Renting in London: the flat is a mess but the accidental landlord can't hide her relief when a "Tenant from Hell" moves out

Armed with industrial quantities of air freshener and detergent, the accidental landlord cleans up after a woman who left her flat filthy and paid no rent...

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Can you imagine re-entering your rental property after the tenant has gone, discovering quite unspeakable stuff on the carpets, a filthy mattress, bin bags full of smelly rubbish strewn about in rooms reeking of cigarettes — and sighing with relief? That’s what I did.

I was just so thankful that my tenant from hell had finally gone. As I wrote in this column recently, I was preparing for a long and costly legal battle, as the tenant hadn’t responded to two eviction notices I’d sent when she stopped paying rent. I thought I was going to have to go to court to get her out.

However, before going to the expense of applying for a possession order, I went to the flat to make one last attempt to persuade her to leave. When she didn’t answer the door I let myself in. Incidentally, I was only allowed to do that because this tenant wasn’t renting the whole flat, just one room and the other tenants had already left. If a tenant is renting an entire property, you should not enter without their permission, even if an eviction notice has expired.

As soon as I opened the door I knew she’d gone. The bedroom door was open and I could see the wardrobe was empty. The living room was littered with bin bags and crates of empty bottles, there was a pile of personal possessions dumped in one corner and there was still some food in the cupboards, but I knew she wasn’t coming back because she’d left her front door key on the table.

So how did I end up with this nightmare tenant? I must confess, it was my own fault. A previous tenant, who wanted to leave before the end of her contract, arranged for this young woman to take over her room behind my back so that she didn’t have to cover the rent herself.

When I found out and tried to insist that the woman left because she had ignored my messages asking her to complete a reference report and credit check, the original tenant pleaded with me to let her stay. She even got her mum to beg on her behalf. I caved in to their emotional blackmail and agreed the woman could take over the tenancy, even though I had serious reservations.

When I finally met her for the first and only time a couple of weeks later, my heart sank. If she’d had “Tenant from Hell” tattooed across her forehead it couldn’t have been more obvious that she was going to be trouble. Anyway, now she’s gone, although it will take quite a lot of time and dosh to eliminate all trace of her from the flat.

I have already chucked out the carpet and the mattress, which will cost about £600 to replace, and taken two car-loads of rubbish to the tip. A team of professional cleaners has managed to restore the kitchen and bathroom to their previous state.

The fag smoke-stained walls in her bedroom will have to be repainted and I’m hoping that this, together with an industrial quantity of Febreze, will eventually mask the stench.

It’s a pity that, unless this tenant is daft enough to ask me for a reference, there is nothing I can do to protect another landlord from becoming her next victim.

She is probably a serial rent-dodger, but if she always flits before she is taken to court, there will be nothing on her credit file to alert other landlords. I bet she’s rubbishing someone else’s property as I write. Beware.

  • Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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