The four girls moved into my flat last September and jointly signed the same tenancy agreement, which was to run for 12 months with a break clause after the first six months.
Seven months into the contract, first one tenant, then a second, decided to leave — which they were entitled to do, but the other two wanted to remain in the flat and promised to find two new flatmates if I let them stay.
Even though I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this scenario — I could sense things were going to get messy — I am a people pleaser at heart, so I said yes. “You’ll regret that,” my husband warned. He was right.
The girls found someone to take the first of the empty rooms, but the day before the new tenant was due to move in she got cold feet and decided she didn’t want to be added to the existing contract, which had just five months left to run, because then she would be responsible for the actions of the other two girls who she had only just met. Instead, she asked for her own rental agreement.
While this wasn’t an unreasonable request, it put me in a tight spot because a new tenant is legally entitled to a minimum six-month lease and even if they agree to a shorter let, a landlord can’t force them out until the six months are up. This meant that if the two existing tenants left at the end of their lease in five months’ time, I could be stuck with this third tenant for a month before I could re-let the entire flat.
Nevertheless, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to give her a five-month rent-a-room agreement and crossed my fingers all would turn out okay. It didn’t. The girls failed to find someone to take the other empty room and when they called to ask me to help them find someone I said “no” in my head but “yes” came out of my mouth. What was I thinking?
I got a great response to my ad on Spareroom.co.uk but after I had taken the first four viewers around the property I realised why my tenants hadn’t been able to find a new flatmate. It wasn’t that they couldn’t find anyone who wanted the room, the problem was they couldn’t find anyone they liked.
They vetoed the first person I found because she was “too young” (she was 22), the second was “too old” (he was 31) and the third was “too chatty”, plus they didn’t like the fact that she wanted her boyfriend to stay over every weekend. “And the fourth?” I said, trying not to lose the plot, “What was wrong with him?” “Too quiet”, they said. I was starting to feel like I was in a sequel to Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
The fifth viewer was a lovely chap. Quiet but not withdrawn, sociable, but not in your face, and he had a girlfriend but slept over at her place. Perfect I thought, they can’t possibly find fault with him. I had, however, underestimated their psychic powers. “We won’t get along with him,” they told me, “he’s just not…the right fit.”
Finally I found someone they both agreed was acceptable but the second after I had called to tell him he could have the room, one of the girls said: “Oh, by the way, we’re leaving too…”
- Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock