The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock discovers her lawn has become an allotment
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After 18 months of letting out our home, my family and I have finally moved back in. Which is bliss, except the first thing I notice is that it seems to have gone, well, a little mouldy in our absence.

A corner of the wooden worktop in the kitchen has rotted where water has seeped through the surface, the sealant round the kitchen sink is icky, the grout in the bathrooms is blackened with spores and, although the tenancy agreement stated that the house should have been professionally cleaned, I reckon the tenants just gave it a quick vacuum on their way out.

None of this bothers me, as I’m pleased that the tenants haven’t trashed the place or turned it into a cannabis farm, like the crew that moved into a house just along the road. The poor guy who owns that place has spent tens of thousands of pounds rectifying the damage.

However, I’m speechless when I step out of the back door and discover that half the lawn has disappeared. I’m not suggesting the tenants ran off with a piece of my land, I haven’t completely lost my marbles, but where there was once grass there is what appears to be an allotment. The garden has been divided by slabs of concrete and different vegetables are sprouting in each section: I identify rocket, potatoes, radishes, carrots, garlic, runner beans and spring onions.

On the one hand I’m impressed with the tenants’ horticultural skills, especially as I can’t even grow mint. On the other hand, much as I like vegetables I would prefer to have a lawn and am annoyed at how much effort I’ll have to spend replacing it. While hauling the lumps of concrete off the soil that was once grass, I realise they are the same slabs that used to be underneath the shed, keeping it off the damp ground. When I open the shed door I see the floor has started to disintegrate.

I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t make regular inspections of the house and garden while it was rented out. If I had, I would have spotted the worktops beginning to rot and the mould invading the bathroom and might have been able to prevent it getting worse. I might have also been in time to stop the tenants from digging for England in the back garden. I’m also annoyed to discover that the garden wasn’t included in the check-in and check-out reports prepared by the independent inventory clerk. “We only include outside space when requested,” said the woman at the inventory company when I called to ask why the garden was excluded.

It costs £140 to get the house cleaned and a further £40 to clean the windows. The worktop can’t be rescued, I’ll have to buy a new one, but my husband reckons he can re-grout the bathroom to get rid of the mould, so that’ll only cost a few quid in materials.

I email the tenants to ask if they’ll pay for the cleaning and restoring the lawn. I don’t mention the worktop or the mould as the inventory clerk put them down as “fair wear and tear” in her report. The tenants offer £250. “That’s not enough,” says my husband, as he painstakingly scrapes grout from between the bathroom tiles, but I accept their offer. After all, they left enough salad to keep us going all summer.

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