The accidental landlord: why marigold is far from my favourite colour

Victoria Whitlock ends up on her knees scrubbing after two mucky tenants leave
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The whole of the past week I seem to have spent in rubber gloves. While other women have been sporting statement pieces from the A/W 12 collection, I have been going around in my Marigolds. I know it’s not a good look but really I’ve had no choice.

Both my flats have been vacated and both were left dirty, even though I’d reminded the outgoing tenants they needed to make sure they were clean, as stated in their tenancy agreements. It’s always the way. Most tenants don’t realise that they need to leave a property as clean as they found it. Some of them have lived with the dirt for so long they can’t remember what it was like when they moved in.

The tenant who left my one-bedroom flat was such a lovely chap I was really sorry to see him go, but hours after waving him off I was cursing him out loud as I was still cleaning up his mess. He assured me he’d paid a woman for a five-hour clean the previous day but judging by the state of the place she’d had a quick wipe around then spent four and a half hours with her feet up.

And anyway, five hours is not nearly enough for an end-of-tenancy clean. It takes a minimum of eight hours, even for a small flat. I found greasy kitchen surfaces, dust-heavy skirting boards, grime all over the bath, dirty floors and fridge and no defrosting.

As I had new tenants moving in the next day, there was no time to get another cleaner so I started frantically cleaning. My sister-in-law dashed round to hack chunks of ice from the freezer, my brother-in-law wiped cobwebs from the walls and I bribed my kids, who had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, and gave them an intensive short course on how to scrub the bathroom.

However, not even the promise of The Sims game could persuade any one of them to chip four years of limescale off the toilet bowl.

“Why the bloody hell did the tenant let it get this bad,” I cried in exasperation. “Hasn’t he heard of bleach?”

“What’s bleach?” my son wanted to know. God, I hope he never lives alone.

Late that evening, when everyone else had had enough of cleaning and gone home, I wearily picked up a plastic spatula and bottle of Viakal limescale remover, sank to my knees next to the loo… and decided that whatever it cost to replace the toilet, it would be worth it.

Fortunately such drastic action wasn’t necessary. I called handyman Andy (07952 645150) to see if he had a better solution. “Bottle of Kilrock Big K, £3.99 from B&Q. It’ll shift it overnight,” he advised. Thankfully, he was right.

Flat 2 was left in an even worse state. None of the tenants had familiarised themselves with the vacuum cleaner while they’d lived there and all the cleaning products left under the kitchen sink were suspiciously full.

Fortunately, I managed to persuade this bunch to let me hire a team of professional cleaners, with the cost to be deducted from their deposit. However, the cleaning agency, like many others I’ve used, failed to deliver on its promise of a really deep clean, so I still ended up again on my knees doing a lot of it myself, hence the Marigolds welded to my hands.

* Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London

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