I was at the flat the other day when my tenant asked if I'd seen the new hens in the back garden. When I looked out of the window, there they were, six brown birds scattered across the lawn, clucking, pecking and pooing all over the grass.
As the garden is wholly owned by the people upstairs it's really up to them what they do with it, but my tenants in the ground floor flat are the ones most likely to be affected by any noise and smell from these wretched birds.
Fortunately, I know the family upstairs very well so I paid them a "casual" visit to make sure they weren't planning to add a flock of sheep and I was reassured to hear that their plans to become more self-sufficient stopped at the odd omelette. "Come and see the hens," said the teenage daughter. "They're sooo cuuuute." "Yes," I said, standing on the lawn with the birds clucking around me. "They're really cute." (They weren't, they were ugly and they stank).
Fortunately, the lurid orange plastic henhouse thingy was at the bottom of the long garden so the smell of chicken poo wasn't likely to waft as far as my flat, but still, it was an eyesore. My tenant wasn't bothered. He's an easygoing kinda guy and he told me he liked seeing the hens strutting their stuff around the garden. That was a relief, but what about when he leaves?
Would future tenants be quite so chickenfriendly, I wondered? Shortly after my visit I heard the hens had been killed by a fox. I was sad (really) but at least that would put an end to my neighbours' animal husbandry, I thought. I called to offer my commiserations - and to check they wouldn't be replacing them with any more chicks. "We're not sure," sighed the woman, "we might get a pig." A pig. In SW9. She wasn't talking about one of those utterly pointless but essentially harmless trendy micro pigs. No, she wants a proper mud-wallowing porker. In case you city folk are thinking, 'What's the problem? Pigs are sweet', I must point out that they were totally misrepresented by Babe the movie.
They are not little pink things with cute corkscrew tails - they're donkey-sized destructive honkers. She can't get a pig, can she? I go on to the Defra website and discover that she probably can. Certainly I can't find anything that says you can't keep a pig in your back garden if, like Gordon Ramsay, you should be daft enough to think this is a good idea.
You need to register a pig and there are some restrictions, such as not feeding it kitchen scraps, but apparently you don't need a licence and your neighbours can't stop you even if they will be repulsed by the smell. So, be warned: if you're thinking of acquiring a buy-to-let, try to make sure first that no-one nearby wants to become a pig farmer.
I'm fairly confident my neighbours will have to rethink their plans as the garden really isn't big enough for a pig - I've read you need half an acre - but if they do get one, I'll just have to hope all future tenants like bacon.
Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London.