The accidental landlord

Even on the slopes on a family skiing holiday, Victoria Whitlock finds there's no let-up from demanding tenants
And relax... I'm on a family ski holiday. Before I left home I made sure all my tenants had my mobile number but told them I was going abroad and asked them only to call me in an emergency. I stressed the word "emergency".

Day two of the holiday and I'm on a chairlift with my kids when my mobile rings. I fumble with mittened hands through my pockets trying to find the device, but it stops ringing before I can locate it.

As I get off the ski-lift I hear that familiar tinkle, warning me that I have a message from a tenant.

'Tenant: "The light bulb in my bedroom needs replacing. Could you pop round with a new one?"

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There's an icy wind blowing and the children are desperate to ski to somewhere more sheltered but I ask them to wait, explaining that "Mummy has to make an urgent call". I ignore their groans. I feel a sense of dread as I dial my voicemail, all sorts of emergencies whizzing through my mind. Is it a flood, a fire? Has there been an earthquake in south London?

"Hey there," says a cheery voice. It's my Aussie tenant. "Just wanted to let you know that the light bulb in my bedroom needs replacing. Could you pop round with a new one?"

Day three and I'm struggling down a steep, icy run with my 10-year-old niece when my phone rings. Again. Holding her steady with one hand, I take the call with the other. It's the furniture company, David Phillips, to say that they can't get a wardrobe I'd ordered for my rented house up the stairs to the loft room. "But I ordered it flat-packed," I say. The lady checks the order form and tells me I mistakenly ordered it ready-built. It isn't a problem, she says. I can order a flat-packed wardrobe to be delivered the next day but I have to give her my credit card details to cover the extra charge, and now my niece, who has plonked herself on the snow, is starting to slip.

I wedge my skis below hers and mouth to her to "hang on". I'm halfway through reading out the card number when my niece takes her life into her own hands, shuffles away from me and goes sliding down the hill on her bottom. I cringe as she hits a couple of bumps and spins out of control, but she manages to get down in one piece.

It's day four, 1am, and I'm woken by the sound of my mobile ringing. Again. I shuffle reluctantly into the living room and see that I have a missed call from my Most Troublesome Tenant. She's left a message. I call my voicemail. "I'm locked out," she says. She sounds close to tears. "Call me back as soon as you get this message."

I don't want to wake the rest of the family, so I slip out to the balcony. It's freezing and I'm shaking with cold by the time she answers. "I'm ssssorry but there's nnnothing I can do," I stammer. "Can't you sleep at a friend's tonight?" "I don't want to sleep at a friend's," she snaps. "I actually want to sleep in my own bed." I call my brother-in-law, who lives nearby and, unfortunately for him, has a spare set of keys for the flat. He agrees to let her in.

Next day, walking back to our ski apartment, I notice that there's a three-bedroom property for sale in the same block. "That would make a holiday home, we'd get good rental income," I say. My husband screws up his face. "Are you serious?" Maybe not.

Victoria Whitlock is a mother-of-two who lets three properties in south London

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