The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock decides that rather than talking up the flat she wants to let, it's best to be honest about its faults - and provide a tool kit

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When advertising a rental property, I wonder: is it better to be brutally honest in a description to avoid giving people the wrong impression - or to indulge in a little estate agency-speak to lure more viewers through the door? I've always gone for the former, reasoning that it's no good getting people to view a property if they're going to vomit with disappointment the moment they walk inside.

Agents have variously described my very ordinary rental flat as "delightful" and its living room (tiny) as "cosy", while the rough-and-ready communal garden has acquired a "manicured" status.

These glossy descriptions certainly manage to get more viewers than my private ads generate, but the look of disappointment, shock even, on some of their applicants' faces when they see the reality is quite upsetting.

However, as I was browsing through the property ads recently I realised it's probably best not to be too honest. There was one ad that described a flat as "only a gunshot from Brixton station". Another flat was described as "being close to all amenities"... but went on "it's probably not safe to go near any of them".

Obviously the owners of these properties were trying to make their ads stand out by injecting a bit of humour into the blurb, but I'd love to know if they got any viewers.

I was most intrigued by one ad in which the advertiser openly stated he was hoping to find a tenant who wouldn't mind sleeping with him. He admitted he wasn't looking for love (phew), but he suggested a bit of no-strings-attached sex might be on the cards for one lucky applicant.

However, it was the landlord who was advertising for a "handy" tenant who most struck a chord with me. I'm loving this idea. Fill an empty room and solve all your DIY dilemmas in one go. I wonder I never thought of it myself. Even better, you could insist that as part of the application process the would-be tenants prove how handy they are by carrying out a few little repair jobs, such as mending leaking taps, unblocking sinks and maybe even re-grouting the bathroom. Genius.

One letting agent suggested on Twitter recently that giving all tenants a tool kit when they move in would encourage them to deal with small maintenance issues themselves. This is not a bad idea, but it assumes that the tenants know how to use a screwdriver and that they are inclined to get it out of its box.

I rented to one guy who was clearly a clever chap, if his university degree and high salary were anything to go by. However, he was completely incapable of even the simplest bit of DIY, even though I'd left the tool box from heaven, complete with all-singing, all-dancing, high-powered drill, on a very visible shelf in the house.

He once called me to tighten a doorknob that had worked its way loose, and when I suggested it would be quicker for him to dig out the screwdriver and do it himself he said didn't know how. This is the man who called us out and stood over my husband watching while hubby tightened all the loose screws under the loo seat for him.

"Poor guy, he's absolutely helpless," said my husband. Hmm, hopeless more like - and lazy, too. The big tenant bonus is that they don't have to do repairs, and the big landlord bonus would be if they did. In my next tenant ad I am going to ask for a plumber to apply.

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