The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock gets to grips with whitewashing a big problem

I'm seeing red as walls turn pink


The vampire bugs are back. Indeed, they never went away. After a tenant had found a couple of bed bugs in his room I’d armed him with a spray, which promised to exterminate them. However, the tenant left last week and, while inspecting his room before re-advertising it, I discover that the spray hasn’t done what it said on the can and the room is still infested.

It’s time to call in the professionals. I get three quotes. The first, a well-known pest control firm, suggests a four-part treatment over five weeks at a cost of £300 plus VAT. Not only is this expensive, but I’ll have to leave the room empty for more than a month. Advertising a room "with a great view of bed bugs" isn’t going to attract many people.

A chap from Dyno-Pest tells me the above quote is "well over the top". He promises a two-part treatment over two weeks should be enough to exterminate the little blighters. Total cost £188. The third company suggests a one-off spray for £100. Fortunately, none of these "experts" thinks it necessary to treat the whole flat, just the infected bedroom.

Just as I always go for the second cheapest bottle of wine in a restaurant, I opt for the second cheapest quote. Not very scientific I grant you, but I know even less about pest control than I know about wine. When the guy from Dyno-Pest turns up to spray the room there’s another blow.

He tells me I’ll have to get rid of a wooden bed frame (I’d already chucked out the mattress) and a wooden chest of drawers, both of which he reckons could be infested with bugs. So that’s another £250 I’ll have to spend on top of the cost of the treatment. As the room is going to be empty for a couple of weeks and the other three tenants are on holiday, I decide to use the time to redecorate the rest of the flat. I’m going to play it safe and follow Sarah Beeny’s advice by keeping the decor neutral.

But when I go to buy paint I discover there are lots of shades of 'neutral' and I don’t know which one to go for. So I plaster the walls with tester pots in every shade of white I can get my hands on, then drag my husband to the flat to help me choose. There’s oyster white, jasmine white, antique white, sail white, white white and whiter-than-white. "Which colour do you prefer?" I demand. "Seriously?" he asks. "They’re all just white."

He sees from my face that this is the wrong answer and points randomly to a patch on the kitchen wall. "That one," he says. "It’s neutral and... errm... it’s inoffensive." He’s pointing at the old magnolia. Clueless.

I plump for oyster white, which I think looks slightly beige and a little bit warmer than the others. My husband nods in agreement, looks at his watch and asks if we can go home for dinner.

When I ask the decorators what they think to the colour, they nod but say nothing. As I’ve used them before I don’t check on their work until the job is nearly finished. Big, big mistake. When I go back to the flat I’m greeted by pink walls. I’m gutted. This is supposed to be a unisex flat. No self-respecting male tenant will ever live in a place that’s painted top to bottom in bloody pink. The decorator asks me what I think.

I can’t print the reply but it certainly wasn’t neutral.

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