The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock has only a small room to let - so Big Bear must hunt elsewhere
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Wow. I've just managed to find a new tenant for a soon-to-be-vacant bedroom on the very first day it was advertised. This was a bit of a surprise because the room isn't that great. It's quite cramped and stuck at the end of a dark corridor, next to the bathroom (that's not en-suite, you understand). It is also in an ex-council flat that is quite a hike from the Tube. And I've put up the rent 15 per cent.

Even so, the advertisement (in which I made all of the above quite clear, I'll have you know), had been live on the website for only a few minutes when I received the first of half a dozen calls, texts and emails from people wanting to see it, asap.

It was an amazing response, given that this particular room has always proved quite hard to shift (see above) and it's not actually available for another two weeks. Usually I don't get much interest in a room, even the very best ones, until a few days before they are due to become vacant.

The first viewer arrived - a big bear of a man, so large he practically filled the bedroom. I was astonished when he said he'd take it. I looked at him, I looked at the narrow bed, I looked back at him. I thought of the teeny-weeny living room downstairs, which is only just large enough for four flimsy chairs.

I told Big Bear I'd got more viewings lined up (true) and I needed to discuss all applicants with the existing tenants first (not true). His shoulders slumped, and as I watched him trudge away I felt bad, but I didn't think the flat was big enough for him and three others.

Later that evening I showed another (somewhat slimmer) chap around the flat. He told me he was moving out of his old place - in the same block and almost identical to my flat - because his landlord had almost doubled his rent, to £125 a month more than I was asking. Blimey, and I thought my rent (£475pcm, since you were wondering) was a bit on the cheeky side.

Slim Jim wanted the room and handed over a £75 non-refundable holding fee. I went home wondering seriously if I should have asked for more rent, but at the end of the day I was happy and he was happy, so that was okay... and so it remained - until the next evening.

The new tenant called to say he had popped back to the flat as he hadn't had a chance to meet the other occupants the night before (which was sneaky I think, but smart) and discovered they're all paying £10 a week less than him for much bigger bedrooms. Ah yes, it had occurred to me this might be a tricky issue.

He wanted to know why he should pay more rent for an inferior room — an undeniably good question. I told him the other tenants moved in months ago when market rents were much lower. I reminded him that until he knew what the others were paying he thought he was getting a good deal. He still is, I said, just not as good a deal as the others.

Not wanting to start the tenancy on a sour note I offered to refund his £75 non refundable holding fee if he no longer wanted the room. I don't want him to feel ripped off. No, no, he insisted, he was still happy to move in.

Later I got a call from Big Bear asking if the room was still available. Cringing, I told him the other tenants had decided they wanted a woman instead, which was a big fat lie, but kinder than the truth.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London.

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