The accidental landlord: the horrors left behind when tenants leave

From festering food to old pants left in the washing machine, the accidental landlord explores the perils that lurk in a newly vacated flat.
Rubber gloves. Check. Face mask. Check. Bin bags. Check. Right, so I have everything I need for an end-of-tenancy inspection.

Ever since my little boy found some "adult toys" left under a bed by a tenant, I am always a little nervous when I return to a rental property for the first time after it has been vacated. When I turn the key in the lock, my stomach does a little flip at the thought of what might be waiting for me inside, so I always go armed with a strong pair of rubber gloves.

It doesn't matter how much you emphasise to tenants that they must leave the place clean, there are usually one or two nasty surprises, such as alien life forms swirling around the bottom of the fridge.

It's not so gross, but just as annoying, when they leave large items behind. One girl once left a tatty chest of drawers, telling me she thought the new tenants might like it.

Of course she didn't really think anyone wanted that heap of junk, she simply couldn't be bothered to shift it so she left it for me to dispose of.

I try to avoid these unwelcome surprises by writing to tenants two weeks before they move out to remind them to take all personal belongings with them when they go. I remind them to check under the beds and clear out all wardrobes and drawers.

If they have asked me to arrange the end-of-tenancy clean, which they often do, I remind them that first they must empty food from fridges, freezers and cupboards and remove all rubbish, as that isn't part of the job.

I also remind them to replace blown light bulbs, put furniture back where they found it and to leave any keys I have provided and any additional sets they have had made.

If they ignore any of the above, I warn them that money will be deducted from their deposits. I specify a charge of £20 to remove small personal items, £40 for larger items, £20 to clear out fridges, freezers and cupboards, £5 to replace each blown bulb and £5 to move furniture back to its original position.

These charges are intended to be discouraging, as it is a nuisance to have to dispose of items left behind by tenants, and there is something so icky about handling other people's personal stuff that I hope the threat of severe financial penalties will spare me from the stomach-churning task of cleaning up after them.

My most recent tenants left the flat in an okay condition, apart from some stinky gloop in the fridge and a pair of forgotten pants festering in the washing machine. However, one of the group — who was so hairy I was never sure if I was speaking to his face or the back of his head — had left lots of clothes still hanging in his wardrobe. There was also a sheep's worth of dark hair on the mattress, stuck to the carpet and on the bottom of the wardrobe.

I emailed him to ask if he was planning to return to collect his clothes. "No, I thought you might like them," he replied.

He thought I might like a man's jacket, a check shirt and a pair of old work boots? What am I, a lumberjack?" He insisted he had cleaned his room, but the hairs would suggest otherwise. Still, I didn't want an argument, so I snapped on the industrial-strength gloves, chucked everything into a bin bag, vacuumed the room and returned his deposit.

I think he got off lightly, but given that some tenants leave properties in much worse condition, so did I.
  • 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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