The accidental landlord

This week Victoria Whitlock discovers that being a generous landlady can be more trouble than it's worth
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Tenants are so picky that you can't just fob them off with any old furniture and amenities, junk you've got lying round the house gathering dust, that you don't want but can't bear to throw away.

You can't say to yourself, "I know, I'll stick it in the rental place," as the tenants of today won't have it. I made the error of trying to offload an unwanted but perfectly good flat-screen TV on to my last lot. I knew that they were on a tight budget and thought they'd be ever so grateful because everyone watches telly, don't they? Not this lot.

Their lack of gratitude didn't bother me (I have a 70-year-old mother who keeps offering me her cast-off clothes so I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of stuff you don't want), but my phoney attempt at generosity backfired somewhat when the tenants refused to buy a licence for the set.

They told me they weren't going to bother getting one because they didn't watch TV "enough". Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure you need a licence even if you watch telly only occasionally. Only watch the commercial channels? Still need a licence from the BBC. And no, you can't save money by turning your colour set to monochrome and buying a black and white licence instead.

Their reluctance to shell out the £145.50 fee presented me with a bit of a dilemma. As I had provided the set, I was worried that I could be prosecuted for not obtaining a licence myself.

I had included a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that the tenants were responsible for acquiring a licence, but I read on some landlords' forums that I was still liable for prosecution. FYI, if you're a tenant and your landlord has provided a TV, you shouldn't assume they've also got a licence otherwise you, too, could end up in court. You have been warned.

But I couldn't march my tenants to the post office and force them to buy a licence could I? I could have bought one, but why waste the money when no one wanted it in the first place? The safest option seemed to be to take back the telly. I figured I could always find it a good home on Freecycle, the website where you give stuff away to others. Heck, I might find someone who'd actually thank me for it.

However, when I told the tenants I was taking it away I found they had become suspiciously attached to the telly they didn't want. Since it was already in the flat, they said, they'd like to keep it, not for watching live programmes they promised, but for DVDs. Now they seemed like an honest bunch, but what if they were sneakily watching telly from time to time and got caught by the TV detectives? I'm not cut out for prison.

Finally I solved the dilemma by calling the TV licensing people. I spoke to a charming man who said: "Stop fretting, stressed-out landlady, we will not put you in leg irons," or something to that effect.

In a nutshell, he explained that as long as landlords make it clear to tenants they are obliged to provide their own TV licence, they will not be prosecuted if the tenants fail to do so, regardless of who owns the set. Problem solved.

Incidentally, my attempt to give away the set on Freecycle led to just one enquiry, from a lady who wondered if I could post it to her. And I thought tenants were awkward.

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