The accidental landlord

Our accidental landlord gets caught in the middle of a flatmate dispute - and her favourite tenant wants to leave
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You know how maddening it is when a flatmate nicks your milk or never replaces the tea bags, but I bet you would never dream of complaining about them to your landlord, would you? Thought not. But some of my tenants like to drag me into even the pettiest disputes.

I've just had to listen to a tenant whining about the fact that one of his flatmates pinched three of his toilet rolls when she moved out. Not one, three. These are the sort of people I have to put up with.

"I'm sure it was her because I opened a fresh packet the morning she left," he said. I thought he must be joking, but then I remembered this guy doesn't have a sense of humour.

"I put one in the holder," he went on, "and the others were gone when I got home."

Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up. Some of my other tenants are just as bad. One woman who rented another property from me called to ask why I hadn't returned her deposit. She owed me a month's rent when she left, didn't bother to clean the flat as per her contract and didn't leave me any contact details. That was almost a year ago and this is the first I've heard of her since. Where has she been for the past 11 months, a lunatic asylum?

"Glad you called," I say.

"You still owe me money." Oooh, ahhh, errmmm, she says and rings off.

I hope that's the last I'll hear from her.

I do have one lovely tenant. Just one. And I'm so keen to hold on to him that I've offered him another year's lease from September, with no increase in rent.

A letting agent tells me she can get at least £150 a month more for the flat, but I'd rather forgo the extra money if he would renew for another 12 months. Even the agent agrees that it would be better for me to persuade him to stay.

The tenant doesn't want to leave but (and here's the tricky bit) he doesn't want to be locked into another 12-month lease, which is what I'm offering him. Instead he wants to convert to a periodic contract, which would mean that he'd be free to leave at any time, giving me just two months' notice.

That's not unreasonable of him, especially as he says he might be transferred overseas by his company at the end of this year or early next, but I don't want to be left with a vacant flat between December and March, which is a tricky time to re-let a property.

I've always insisted that tenants renting this particular flat commit to a 12-month contract with a six-month break clause precisely to avoid having to market it in midwinter.

If I were to bite the bullet and re-let the flat now I'd probably get more rent than if I wait until the winter, and there would be less chance I'd be left with a void. On the other hand, the tenant is a gem.

If he stays I won't have to pay agency fees, at least for another few months. And there's always the possibility he might end up staying for another year, so I'm tempted to say "To hell with it" and extend the tenancy on his terms.

It's a gamble, but are the odds stacked in my favour - or his? Oh, I really don't know which way to play this one. Suggestions on a postcard, please.

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