The Accidental Landlord

Victoria Whitlock pays a high price to keep her tenant happy
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A new tenant complained that the curtains in her bedroom were so thin that she was being woken too early in the morning so, ignoring my husband’s sarcastic comments about profits going down drains, I spent £15 on a blackout blind which, I told him smugly, was money well spent if it kept the tenant happy.

Only now I need someone to put it up. I daren’t ask my husband who seems to have downed tools. And as I’m not handy with a drill I Google “Londonhandy-man”. Up pop at least a dozen firms specialising in odd jobs. They all charge a £20 call-out fee and £20 per half hour, which means I’ll have to pay at least £40 plus VAT. I start to regret my generosity.

I pick the first handyman outfit on the list, which promises to send me a “multiskilled and very experienced handyman”. When he arrives I discover he is also monosyllabic and very grumpy, but he gets quickly to work, which is good as the clock is ticking.

The clock hasn’t ticked for very long when the handyman shuffles out of the bedroom with a broken bedside lamp in his hands. He has accidentally smashed the base with his spirit level. “I’ll knock it off the bill,” he grumbles in an Eeyore sort of way.

He finishes the job in less than 30 minutes but when I inspect the blind it’s sagging across the top and when I unroll the fabric, which is smeared in grubby fingerprints, it’s so wonky that it scrapes the wall at one side and leaves a one-inch gap at the other. Clearly putting up blinds is not one of this handyman’s many skills. He goes back to work and the clock starts ticking again.

Two of the other tenants are home and they take the opportunity to tell me that they’re moving out. I’m surprised, they only signed a new lease a few weeks ago, and disappointed because although these Aussie girls can’t change a light bulb, have difficulty operating the central heating (what’s a thermostat?) and blew up the microwave, they’re very nice.

“It’s not the flat,” they assure me. Then what is it? They glance uncomfortably at one another then one of them blurts out: “It’s the new girls, they’re Mormons!” I’m taken aback. I’ve never knowingly met a Mormon before (though I did once propose to Donny Osmond by post) and I don’t know anything about the religion so I ask why this is a problem.

“Oh it’s okay them being Mormons,” one of the girls says defensively, “but they have rules, like no boyfriends, which they want us to follow, which is just, well, bloody annoying.” Yes, I can see it might be. The Aussie girls have found a couple of friends to take over their lease and as they are determined to move out there’s nothing I can do about it.

I pay the handyman £131 (trying not to cry) and go home to find out more about Mormonism. When I read on the BBC website that there are only 190,000 Mormons in the whole of the UK, I feel privileged to have not one but two living in my flat. It sounds like an easy-going, live-and-let-live form of Christianity, but when I get to a bit about no sex before marriage (including petting or necking), no alcohol, no smoking and no soft drinks containing caffeine, I realise how this might cramp the style of two hard-drinking, chain-smoking Aussies. I just hope their friends who are moving into the flat are teetotal and celibate.

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

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