The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock arrives in Dubai just in time to get frenzied texts from her London tenant. Should she call her back?
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With the kids back at school I slip away for a sneaky break with some girlfriends, but as soon I land in Dubai and turn my phone back on I see I’ve missed two calls from tenants who share one of my flats and they’ve both left messages on my voicemail.

Shall I listen to them? Nope, say my friends, ignore them. Really, I say, that’s a bit irresponsible. They point out that whatever the problem is I won’t be able to sort it out until I get home so I’ll spend the rest of the trip stressing about it. “Anyway, it’s Sunday,” says my Most Sensible Friend. “Unless it’s an emergency your tenants shouldn’t be calling you.”

I spend the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel fretting that the flat has burned down/flooded/been ransacked by burglars or possibly flattened by a falling aircraft. When I get to my room a text from one of the tenants arrives. “Please call today, this is important,” she writes.

Before I get a chance to dial, the phone beeps again. A text from the other tenant: “You must come to the flat now.” My heart is in my stomach as I call one of them back. “Ah.” She sounds relieved. “Please come straight away to see the flat, it is in a horrible mess.” Oh my God, I think, I was right, they’ve been burgled. “No, no,” she says, hurriedly, “but there was a party here last night and now there is mess everywhere.”

She goes on to explain that a third tenant, who moved in only a few days ago, invited a few friends around to celebrate his birthday and, she says ominously, things got out of hand. I close my eyes and imagine the flat, trashed, windows smashed, beer-soaked carpets, the freshly painted (pink) walls splattered with multi-coloured vomit and cigarette burns on the sofa. I spend a few seconds wondering whether my landlord’s insurance will pay for party damage before summoning up the courage to ask exactly what happened.

She tells me that after being kept awake until the early hours by loud music, she got up to find a couple of strangers sleeping on the landing, empty beer bottles in the living room and crisps trodden into the carpet. OMG! She’s wasting a phone call from Dubai to tell me there are a few crisps in the carpet? “And cake, too,” she adds. “It’s really disgusting. Shall I send you some photos?”

I assure her that I’ve seen enough flats the morning after the night before to know what it looks like. Actually it doesn’t sound half as bad as my own house after my nine-year-old’s parties. Besides, I remind her, I’m in Dubai. This phone call alone is costing me a fortune, I don’t want to pay a zillion pounds more to download photos of a crispy carpet.

Trying hard not to sound as annoyed as I feel, I promise to deal with the partying tenant as soon as I get back. This is one of the many problems of renting properties by the room; when the flatmates squabble, I’m dragged in to sort things out. Honestly, it’s almost as bad as having four bickering toddlers.

Back home I write a stern letter to all the tenants warning them that if they leave the flat in a mess and don’t clear up after parties I’ll hire a cleaner and deduct the cost from their deposit. If that doesn’t sort out the offender I’ll hire Supernanny to put him on the naughty step.

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