The accidental landlord: keeping mum to win a school place

Victoria Whitlock risks upsetting Miss Goody2shoes when a friend makes her an offer she ought to refuse
Here I am, confronting a moral dilemma: the mother of a little girl at my son’s primary school (she is also a good friend, by the way) has asked to rent my four-bedroom flat. The trouble is, if I let her move in, will that incur the wrath of other parents? Not that there’s anything wrong with this woman - she’s very nice -but it’s the reason she wants the flat that’s iffy.

The property is on a housing estate very near to a popular Church of England secondary school, close enough to spit on the roof of the science block from the top floors of the flats - in fact, quite a few of the residents do that. Can you see where I’m going with this?

Though my flat doesn’t normally appeal to families (see earlier reference to spitting), this mum is happy to rent it for a short while to secure a place for her daughter at the secondary school. At the moment she lives just half a mile from the school, but her house is a few inches outside the catchment area, which is only 0.45 miles wide. My place is 0.267 miles away. Not that we’ve measured it or anything.

'After all, I'm not running a brothel, but cashing in on parents' desires to get their kids into the best schools might seem as bad'

One or two families from my son’s primary school have moved just a few streets to be closer to the secondary school to secure places for their offspring, but houses within the catchment area are expensive and my friend can’t find anything affordable.

Her plan is to rent my place for a few months then move back to her house once her daughter has got into the school. As it’s a CofE school, another option is for her to drag her daughter to church every Sunday, which would be cheaper but harder on the knees.

I’d love to let my flat to families like hers. She only wants to stay for a few months - just long enough for the school to accept it’s her "permanent" address - but none of my tenants stick around for very long anyway and I might even find other families who want to take her place. However, I’m aware that some people think it’s wrong to move into an area temporarily just to secure a school place and these same people would probably think it immoral of me to facilitate families with such dastardly motives.

Renting within school catchment areas is a recurring theme on the parent’s website Mumsnet, where there are plenty of users with nicknames like Justanoldbag slagging off parents who do this sort of thing. There was one thread on Mumsnet where Spidookly told PeppaPigHonk to f*** off when Peppa suggested families should up sticks and move to some mysterious place called "the country" if they wanted their children to go to "nice" schools. I’m with Spidookly on that one.

One user claimed she knew a landlord who’d been ticked off by a local authority for letting their property to a succession of families wanting to get their kids into the local school, but I think Goody2shoes or whatever her name was just made that up. It might be immoral to let to a family working the system, but surely it’s not illegal?

Another user suggested local education authorities spy on families using "known short-term, school access addresses" to make sure they’re really living there. But really, should any of this concern me? After all, I’m not running a brothel, though some Mumsnet users might think that cashing in on parents’ desires to get their kids into the best schools is almost as bad.

Mother-of-two Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London.

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