The accidental landlord: praying her best tenant won't leave

Just when Victoria Whitlock is praying her best tenant won't leave, someone in the neighbourhood gets shot
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The time has come for me to write to a tenant to ask if he would like to renew his lease for another year, and right now, I would offer him almost any inducement to stay - a rent reduction, new furniture, sexual favours, my left kidney - I haven’t ruled anything out.

It’s usually more cost-effective and certainly less stressful to hold on to decent tenants rather than try to find new ones, and even though the rental market is buoyant I’m not confident I’ll be able to re-let my flat any time soon - because it’s in Stockwell...

This south London suburb should be a great place to live and a hot spot for property investors. Admittedly it’s scruffy, but it’s close to the city centre with fantastic transport links and terraces of beautiful Victorian houses. It’s close to the trendy shops and bars on Clapham High Street, not far from the Common and, for cricket fans, the Oval is just down the road.

Hell, it’s even got a gastropub recommended by leading food critic Jay Rayner. Celebs including Joanna Lumley and Will Self live in Stockwell. However, so do lots of lowlifes, druggies and street gangs and last month there was another ride-by shooting around there, the second this year. Some poor guy was gunned down on the pavement just up the road from my flat by two men on a motorbike.

Oh, damn it, keeping the bad news quiet isn't an option

I suppose it’s possible people flat-hunting in the area won’t have heard about the shooting, but I bet they’ll stumble across the news before committing to a property. Google “Stockwell” and there it is, the first page is littered with stories about the latest shock-horror crime.

Headlines that scream: 'Stockwell motorbike ride-by shooting' are bound to put people off renting there, at least for the time being, so I just hope my tenant will stick around until all the hoo-ha has faded.

The first I knew of the incident was when I was trying to get to the flat one lunchtime to meet a handyman. One of the cords on a sash window had snapped and I’d found this guy who had promised to replace it for just £30, which was about half the price of the other quotes I’d received.

Anyway, my drive to the flat took longer than usual due to the fact that the main road had been sealed off by the crime squad and a policeman directing traffic away from the scene told me, far too casually for my liking, that someone had been shot. For this reason, I wasn’t too worried when the handyman didn’t show up at the appointed time.

Probably just stuck in traffic, I thought. When more than an hour ticked by and he hadn’t got in touch, I was fuming, especially as he wasn’t answering his mobile and he didn’t respond to my texts.

When I’d given up hope and gone back to work I got a text from the guy saying he hadn’t been able get to the flat because it was crawling with police and he’d been stopped by a policeman, who claimed he didn’t have any insurance. 'It’s a mix-up,' he wrote, and asked if I’d like to rearrange the appointment.

As I write I’ve found another handyman - via the website my builder - who is supposed to be meeting me at the flat in an hour. He’s slightly more expensive than the last one, but I don’t care: if he does a good job I hope it will give my tenant one less reason to move.

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