The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock liked the sound of the lovely lady's voice. That was her mistake
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'Perfect' tenant who kept mum about her son

The week before the old tenant was due to move out of the double room in my flat, the deal with the new tenant fell through. That left me with an empty room, which any landlord will tell you is not a comfortable feeling.

The new tenant had sounded like a lovely lady. She called from Burnley (or was it Blackpool?) when she saw the ad for the room online and we agreed she would take it for just one month. She said she needed a base while she looked for a flat to buy for her son who was moving to London to study.

I was more than happy to take a short let for the summer as it's been a busy few weeks and I haven't had time to show prospective tenants around the place. Also the lady agreed to pay a 20 per cent supplement to take the room just for the month. Ker-ching!

I usually ask tenants to pay a deposit in cash or by bank transfer but as neither was possible in this case (she wasn't planning to come to London prior to her stay, and a bank transfer would have taken too long), I came up with the brilliant idea - if I say so myself - that she could send the money via Paypal. I'd used the service before for selling stuff on eBay and it worked a treat.

It only took a few hours for me to get notification of her payment and the fee was less than four per cent. She was happy and I was happy. Then it all went wrong.

After she'd sent the money the lady emailed to ask me if I could put a second bed in the room. I emailed back to say the room was too small, besides I don't keep a supply of spare beds and, by the way, why did she want another one? She replied that it was for her son, but don't worry, she wrote, they could share the double bed. Eeek! She'd never mentioned that her son was moving in, too.

I had to call her to cancel the booking as I was sure the other three tenants in the flat wouldn't feel comfortable with that, but I felt awful about leaving her without anywhere to stay and, yes, it pained me to refund her money.

Now I have an empty room not earning a penny, which is why I was possibly a teeny bit irritable (okay, very irritable) when one of the other tenants texted on Sunday afternoon to say he had lost his front door key.

He's the third tenant to either lose a key or lock themselves out this month. He asked if I could go round to let him in. I looked out of the window at the rain, then at the cup of tea I'd just poured and texted back to say he'd have to walk round to my house to collect the spare key.

When he arrived I told him he must get another one cut the next day or pay me £10 for the replacement. He looked pretty fed up - but I'm fed up with paying for new keys and really, why can't tenants look after them? When I was little, my mum used to send me to school with the front door key on a chain around my neck.

Perhaps I should do the same with my tenants, as they're even less responsible than a child. Or maybe I should suggest they all live with their mothers.

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