The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock has a hysterical time – with her gasman
For amateur landlords it is just about impossible to find reliable tradespeople, who will turn up on time and won’t rip us off. But this week, thankfully, I stumbled across a gas engineer who has proved to be an absolute star. Though, whether he will ever work for me again remains to be seen.

I arranged for him to carry out the annual gas safety inspection at my one-bedroom flat, having discovered that if I organised this myself it would cost half as much as leaving it to the letting agency to sort out, but unfortunately for him this turned out to be more work than he was expecting for £50.

As both the boiler and the gas hob were only a couple of years old neither of us were anticipating any problems with the inspection and we thought we would be in and out of my flat within 30 minutes.

Sure enough the boiler was fine but when Colin, the gas engineer, turned on the kitchen hob there was a mini explosion that caused us both to jump out of our skins. There was no damage done and, amazingly, the hob still worked, but obviously it was not only faulty but potentially lethal so Colin had no option but to disconnect it.

He slapped a red DANGER! sticker on the hob, just in case anyone was mad enough to try to reconnect it themselves, and prepared to go, only to find himself confronted by a hysterical woman - me.

“You can’t leave it like that,” I blabbered. “You’ve got to fit a new one, now, the tenant’s just moved in, this doesn’t look good. Please don’t go.” Pathetic, I know, but I couldn’t stand the thought of a new tenant returning home to find his kitchen out of order and stickers screaming safety warnings at him.

Colin said he was fully booked for the next few days but promised to try to find a colleague to fit the hob that afternoon. I dashed to IKEA where I spent an exasperating hour trying to locate the right aisle with the right box with the right serial number, and eventually returned triumphant with a cheap hob with an unpronounceable name.

Then Colin called to say he hadn’t been able to find anyone to fit the hob after all. I don’t know whether any of his other clients have burst into tears on the phone, but I must say he handled it very well and offered to come back himself to fit it that evening. He was as good as his word and rolled up at 7pm.

The tenant, whom I’d never met before, returned home a few minutes later. He wasn’t fazed to hear about the hazardous hob, but he decided to pass the time by telling me his life story. It was late, I was tired, I wanted to go home to read a bedtime story to my kids and instead I was forced to listen to a stranger drone on about his hobbies, his job and his on-off relationship.

I nodded and smiled, nodded and smiled and tried hard to stifle several yawns for what seemed like hours. When the job was done I think I was almost as relieved to get away from the nice-but-tedious tenant as the gas engineer was thankful to escape from the crazy landlady.

As for Colin, if any landlords are wondering when I’m going to give out his contact details, I’m not. I’m keeping him all to myself. Greedy, I know, but he says he’s too busy to take on any more clients anyway. Sorry.

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