Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Wok (No Racism Intended)

Generally, when the question ‘what are the most dastardly and pernicious professions in all the world?’ arises, people tend to answer either estate agents, or politicians, or the police, or marketing executives, or anyone in PR, or terrorists, or the director of Michael Winner films. And quite right too. These people are - to a man - evil. ‘Landlord’ however, seldom tends to make the list. Obviously this is definitely not because landlords are not evil, but probably because ‘landlord’ is not strictly speaking a profession. It’s just a pastime for monied Satanists. Like volunteering in the local abattoir, which is also something that all landlords do.

Really, what is it with them? I’ve met quite a few of them over the years and although I’m sure they must exist out there somewhere, I swear I’ve yet to actually meet a nice one.

Last week I had a bit of a run-in with Elsie, my landlady in Herne Hill. She came round to give the flat a final once-over on Wednesday. As far as I could see, it was in fine fettle, apart from a couple of frayed bits and pieces and a cracked window. She insisted however, that getting it back to the condition it was in before I moved in would cost her the full £1,150 of my deposit. I laughed. ‘How is that possible?’ I asked. ‘Explain to me where the money will go, please.’

She ran through the obvious, which would amount to a couple of hundred quid maximum, then she cited nicotine-stained fixtures and fittings. ‘The whole house will have to be redecorated and all of the furniture replaced,’ she said. How she kept a straight face I will never know.

But I am not the wilting wreck of a quivering cockstand I was when I moved in to her flat. Far from it. I’m much more confident these days and I care a great deal less what people think of me. In short, I can assert myself.

So I said to her: ‘Look, I’ll be honest with you. I actually think you’re trying to rip me off and I intend to do everything in my power to not let you get away with it.’ At which point she gasped quite melodramatically but I held up my hand and said, ‘Please let me finish’ – just like they do on Question Time! Then I said: ‘I’ve already taken legal advice and I’d like you to provide receipts for every item of furniture which you buy and every piece of cleaning or refurbishment you pay for. If you refuse to do any of this, I will have no hesitation in taking you to the small claims court. I’m sick and tired of being walked all over by people like you.’

Her expression, which had moved from impotent rage to shocked bewilderment, suddenly switched to righteous indignation. ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ she cried. ‘What is this “people like you”?’

Uh-oh, I thought. She’s going to play the race card. I hadn’t mentioned her ethnicity before for the simple reason that it was a million miles from relevant. Elsie is a landlady. She isn’t a black woman to me. She isn’t even a woman to me. She’s a landlady. A human chisel.

I stood my ground and told her what I meant. ‘Grasping…’ I began. I so wanted to use the word ‘fucks’, but I stopped myself. I was determined to retain the moral highground. ‘Liars,’ I said. ‘If I’m wrong, I apologise. Prove me wrong. If not, you owe me money, and I want it back.’

At which point she started screaming at me. ‘Are you calling me a liar? Are you calling me a liar?’

‘No, I'm not,’ I said, although I quite clearly had. ‘But I’m definitely suggesting it. I think it’s a distinct possibility.’

But she wasn't really listening. As she turned and left the flat, she carried on screaming, and waving her fists and pointing her fingers. ‘You go to hell!’ she shouted. And as she slammed the front door, a little bit of plaster fell from the surrounding wall. I shook my head. That was another hundred quid right there.

Half an hour later, her brother was hammering on the front door with a rather large fist. Thankfully it was his own fist.

Five minutes later, he left. I closed the door, counted out the £900 in £50 notes he’d begrudgingly handed over to me and I did a gloriously self-satisfied little dance.

It just goes to show, I thought. And it really does. All the comments I received a couple of weeks ago were absolutely spot on. You have to stand up to these grasping fucks. You have to stand your ground.

It was only afterwards that it occurred to me that I could have been wrong about Elsie wanting to play the race card and that my assumption that she was about to could in itself have been interpreted as racist. But then I thought, fuck it. Life's too short. And I know the truth. Some of my best friends are landlords.

Just kidding.


Then, earlier today – for the simple reason that Keith is a blithering, slack-jawed fuckwit who happened to mention that he was going to have a friend staying for a few months – I had to meet Dudley, my new landlord.

Dudley isn’t Chinese, but somehow he looks like he is. I’m not sure how. Maybe the eyes. Maybe the teeth. Maybe the curiously thin skin. No offence. He’s like a cross between a slightly more Chinese-looking version of Bob Mortimer’s Matthew Kelly from The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, and Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. Which is odd as he doesn’t even have a beard.

He does however, have an extremely annoying way about him. In fact he annoyed me so much in the ten minutes that I was talking to him that I can’t possibly speak of him any more at this moment in time. Except perhaps to say that one of the things that particularly annoyed me – apart from completely unnecessary mentions of ‘Pakistanis’ and the ‘half-caste girl’ upstairs - was that he made a point of saying, ‘I don’t allow pets either.’

‘Fair enough,’ I said. ‘I don’t have any pets.’

Depressingly, at this point in time, that may well be true.

Still no sign of Pablo.

I’m beginning to think moving in here was a horrible, horrible mistake.

Share on Facebook! Digg this


The Monkeyman said...

Pablo is still out there, like an Ewok in the forest, just you wait he will be back before long.

Larry Teabag said...

Heh. 900 quid, indeed. Think how much more you would have enjoyed those fish-based revenge plans.

True Lateral said...

Well done, you. I like the way, after frothing about being called a liar, your landlord promptly backed down and gave you the 900 quid.

Your cat will probably still come back. It took mine 3 months once (and when I got her back I found she'd been living about 100m away for 2 months), but she came back. Well, I had to go kidnap her to get her back, but I got her. Keep an eye out.

Lilith said...

Hey, I'm glad you stood your ground and things came out like that: well done!

Regarding Pablo... I guess that I have had enough cats to know them a little bit - Pablo will appear sooner or later.

Probably he just felt like meeting a kitten and having a little romance haha

Be well!

Anonymous said...

I thought all new tenancies since April 2007 had to be under one of these schemes where the deposit is kept in a specified account and you have a letter stating exactly where it is and on what conditions it can be returned (i.e. notice, returning flat in good repair, to be independently checked by letting agent etc).

Well, this new law may turn out to be all very nice in theory (I got my new contract and documents telling me exactly where my deposit is held) ..... until I reach the end of the tenancy I won't actually find out how easy it is to get back, but I'm hoping it will be slightly better than with some unscrupulous landlords from the past.

Do you know, also, the worset landlords I have ever experienced have always been LANDLADIES. It's a terrible thing to say about my own gender, but I think some landladies think they can play "airy fairy Miss Contrary" and get one over on their tenant.

I've always found male landlords to be much more straight forward business people.

Best wishes,

Alison Eales said...

Dudley isn’t Chinese, but somehow he looks like he is. I’m not sure how.

I know what you mean. I once knew a white German girl who was, inexplicably, the double of Snoop Dogg. I'm not making this up.

savannah said...

congratulations on getting at least part of your deposit back, sugar!

Je ne regrette rien said...

wow, your comments are ever so more exciting than mine! drama and intrigue and fistfights amongst authors who aren't the true authors ... you really know how to give a party. oh and now that pablo is still MIA of course I'm regretting my kitty remarks earlier. drat. racism can be insidious eh? now we have guilt for feeling guilty about bestowing guilt ... and let's not even TALK about the obvious guilt money proferred.

Zoe said...

Well done for getting your 900 quid back. Hopefully Pablo will return soon, the warmer weather and long evenings makes cats linger outside

Boz said...

MY parents had a cat when I was little. They left it in the care of a neighbour when they went on holiday for two weeks. When they returned the neighbour was on their doorstep practically in tears. She hadn't seen the cat the whole time they'd been away, and had searched the surrounding farms and houses for many hours.

As she finished her speech, the cat came wandering up the path and rubbed itself gentle against my dad's legs, before ambling into the house.

Pablo is out there. Have you considered looking around your old house?

And, Oi, some of us who work in PR are not so evil...

Misssy M said...

My brother tried a similar tack with a deposit stealing landlord, but his was a double edged threat which I thought was genius.

Aside from demanding to see receipts like you did he also threw in a thinly veiled reference that was something like, "I an sure that you have to keep all your receipts when you declare your earnings to the Inland Revenue, so it should be a simple matter, to give me copies".

Stick it the man...erm, woman!

DJ Kirkby said... know I'm not great on picking up on subtelties but while reading this post, I sensed that you could be just a teensy bit cross with Keith?