The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock gets soaked waiting for the gas man. He doesn't turn up, nor does the new bed.
Regular readers of this column will know that I'm not exactly a fan of letting agents. In fact, it's fair to say I've given them a pretty hard time (I might even have called them some nasty names), but I wished this week that my rentals made enough profit to pay an agent to manage the damn things for me.

I had arranged for a gas engineer to carry out an annual safety check on a boiler, which is a legal requirement for all let properties. Foolishly, I'd left it until the day the last certificate expired to arrange the visit. What could go wrong? The engineer could fail to turn up, that's what.

Thirty minutes after he was due to meet me at the flat, I called the engineer to find out where he was. No answer. I texted him. No reply. I'd got caught in a downpour on the way to the property, and although I had let myself into the flat it didn't feel right putting the heating on, so I was shivering and dripping all over the tenants' rugs. I was not happy.

An hour went by and still no news from the gas engineer. What to do? I couldn't get anyone else to carry out the safety check at such short notice (those I called just laughed), and I couldn't leave the inspection until another day because the certificate had expired.

Now I knew the boiler wouldn't start leaking carbon monoxide just because the annual check was a day overdue, but still I didn't feel comfortable leaving without a valid certificate - landlords have been sent to prison for such a thing.

I didn't feel comfortable, either, hanging around in the flat - it's weird being in someone else's space when they're not there. I thought about lying on the bed and watching TV to kill time, but that would have been a bit odd, wouldn't it? So I waited outside in the rain.

It was mid-morning before I tracked down the gas engineer, who told me it would be another hour before he could get to the flat. As I was already on the verge of pneumonia I thought I might die if I waited any longer, so I stuffed the keys to the flat under the rubbish bin and texted the engineer to tell him to post them back to me once he'd finished.

That was not the end of my rubbish week. I'd ordered a bed for another property, which was due to arrive the morning the new tenant moved in. Did it get there on time? Of course it didn't. I'd bought it from a company that specialises in furnishing rental properties, and in the past they've always been very good. This time they were very bad.

The firm called the day after I'd ordered the bed to say that they weren't able to deliver within 24 hours, as promised on their website. On the rearranged delivery day the van arrived an hour late. Not so bad, I thought, except that the guys had only loaded the bed frame and left the mattress behind.

Fortunately, the tenant was understanding and stayed at a friend's flat until the new mattress arrived... but I lost two days' rent and the furniture company cheekily charged me extra for the second delivery before agreeing to deduct it "as a goodwill gesture".

Leaving everything to the last minute is clearly a recipe for disaster. I must get better organised - or I'll have to use one of those agents I've been so rude about.

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