wrote and submitted a letter stating the urgency of my situation.


  • I attached a letter of recommendation from my landlord stating that I was a good tenant.


  • I applied for employment and a masters degree to show that I was seeking to improve my situation.


It’s an extremely time consuming process as part of the application process you must visit each property that you apply for before you are considered as a tenant.



2. Facebook Groups


Joining several relevant to property hunting groups on Facebook, I questioned everyone that I felt could potentially help me. I typed in the search bar ‘Apartments to rent in Geneva, Switzerland’ and joined as many as I found at the time. I extended my research to other cities within Switzerland too. Some of these include:






Finding out about a service called ‘Service de protection des mineurs’, I went straight to their building to seek help. A social worker attended me within a few minutes. He explained in the meeting which we had there and then that government aided housing was not an option as I haven’t been living in Geneva for a minimum of two years.


However, if I found myself homeless then I should go back there with proof and they would place us in a hotel until a more permanent solution was made and charge the Hospice Général to house us.



3. Private property agent


Through a parent at Scott’s nursery, I found out about another option that shocked me. There are certain people that act as private agents who are connected with estate agencies. They ask for a cash in hand commission that is equivalent to a month’s worth of rent plus the general requirements that their estate agency also requires for that particular property (three months worth of rent as a deposit, ID documents and proof of income).


With this service your application to one of their properties will be prioritised. This means that all of the other applications from potential tenants who are competing for it as well through traditional estate agencies will get thrown away in secrecy before it reaches the landlord. These agents can be found through word of mouth or facebook groups. One that I came across is called ‘MG Immo Location et Vente Immobilier’ https://www.facebook.com/MG-Immo-409669955870381/


Similarly, there are private property agencies with multiple agents who do this as well. The ones that I consulted with are:





The issues with these options are that the service’s price was outside of my budget and there is no guarantee of obtaining a property despite paying the agent.



4. Airbnb


Airbnb is an online marketplace which lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. There is no requirement for proof of salary and no interviews. Therefore, if you have the money to rent a property you are guaranteed to get your choice regardless of your circumstances. It works in a similar way that a hotel does.

https://www.airbnb.com/


During the time of my research the properties were too expensive for my form of income and the contracts were short-term. However, is a decent option to use in the case of an emergency and there are constantly new properties made available that vary in prices over time.



5. Association Les Vernets d'Arve


The aim of this association in Geneva is to provide housing for single women or single women who have dependents and a low income. One of the conditions is to accept a non-renewable fixed term lease of 3 years. Furthermore, you have to prove that you are also trying to improve your situation, such as pursuing an education or employment. I contacted them through email explaining my situation and showing my university application for a Masters program and search of employment history. I then applied for their service according to their response.


http://www.vernetsdarve.ch/

Email: info@vernetsdarve.ch


Showing my current landlord that I was trying and failing to find a new property, I begged him in tears and with the help of my dad’s wife (who also lives with my dad in his building within a small studio) to give me some more time to find one. He agreed to extend my stay on a monthly basis until I found another property.


Luckily, the ‘Association Les Vernets d'Arve’ finally responded with a property offer which I accepted straight away! Following this, we moved into a one bedroom apartment within Geneva in October 2018. However, the condition is that I am only allowed to stay here for a maximum of 3 years and it is a non-renewable contract. Now, I am focusing my energy on planning the next steps towards our next property move while trying to find a reliable form of child care and pursuing a Masters degree in International Relations.


Overall, I found this experience hard to handle because I didn’t know about any other options on how to get a property other than the popular ways that are through an estate agent or a government aided housing scheme. It was only through critical thinking and speaking to as many random people as I could that I found these solutions after several months of research that took place every day through to late at night. I hope that this blog facilitates your search for a property in Geneva.


What has your property hunting experience anywhere across the world been like? Have you ever relocated to a different country with your children? Comment below your answers, I would love to read your stories!











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