The dish of the day is off

The accidental landlord Victoria Whitlock finds that Sky's the limit when one pushy tenant interrupts her day off
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I am, enjoying a rare quiet afternoon, flicking through cook books and trying to find ideas for my kids' tea, when I get an irate phone call from the freeholder of my one-bedroom flat, complaining that the tenants have put up a satellite dish on the front of the property.

He says it's huge, an enormous eyesore and must be removed - immediately. I'm a little perplexed, as I explained to the couple when they moved in three weeks ago that they couldn't have a satellite dish, partly because the flat is in a Grade II listed building and a conservation area, but mainly because the freeholder, who lives in the basement, doesn't like them.

"But you can hardly see it," sighs the woman when I call to ask her to take the dish down. She argues that, as the offending object is almost entirely hidden by greenery in the garden, they should be allowed to keep it.

I decide I'd better scoot over there to take a look for myself and, as I know I'll be stuck in traffic jams driving through Clapham, I grab an ancient copy of Delia Smith to read on the journey.

I hit upon an easy-peasy recipe for goulash while sitting at traffic lights, so start to make a list of ingredients when I glance in the rear-view mirror just in time to spot a police van behind and, worse, a policeman striding purposefully towards my car.

I shove Delia off my lap into the footwell and slide down the window. I flash a smile at the policeman and inwardly pray that he won't spot Delia sprawled across the pedals. He tells me only one of my brake lights is working, I promise to get the other one mended and he starts to move away, but hesitates and turns back."And please don't read while driving, it could be dangerous," he says.

On arriving at the flat I'm stunned to see that a big black satellite dish has been put up at eye level right next to the front door, where it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

In spite of the tenant's protests to the contrary, it can definitely be seen from the street. Hell, it can probably be spotted from space. I write a stern email to the tenants, insisting that the dish must be removed pronto.

They reply that it's too late, they've signed a year's contract with Sky and they are in the processes of applying for consent for the monstrous carbuncle from Lambeth council. "All the neighbours have got them, so what's the problem?" they write. No doubt about it, these two are rapidly turning into Tenants From Hell.

In less than a month they've broken a radiator, pulled a light from the wall, woken me in the early hours to complain they've locked themselves out, and now they're proving that they're stubborn as well as accident-prone.

Clinging to every last ounce of patience, I call the woman and politely but firmly draw her attention to a clause in our tenancy agreement stating that: "The tenant shall not make any additions to the property… without the prior written consent of the landlord." Finally, she agrees to remove the dish.

I've only just finished congratulating myself on winning the battle when, a few days later, I get another angry call from the freeholder. The dish has been removed and cable TV has been installed instead. Just one slight problem: the cable has been stretched right across his basement window. "Please make sure it's removed," he says. "Immediately."

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

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