Category Archives: absentee

Voting in US elections

My UK friends often ask me if I can vote in US elections, since I’ve lived overseas for a while. Yes, I can vote in federal elections forever, unless I’m disqualified for some reason (such as being convicted of a felony or being mentally incapable). My ability to vote in state and local elections depends on my intention to return to the US, and for the first time since I’ve been here I put “my return is uncertain” on my absentee ballot request. (I’ve sorted a job, eh? :-) This means that in the November election I’ll get to vote for president, senator, and congresscritter but not anything at the lower level.

Instead of putting the US voting info in a blog post where it will eventually get buried in the sands of time, I’ve created a page about being an American expat in the UK. Right now all it has on it is voting info, but as I think of other topics I’ll add them.


I’ve found a tenant!

(Probably. :-)

I had a gathering last night, a Trifecta! to celebrate my heading off to Newcastle, finishing my new space, and turning 60 — all within three weeks of each other. All of my guests were overwhelmed by the beauty of my new space, and several of them asked about my plans for renting the house while I’m gone. One followed up this afternoon, asking if I would take a slightly lower rent in return for a three-year commitment. I said yes right away, and she and her roommate came over right away to look at the house. They are incredibly excited about what it will be like, and for my part I’m delighted to have a tenant I already know I can trust (not to mention being able to spend my time in grad school not having to worry about getting a new tenant). Plus I know she’ll send me photos. :-)

So I’ve just sent off an email to the rental agent introducing my friend and asking how to proceed. Cross your fingers!

I begin to think it can all be done

I’ve arranged to rent a room for a few months (until after Christmas at least, I think), and if I like it I’ll stay longer. It’s about 100 yards from the coast, fairly close to the Metro, and two flights up. I’ll be sharing the flat with the owner, a 38-year-old German-born researcher at Newcastle University who advertised that she likes to spend her evenings in conversation over a glass of wine. MUCH better than a house full of 20-year-olds who like to go out and party.

I’m now embroiled in getting my house ready. Today the electrical work should be largely complete. Tomorrow the toilet, bidet, sinks, bathtub, and showers will be hooked up, not to mention the washing machine (which we will move upstairs today). Next week, most of the furniture will be moved, either into the new storage room in the basement or into a Habitat ReStore truck for donation. I will continue to live in my new space until the last few days, deriving as much pleasure from it as I can. I have to get a lead inspection (since my house was built before 1950) and apply for a landlord’s license. The biggest challenge will be what to store and what to donate. I’m going to store as much of what makes sense as possible. Getting help to move stuff into the storage room is another challenge.

So I land in the UK on 18 October — less than three weeks now! My friend Dave has generously offered to drive me from Heathrow to Newcastle (should be a fun road trip!), and I have scheduled a meeting with my supervisor on the 19th. I hope I can get myself enrolled that day as well.

Fun times!

Preparing to rent the house

I’ve started the process of getting my house ready to rent. I’ve talked with two property management firms and have already met with one of them. The county where I live is heavily regulated in this area, but that protects renters from unscrupulous or clueless landlords and I’m all in favor of it. (A friend of mine lives in a rental house in Virginia, and if the stove breaks she has to replace it herself. Yikes!) I have to get a lead test (after everything’s been painted/repainted) and a landlord’s license, and change my homeowner’s insurance policy from owner occupation to rental. I also have to collect the owner’s manuals for as many appliances as I can find (the woodstoves are the most important!) and make some decisions about policy.

I have decided to try for a three-year lease but accept a two-year one if three turns out to be not achievable. I have also decided not to allow cats and (on the advice of the agent that was here yesterday) to consider other animals on a case-by-case basis. (I currently plan to come back after I finish my PhD, and as I’m allergic to cats I don’t want to return to a house in which cats have been living.)

This company doesn’t work electronically. They will deposit my checks for me, but they won’t do it via ACH transfer — they will ask me to give them a bunch of deposit slips. The guy explained that if they collect rents electronically they can’t return a check that shows the wrong amount — but I don’t know why that means they can’t send ME their payments via ACH. I think I’ll ask him about the difference.

I spent some time yesterday evening clearing out old software CDs (snif!). The more clearing out I do, the more overwhelmed I feel about how much there is left to do.