The accidental landlord takes a crash course in emergency plumbling

Victoria Whitlock discovers that a screwdriver - rather than lip gloss - is a handbag essential in order to fix major plumbing problems
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I’ve never really understood the point of carrying lip gloss in your handbag, it’s not like I’d ever remember to re-apply it when I’m out, and now it occurs to me it would be so much more useful to carry a screwdriver.

Certainly it would have saved me a lot of time (and a handyman might have avoided clearing up a nasty mess) if I’d had one with me last Saturday when my tenants reported a leak.

I was clothes shopping with my eldest when one of the tenants texted me a photograph of what appeared to be water streaking down the kitchen walls, with the words QUITE URGENT. Alarmed, I hauled my daughter out of the changing room at H&M and headed straight to the property.

By the time I arrived, two of the kitchen walls were soaking and water had pooled in several of the cupboards. Things did not look good. The tenants explained that the water had started seeping through the ceiling that morning when one of them took a shower in the bathroom immediately above. You’d think that, having worked out the shower was leaking, they’d have avoided using it again, but instead a second tenant then also took a shower, making the kitchen even wetter.

I hadn’t a clue why the shower was leaking. It had only recently been re-tiled and there were no gaps in the sealant, the door wasn’t loose and the shower itself seemed fine.

In these situations, it’s best to remain calm - so I panicked and recklessly called a good but expensive plumber to get him round asap, regardless of his high weekend call-out charge. He wasn’t available, and the two or three handymen I use in London didn’t have anyone to send round either. Just as it was looking likely that I’d have to leave the tenants with a leaking bathroom for the weekend, I got through to High Wycombe-based Handy Andy (0795 2645150). He offered to come the next day but explained it might not be necessary.

He suggested I try tightening the screw in the centre of the plughole, which apparently holds the waste pipe in place. Who knew that? Now that’s the sort of thing they ought to teach on B&Q’s You Can Do It basic plumbing course, never mind how to plumb in a radiator, which I’m never going to attempt, incidentally.

However, nothing is as simple as it should be. When I returned to the flat later with a screwdriver I found that Andy was right, the screw was loose, but it wouldn’t tighten. Instead, it kept on turning. I rang him again. “Not a problem,” said Andy, while he was out walking his dog, “just stick a washer in.”

While I rummaged through my tool box for a stray washer, he threw a Frisbee for his pet, waiting on the line to make sure I’d solved the problem. Five minutes later, I reported that my waste pipe was now firmly re-attached. Then Andy reported back that he had a waste problem of his own. While we were talking, his dog, Mr Custard, had pooed in his Frisbee.

I feel a little bit guilty about that. After all, Andy saved me a fortune in emergency call-out charges, for which I was very grateful as, so far, this year has been quite expensive. Already I’ve had to pay for a new light fitting and a new fan in the bathroom. Hmm, maybe I should offer to buy Andy a new Frisbee.

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