The accidental landlord smokes out the cat in her pet-free flat

The accidental landlord discovers her tenants are smoking on the roof and have a cat - in her smoke-free and pet-free flat...

Are you a renter and a smoker? May I suggest you make it your new year resolution to quit the coffin nails? Of course it's none of my business if you want to puff your way to an early grave, so you would be quite within your rights to tell me to butt out. But giving up might make your life easier when it comes to finding somewhere to rent.

The majority of landlords don't like letting to smokers and since this is one prejudice we are still allowed to express, many of us openly advertise for non-smokers and write a clause in the tenancy agreement banning smoking in our properties.

I realise that this doesn't necessarily stop smokers from finding accommodation — you just don't own up to the habit, then light up as soon as the landlord is out of the way — but if you are caught you could be chucked out.

You will probably have to resort to all sorts of acrobatics to smoke without getting busted, such as hanging out of windows. Or you will have to spray the place frantically with Febreeze before the landlord pays a visit, but only a smoker would think they can mask the stink of cigarettes so easily.

Even if your landlord doesn't mind you smoking, you will probably have to pay to fumigate the property when you leave.

I am seriously worried that my tenants are going to kill themselves smoking — and not in the obvious way.

As I have banned them from lighting up inside the flat, they have taken to smoking on top of it. They clamber out of a window on to the flat roof every time they want a fag. Not only is this annoying the other residents in the building, but they are also in danger of falling through into the flat below.

When one of the other residents called to alert me to the tenants' antics I wrote to warn them that it is not a roof terrace, it isn't intended for parties or fag breaks, and it could give way under their combined weight, but apparently that hasn't stopped the frequent illicit puffing.

I thought a gentle warning face to face might work better so I repeated during a routine "property inspection" that the roof was strictly out of bounds. "But you don't want us to smoke inside the flat," was their idiotic reaction, as if I was obliged to provide somewhere for them to light up, even though I had made it clear when they viewed the flat that smoking was prohibited.

I was about to persist in my argument when I was distracted by the sight of a ginger cat sitting on the sofa. This is a smoke-free and pet-free property.

"Who does that belong to?" I asked.

They all looked sheepish, then one announced it was a stray they had taken in. "He's not really ours," she said. "He's a sort of flat-cat."

Oh dear. As the creature seemed very much at home and smiled at me I agreed that Ginger could stay. But later, as I was leaving, I bent down to stroke "flat-cat" and he shied away, as if he sensed I was the Cruella De Vil of cat land. "Oh he's just nervous," volunteered one of the assembled company. "At my old flat one of the tenants used to torment..." She swallowed the end of her sentence but flushed beetroot red as she realised she had already revealed he wasn't flat-cat, he was her cat. I sighed. "Just make sure he doesn't do any damage. And STOP SMOKING ON THE ROOF — or he won't be the only thing that's flat."

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock. Find many more homes to rent at

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