Diary of an estate agent: central London

An estate agent tries to turn her hand to mouse catcher and a stressed tennant is too scared to switch on the power in her flat... 

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As property manager for Hudsons I deal with tenant queries. At the moment part of my personal service includes boiler inspector, light bulb specialist, handywoman and part-time mouse catcher.

Today I receive an email from a stressed overseas law student in Bedford Court Mansions saying nothing seems to work in her apartment, so I head over to see if I can assist. I discover the poor girl is too scared to touch anything and has been sitting there for 24 hours with no power on.

I reassure her that the flat won’t explode if she turns on the power, which was switched off while the place was empty. Then I give her a quick lesson on working the lighting control unit, the cooker, central heating and the hot water. I hope the law degree is more successful or she might not last the term of the tenancy.

I have been in London all my working life, mainly around Fitzrovia, and there is never a dull moment being a property manager. Today is one of those great days. 

I have been working hard for a landlord on an ongoing insurance claim where the insurer didn’t want to pay out. I persisted, and finally I receive written confirmation that they are going to settle the claim. My landlord is delighted and is talking about taking me to Quaglino’s restaurant in Mayfair as a thank you. Yum. 

Every six months I inspect a landlord’s property and inform them of any maintenance issues. Today is inspection day, and typically it’s raining, so I grab my Hudsons umbrella and off I go. I start at a lovely flat in a converted tobacco warehouse in Covent Garden.

This apartment is beautiful, and has wonderful high ceilings. I am asked to take off my shoes, so I do — something I regret later, when I feel I need to wipe my feet on the way out because the floor is so filthy. The tenants complain they’ve seen a mouse and I’m not a bit surprised. The mouse must think it’s in heaven here, with food all over the floor and bins full to the brim. 

I kindly provide the tenants with our local cleaning contractor’s details and explain how this might help deter their furry visitors. 

I have more visits in Marylebone, back to Soho, and finish in Bloomsbury. All the other inspections go well. Now I want a nice foot massage and a hot chocolate.

With lots of reports to write up from yesterday, I am in the office bright and early. On the way in, walking to Fitzrovia from Oxford Circus station, I spot a former client of mine and we stop to chat in Market Place. We start reminiscing about the area, which was known in the late Nineties within commercial property circles as Noho — as in north of soho. 

The rents were that bit cheaper then, being north of Oxford Street, but not any more. We recall how, back then, Market Place was a nondescript area. Now it’s bustling on summer evenings with people enjoying a drink and filling the restaurants. 

There’s an issue I am trying to resolve between a landlord and their tenant and I am determined to get it sorted before the weekend. The landlord is insisting on using her own plumber, who can’t get to the job immediately, but the tenant is without hot water. 

The flat is up on Cleveland Street which until recently wasn’t the most desirable part of the district. Synonymous with car showrooms back in the Seventies and Eighties, the area has since had a major transformation. 

After waiting three hours for the plumber to turn up, I finally meet him at the flat. He comes in to fix the boiler then it dawns on him he hasn’t brought the right part — cue a red face for him… and a face like thunder for the tenant. I quickly ring the landlord and agree to get one of our own contractors in. 

A pump is located, the shower is fixed within 90 minutes, and the tenant is happy. It’s a positive end to the week.

  • Jo Miller is property manager at Hudsons in Fitzrovia (020 7323 2277).

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