The accidental landlord: a blue-chip tenancy rarely comes cheap

The accidental landlord Victoria Whitlock pays the price - in more ways than one - for holding out for a contract renewal
We've playing a little game, one of my tenants and I, called Who Will Crack First. He says he'd like to renew his tenancy but wants to switch to a periodic contract that will allow him to leave with just one month's notice, but I want him to commit to a 12-month contract to avoid the possibility of a void in the winter, and neither of us appears prepared to back down.

We've been discussing the situation for weeks now, but we still haven't reached an agreement. He keeps asking for more time to make up his mind but I suspect he's dragging his feet until his old contract expires in the hope that I'll agree to his terms. As I really want him to stay I've gone to extraordinary lengths to encourage him to sign another one-year lease.

I've redecorated the bedroom, re-grouted the bathroom and I've even paid an eye-watering amount of money to have all the windows draught-proofed so he'll be nice and toasty this winter. Meanwhile, my own house has such rotten windows I'll be smothering myself in Deep Heat to stay warm come November.

When none of these home improvements prompted the tenant to sign a new lease, I told him I was getting a couple of letting agents round to give me a market appraisal, thinking that might make him commit. "Go ahead," he said.

One of the agents was all gushy-gushy. She loved the flat, adored it, the stripped wooden floors, the high ceilings, it was amazing, just the sort of place she'd live. She told me it was worth much more than the tenant was paying but, no wait, she'd better check with her colleagues first, she warned, as she might be getting carried away.

I braced myself for the let-down phone call, and it wasn't long in coming. After consulting with her not-so-gushy colleagues, she quoted me a figure which was lower than her stab-in-the-dark valuation but still more than I was already getting. However, after deducting the agency's fee of 12 per cent of the annual rent (which quite frankly came as a bit of a shock), I'd end up with less.

Thanking her for her time, I told her that I wasn't prepared to pay 12 per cent commission, plus the agency's annual renewal fees, for four years.

Prior to her coming to view the flat she'd described her charges as "competitive", which was a bit of a porky as other agents in the area charge a maximum of 10 per cent, some quite a lot less.

Her attitude swiftly changed from gushy to stroppy. "Oh I'm sorry, I thought you were looking for an agent who could maximize the rental potential of your property," she said. "I must have misunderstood."

The second agent was less verbose but he said he would absolutely, definitely get a higher price than the first agent. No doubt about it. He emailed me a list of comparable flats available to let, which he said justified his high valuation, but in reality it was nothing more than a print-out of asking prices for properties on a property portal, none of which was in the same area as mine and some twice the size. I forwarded his email to my partner.

"Guy's clearly been on the laughing gas, his price is way off," I wrote. As soon as I pressed "Send" I realised what I'd done. I'd clicked "Reply" instead of "Forward".

I'm still cringing at the thought of the agent reading that message, so fingers crossed my tenant decides to stay after all, if only so I never have to meet that chap again.

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