The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock has a room to fill after a tenant decides she's finally had enough of her horrible flatmates
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That's it. If I read one more room wanted ad where the flat-hunter describes themselves as "bubbly and outgoing" I swear I'll scream. Obviously it's code for "I'm a great person to live with, let me move in", but what I want for the empty room I have to let is a hermit.

All those trillions of people who say they are looking for flatmates they can "share the occasional meal with or the odd glass of wine" just won't get along with the motley crew in my four-bed multi-let flat. Share a beer? I doubt they'd share swine flu with you.

Just as I thought they were all starting to get along after months of arguing, one of them emailed me to say she wanted to leave, asap.

It's the usual story: the flat's great, I'm a good landlord (she says) but she just can't stand the other three tenants. She's the third person to leave in as many months and the 16th person to move out of the flat in three years. I'm beginning to think that it's almost impossible to find four complete strangers with the right chemistry to live together.

The present bunch seem to have only one thing in common — they're all deeply antisocial. Far from cracking open a bottle of wine to share, I've never seen one of them crack a smile. "I hardly ever see them," the outgoing tenant tells me. "We all eat in our rooms and try to avoid each other."

It's a shame because she's a good tenant, always courteous when telling me of any problems and one of the few sweet enough to thank me when I sort them out.

There's no point trying to persuade her to stay, however. Her mind is made up. She's already put down a deposit on a one-bedroom flat so I promise to give her a good reference and wish her luck for the future.

The timing of her departure couldn't be worse, though. I'm going on holiday in a couple of days, I'll be gone for a week and she wants to move out before I get back. That doesn't give me much time to re-let her room.

I warn her that if I can't fill it before she moves out she'll have to pay a full month's rent, as per her contract, but it would be a shame for her to end up out of pocket so I've promised to do my best. Of course it might be easier if I employed a letting agency as they could market the room while I'm away, but they'd take all my profit and anyway, I don't know any that deal with multi-lets. Also, I'm such a control freak I always think I can do better myself.

However, the first viewing does not go well. One of the tenants, the grumpiest of the lot, is at home when I'm showing the woman around and the conversation between them goes like this:

Viewer: "I love the flat, what are the other tenants like?"

Grumpy: "Honestly? I can't say I like them."

Viewer: "Well, at least the flat is lovely and clean. It's the nicest place I've seen."

Grumpy: "Really? You should have seen it last week, then it was very messy."

Viewer: "Oh. It's great you have wi-fi though."

Grumpy: "Huh! The connection is slow, it's rubbish."

Viewer: "How long have you lived here?"

Grumpy: "A few months, I can't be bothered to move."

She didn't take the room so if anyone knows a homeless hermit, please let them know there's a vacancy.

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