The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock tries to conduct business as usual next door to yet another crime scene
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Few things present more of a challenge than trying to let a property located just yards from the scene of an attempted murder. Once viewers have had to duck under police tape to get to the front door, it's a waste of time pointing out the shiny new boiler and power shower.

Thankfully there aren't many incidents of violent crime on the south London housing estate where I have a rental flat but, as Sod's Law would have it, a youth was shot right outside the bedroom window on the very day I had scheduled viewings.

Now, when they hear gunshots, most normal people do start to worry about their personal safety; I started to worry that no one would pay to live in an area which, on that day at least, could have been the backdrop for an episode of The Wire.

So I tried to cancel the viewings as soon as the police started wrapping the estate in red-and-white tape, but the letting agent didn't get the message on time and turned up with three prospective tenants shortly after the ambulance had carted the victim off to hospital and at precisely the same moment as the police firearms experts arrived on the scene.

Top marks, though, to the letting agent who didn't let the sight of armed coppers trawling the grass below the flat for bullets detract from his slick sales pitch. One look at the prospective tenants' faces told me he was wasting his time, but it was funny listening to him trying to sell the benefits of a flat while ignoring the temporary war zone outside.

Thankfully the victim lived, and the incident didn't make it into the local paper, so I found new tenants for the flat soon afterwards. But to tell you the truth, letting a property on a housing estate can be a challenge.

Leaving aside the one-off shooting which (let's be honest) can happen anywhere, this particular estate is a pleasant place to live. It's only five minutes' walk from the Tube, the communal areas are clean and tidy, it is surrounded by greenery and most of the time it is very quiet. Yet the majority of prospective tenants are put off because it is owned by Wandsworth council.

AS A result of the flat's location, most of my tenants are foreign. It seems that Australians, South Africans and Eastern Europeans don't have the same prejudices as the British and they see the flat for what it is — a cheap, clean crashpad close to the Tube.

Occasionally English students view the flat, but the first question they ask is whether the area is safe. Honestly, it is no less safe than anywhere else in London. And the neighbours are no less friendly.

When I lived there, a young chap who owned a couple of Rottweilers came by to tell me that if I needed anything I just had to "holler" at him — which was nice.

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

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