The Accidental Landlord

Victoria Whitlock learns the hard way that teenagers can forget the degree – the big money’s in plumbing
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Eeeugh! To be a landlord you definitely need a strong stomach. On the same day last week, I was called upon by tenants in two different properties to unblock a toilet and to catch a mouse.

Reader, I’ll spare you the disgusting details regarding the loo, except to say that the tenants didn’t alert me to the blockage until the bowl was, errm, full. You get the picture.

By that time, it was early evening and all affordable plumbers had downed tools for the day. Hoping to avoid an expensive emergency call-out I rang my husband to ask for his advice. “Oh, a toilet’s easy to unblock,” he sighed. “If you could just get a wire coathanger and...…”

“STOP right there,” I shouted. “I am going to call a plumber.” My usual plumber declined to come, telling me he didn’t “do toilets”. I trawled the internet for emergency plumbers. I rejected the first firm I found, Just Plumbing, when they quoted £95 an hour, plus VAT. Ridiculous, I thought. Half an hour and three calls later, Just Plumbing were starting to look suspiciously cheap so I booked them in.

As promised they had a guy at the flat within 30 minutes. It took him just 20 minutes to fish out a toilet roll that someone (and none of the tenants was prepared to admit it was them) had dropped down the loo, for which I was charged £111.

As I paid the bill it occurred to me that I should discourage my children from wasting three years at university and steer them instead into lucrative careers as emergency plumbers. Not only will they earn loads of cash, but they’ll also have the satisfaction of ever-so-grateful customers.

The mouse in the house was a trickier issue. The tenant, who had spotted one little mouse in the kitchen one evening, was adamant I should send pest control round, but I felt the common sense approach was for him to lay traps to catch the blighter. While we were arguing, the mouse was breeding so I reluctantly called Rentokil.

When I arrived with the mouse exterminator I was more than a little irritated to see that the tenant had left an unwrapped loaf of bread on the kitchen work surface and crumbs all over the floor, alongside the odd piece of congealed pasta from the previous night’s dinner. I mean, why not just hang up a restaurant sign and invite all the rodents in the neighbourhood round for a feast?

The Rentokil lady thought my mouse was an opportunist who was popping in and out of the house for the scraps of food. I was fascinated to hear that mice can squeeze through a gap no bigger than the circumference of a pencil, so they’re virtually impossible to keep out.

I had two choices; I could pay £200 to Rentokil to lay boxes of poison, which would possibly result in the mouse/mice dying under the floorboards where their decomposing bodies would create an awful stink, or I could go to Homebase and buy a couple of old-fashioned break-back traps for a fiver. Whichever one I chose, the Rentokil lady made it clear mice would keep getting into the house, especially while there was a feast laid out on the floor.

It was a no-brainer, I went with the latter option, the only downside being I will have to keep returning to check the traps for dead mice. Still, nothing can be as bad as a blocked loo, can it?

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