The accidental landlord

Our accidental landlord makes sure the repairman pays for being late

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AFTER three years of spending his spare evenings and weekends doing odd jobs at rental flats, my husband has decided he's had enough. No more DIY he says, hanging up his drill. "Next time you need a handyman, you'll have to hire one," he tells me.

Fair enough, I think. After all, he has got a day job and unblocking other people's sinks, re-grouting bathrooms and mending locks is not everyone's idea of fun. However, hiring someone to do these jobs is neither easy nor cheap, as I discover when a shower rail in one of the flats snaps in two and falls off the wall.

I suppose I could try to replace it myself - I fancy getting my hands on the drill - but I decide against it when he says: "One broken tile and we'll have to redo the whole bathroom." There's no shortage of handyman outfits in London. Google "handyman" and at least a dozen crop up. But which one to choose? I rule out the odd-job company I hired to put up a blind because I had wanted it straight and they put it up wonky. I also rule out The Handy Squad, even though I've used them before and they were actually quite good.

Trouble is, like many of these now much sought-after companies, they charge a £20 call-out fee, which I think is a bit steep on top of their £20 per half hour fee, especially for such a small job. Finally, and after hours of ringing around, I choose Handyman Plus, which charges £40 an hour but no call-out fee.

I'm at the flat at the appointed time the following morning to meet the chap, but he's nowhere to be seen. I call him. "I'm at Tower Bridge," he says. That's miles away. I remind him we had an appointment for 9am. "Harrumph," he goes. He actually "harrumphed".

"There's no way I'm going to get there for nine," he says. It's already 9.15, so I deduce that he's not daft.

I'm kicking myself that I didn't book one of those nice chaps from The Handy Squad, who zoom around on bright yellow scooters. I bet they never get stuck in traffic. Rather than hanging around waiting for him, and becoming increasingly irritated, I ask the chap to call me when he arrives at my flat and I go home to wait. He gets there at 10. Only an hour late.

He did apologise though. He attaches the new shower rail in 10 minutes, but I still have to pay for the full hour. "That'll be £47 with the VAT," he said. "Not so fast," I reply. "I've got you for another 50 minutes." He gives me a look that says, "You cannot possibly be serious." I am.

A couple of the tenants are home so I order them to find this man some odd jobs. One finds some loose laminate skirting in her bedroom, which he glues to the floor. There's some loose skirting in the hallway, which he promptly deals with.

After one of the tenants hands him a cup of strong coffee he perks up and volunteers to sort out a couple of laminate floorboards in the living room which have slipped, leaving gaps. He shoves them back and glues them in place. Brilliant.

With just 10 minutes left on the clock, I decide to let the chap go. On the whole, I am satisfied I've squeezed my money's worth out of him, but I reckon that if I can find a beginner's course in DIY I'll save myself a fortune in the future. Now... where's that drill?

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