The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock is discovering tenants she didn't know she had

When sleep overs are not for life


Are all tenants helpless, or just mine? One texted me last weekend to complain that her internet connection at the flat had been down for a few hours. Could I call the supplier to find out why? Didn't she realise I'd got better things to do on a Saturday morning than sort out her internet? I clicked reply and wrote: "Sort it out yourself, you useless layabout."

Of course, I didn't actually send the text... but I wanted to. There are four tenants in that flat, why couldn't one of them call the internet service provider? I'd left all the contact and account details right next to the (free) phone, but they can't seem to do anything for themselves.

I waited until Monday morning then popped over to the flat with the intention of checking the wireless router and the phone line - and what I saw actually made me glad I'd had an excuse to let myself in.

One of the tenants was asleep on the sofa in the living room, which she appeared to have turned into a fifth bedroom with clothes hanging from the curtain rails and her junk everywhere. I knew her sister was staying at the flat because she'd asked me if it was okay for her to visit, but I'd only agreed on condition they shared my tenant's bedroom.

Yes, I realise it might seem a little picky - tyrannical even - of me to object to someone sleeping in the living room, but I'd banned this a while back because it annoys the other tenants and it makes the place feel like a dosshouse.

I thought about shaking her awake: after all, it was mid-morning. She's a student - shouldn't she have been at a protest somewhere? Instead I took a more diplomatic (ie: cowardly) approach. I crept home and emailed all the tenants to explain I couldn't check the internet because I didn't want to disturb Dopey. I waited for a response.

When it came, it was worse than I'd feared. It seems Dopey is sleeping in the living room because her sister PLUS ONE OTHER are sharing her bedroom. One tenant complained the pair arrived shortly after Dopey moved in and they'd already been there for two months. What a cheek.

I'm cross because I realise now that it had always been this tenant's cunning plan to move her sister and chum into the flat, pretending they were just visiting. She's not the first tenant to try this trick, but no one else has been cheeky enough to sneak two people in there in the hope that they'd go unnoticed.

If she was renting the whole flat I wouldn't care less who she shared with as long as they looked after the place, but she's only renting a bedroom in a shared flat and it's really not fair to expect the three other (paying) tenants to share facilities with two freeloaders, especially when they can't use the living room because it's been turned into a bedroom.

But I'm also niggled that the other tenants haven't put their collective foot down before now. They're all obviously uncomfortable with the situation so why not tell these "guests" they've overstayed their welcome? Not easy, I realise, but surely better than fighting for the bathroom every morning?

No, it's down to me to tell Dopey it's time her guests left. When I do she says she'll have to go, too. That's a shame because I'll be left with an empty room, but that's probably better than an overcrowded one.

Victoria Whitlock is a mother of two who lets three properties in south London.

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