The accidental landlord seeks house-trained tenants

Victoria Whitlock inherits more from her tenants than she wished for
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As a landlord, you sometimes get to know more about your tenants than you'd wish, especially when you clear up after them when they've moved out.

My last lot were an okay bunch but, oh my God, they lived like pigs. The day after they left I popped over to the flat to check if any repairs needed doing before the new tenants arrived and among the grossest things I found were (those who are squeamish should look away now):

* Waxy earbuds on the bedside table
* A mug with fungus next to a bed
* Stinky trainers in a wardrobe
* Rotting food festering in the fridge
* Mouldy bread a month old
* Sticky liquid spilt in the cupboard
* Half a dozen beer bottles filled with fag butts on the balcony and piles of ash all over the floor

Sure I've seen worse over the years (I've got an almost-teenager at home), but I'm always surprised that seemingly respectable, house-trained tenants are more than happy to leave their landlord to clean up their dirt.

After my 10-year-old and I had carried out no fewer than four sacks of rubbish I thought we'd got rid of all the tenants' filth, when my son shouted from one of the bedrooms: "Mummy, what shall I do with this DVD with a lady and a man sexy-ing on the cover?" I quickly made a mental note to myself never to let my children in a rented property without first checking under the beds.

Thankfully the flat was in reasonably good order so required little maintenance — just the odd loose screw, blown light bulb and wobbly door handle to deal with. There was nothing else that a deep clean wouldn't sort out.

However, I noticed that one of the tenants had left me only one set of keys, even though I'd asked him to also hand over the spares that I knew he'd had cut for a friend of his.

Thinking he'd just forgotten to leave them behind I called to ask him to pop back with them (he'd only moved a few doors away) but, oddly, he refused. He insisted that he was entitled to keep the keys as he'd paid for them out of his own pocket. But why did he want to hang on to a set of keys to a flat where he no longer lived, I wanted to know? Didn't he realise that if the flat was burgled he'd be a prime suspect, to which he replied: "You gave me one set of keys, I have returned one set of keys; the others are mine."

Now, although I myself have accidentally amassed a large collection of keys for places where I once lived, there was no way I could let new tenants rent a property from me when I knew the old tenant could still let himself in.

No, PETTY as it might seem, I had to insist that he hand the keys over so I referred him to a clause in his tenancy agreement (which is included in most policies) that stated that tenants were only allowed to have additional keys cut with the landlord's permission and that they must surrender them to the landlord at the end of the tenancy.

"I'd rather destroy them instead," he said. Trying not to laugh at his ridiculousness (because keys are indestructible, aren't they?) I explained that unless he brought them round by the end of the day I'd have to change all the locks and deduct the cost from his deposit, which I was holding on to.

That afternoon, while I was finishing the odd jobs around the flat, I heard a clatter at the front door. I went into the hallway to find a scattering of metal on the floor. The tenant had posted the keys through the letterbox — which he'd sawn into nine tiny pieces!

I had no idea he was such a muppet, but then again, I now know quite a few things about my tenants (including their taste in DVDs) which I'd rather I didn't.

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