Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Not Even the Best Tenants Come with a Guarantee; Victoria Whitlock Discovers That Things Can Go Badly Wrong No Matter How Thoroughly You Vet Your Renters

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Not Even the Best Tenants Come with a Guarantee; Victoria Whitlock Discovers That Things Can Go Badly Wrong No Matter How Thoroughly You Vet Your Renters

Article excerpt

Byline: Victoria Whitlock

The accidental landlord NO matter how rigorously you vet your tenants, how carefully you word your contract, how many "t"s you cross and "i"s you dot, sometimes, occasionally, things will blow up in your face.

A couple I know were very careful when choosing their first tenants for a large rental flat they had spent many months of blood, sweat and tears renovating. They gave the letting agent a list of wants: a couple, professionals, excellent references -- and a list of no-nos -- children, pets, sharers.

The letting agent -- who, my friends said, was very good -- actually listened and found them the perfect pair: a married, child-free, working couple. They came with glowing references, passed all the credit checks and paid a six-week deposit plus a month's rent in advance.

So thrilled were my friends with their hand-picked tenants that they agreed to the couple's request to fully furnish the flat, even though they had originally intended to let it bare. This involved them spending a long, arduous weekend picking a lorryload of flat-packed furniture off the shelves at Ikea and another long weekend assembling it all.

Six weeks after moving in, one of the tenants called my friends to say he had "terrible news". He had lost his job. Worse, as he'd only been with his firm for a few weeks, he was still on probation and wasn't entitled to any severance pay. He could no longer afford the rent.

It got worse. He then admitted that he and his wife had omitted to give my friends some vital information when they moved in. They were about to have a baby.

My friends were faced with a nightmare scenario. They couldn't afford to let the tenants stay -- they had a mortgage to pay, for goodness sake -- but how could they turf a pregnant woman out of her home? Leaving aside the moral argument of whether you should evict tenants who fall on hard times, it isn't a simple case of saying "no rent, no room" and chucking them out, not if they've signed a contract. …

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