Yesterday began, bright and breezy, at 8 a.m. with me faciliating a T1ME Focus Day. The idea is a simple one, join the website by sharing your dream, and one of the services we offer is a fortnightly Focus Day – either 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. You turn up and together with the rest of the crew, we each tick off items on our To Do List, generally focussing on the nasty ones like clutter-clearing, filing, accounts and other chores, or Big Projects which need an expanse of 5 hours with a single focus, all other interruptions turned off.
N and I were both there early and we decided, somewhat whackily, that we would begin our respective days by Watering The Garden. We each set off independently, she in Catford, me in Streatham Hill. N is a good deal more spiritual than I and, for her, this would be a delicious way to begin the day by being in touch with nature. As regular readers will know, I’m not that fussed by nature but was simply chuffed to have begun the day by getting something off my list which had been there rather too long. And here’s a bonus, its raining as I write which means I am exempt this today – yay!
Flushed with success and a tad damp too from the hose, I then threw myself into rather a long list of cleaning-type chores – well, I say I did, but actually people were oganised to come and do them for me, moi in a supervisory role. At lunchtime the terrific Oven Cleaning Co arrived for their second annual visit and sorted out the oven. I am sure mine is cleaner than most but nevertheless it is very cheering to have it spotless and sparkling. This year I allowed them to take care of the microwave as well as this is too high in my kitchen for my rather titchy cleaner to reach with ease.
While this was going on, I took the time to call the agent in charge of the property next door because everytime they have a bath in that house (which I regret to share is disturbingly rare), the dirty outlet water cascades over my fence and into my garden. I had been meaning to do something about this for some time, but recently the builder arrived next door and erected scaffolding and so I rather optimistically assumed – erroneously as it turns out – that they would spot this glitch and magically fix it. If only.
August is Toleration-Busting month and George, the agent, good as his word, was round here with a builder within the hour. Gentle Reader, I will not disclose what was lodged in the downpipe for fear of offending your sensitivities. Suffice to say, its a good job this blog is not yet available in SmelloVision. Still, outcome good; all flowing freely now and they can bath with impunity and without my involvement. Indeed, may it encourage them to take more baths now.
Juiced now, and getting cleaner by the moment, I then proceeded to empty the boot of my car and washed two winter coats which had been lurking therein, in preparation for the onslaught (of winter). I spend August preparing for what used to be the “hard work” period of September to November, full-on before my month off in the Caribbean, all under review currently Chez Judith and about which more as it unfolds. So that’s two clean coats. Nice.
Then I called a window cleaning company and a super chap called Tristan turned up with a squeegee within the specified timeframe I had available in the afternoon and made short work of cleaning the windows in the flat and in the Abundance Shed; nice chap from Perfect Shine, would like to be able to link to their website which I found by Googling, but its not coming readily to hand again now and I notice they didn’t leave a card or an invoice or anything. Shame.
Due to my Focus Day I was very focussed (!) and a bit short of time to talk to the MD of Perfect Shine who took 2-3 phone calls to get me what I needed and definitely wanted to talk to me about his business. Another day, no doubt, for both of us. Anyway, what I can reveal about them is that they clean windows from Portsmouth to Lancashire – so there’s a resource for you.
There’s no doubt about it, all this cleaning makes you feel rather holy despite the fact that the labour was not, in most of the cases, mine.
The Focus Day ended at 1 p.m., but by then I was on a GIANT roll so I went on to attack the Money Gym accounts for the month of July. I was interrupted before finishing as towards the end of the day I had to go over to Nunhead to interview two lots of prospective tenants for my Buy To Let. Keen-as-mustard estate agent, Perky Pete, had lined up both sets and given me their paperwork in advance. Here was the choice:
1. A rather culturally bizarre combo of two gents from Pakistan who own and manage a couple of shops in Peckham Rye Lane, one about computers and mobile phones, together with their somewhat older female companion from Romania. Three adults, 1.5 bedrooms. I didnt really want to ask who was sleeping with whom, but fortunately it was volunteered. I found I liked them, entrepreneurs all, we had a lot in common. Their references revealed them to be “nice and diligent people, hard working as well” and their bank account revealed them to be well able to afford the flat, or possibly even money launderers.
2. Ms A and Mr O and their 1 year-old son, J. Now, their paperwork was scant, apart from fabulous references they supplied a notice of disconnection from BT as some sort of proof of something, I’m not sure what, and a rather dismal bank account.
Both sets delighted in how clean the flat is – it should be, I’ve just spent £1500 on re-decorating throughout to a very high standard and £1700 on carpets, £200 on blind repairs, £168 on beds, £120 on cleaning, £90 on shaving the doors to accommodate the new carpet, £23 on a new shower curtain etc. It all adds up.
But here’s what swung it for the second lot of tenants:
They were being made homeless that day through no fault of their own (long story I wont bore you with) and had nowhere to sleep last night (!). Talk about taking it to the wire. To be fair, he had phoned me during the week to try to move the whole negotiation along a tad, but we were waiting on the carpet fitters at that point, still were actually, I was interviewing them on underlay. Life is often stranger than fiction.
They had put on their best clothes to come and meet me. How lovely! Conversely, I was severly under-dressed in my habitual August daywear of sleeveless pink T-shirt.
He’s a cab driver and his reference describes him as working full-time and being “trustworthy, obedient and can cope under pressure”! Obedient! You’ve got to laugh, havent you? Bless. Lucky Ms A.
Regular readers will know I cannot abide children but J and I struck up an immediate rapport – he was born 14 weeks prematurely but gosh, had he recovered! He was an absolute belter of a boy who held out his hand to me and looked me in the eye. We held hands for a long time and we both enjoyed it. What a secret weapon! A homeless one year old who I actually liked, with both his parents in their Sunday best.
And speaking of Sundays, here are the pertinent excerpts from their letter of reference from their church – yes! More cleanliness-obsessed churchgoers take residence at Nunhead, my very favourite sort of tenant:
“We confirm that both church members mentioned as above have been part of our congregation since 2002. We are aware that they both in stable, subsisting co-habiting relationship, we also understand from both of them that it is intention to remain permanently with each other as a couple. We are giving our consent that they are good and responsible, easy going and peaceful and we believe you won’t have a cause to regret knowing them. We will be grateful if you will assist them as best as possible, thanks.”
Honestly? It’s a punt. Have I taken the best qualified? I have no idea. Have I made a lovely home available to a young family who needed it as a matter of urgency? Yes, definitely. And do I take a warm glow from that? You betcha.
Like every aspect of entrepreneurship, being a landlady comes with pluses and minuses. Like staff, tenants are both a joy and have the propensity to become a nightmare. So far, I am blessed that none of my tenants have been nightmares and neither do I anticipate manifesting that.
Gill Fielding taught me in my very first property workshop that you always meet your tenants, to see the whites of each others’ eyes and so they can see that you are a real human being, not some ghastly Rachmanesque rip-off merchant. Perky Pete also assured me that, as landladies go, I attract good tenants because I am compliant. Not compliant (never let it be said), but Compliant i.e legal, have landlords gas certificate, nothing flammable and am responsive to their reasonable demands for repairs and maintenance, furniture and so on.
I hope Ms A, Mr O and Master J love living in my deliciously clean, refurbed pad in London SE15. And may they do what Ethel, the previous tenant, did before them – use it as a base to create sanctuary, peace of mind and a loving home which, in turn, creates a springboard for all they want to achieve in their lives. Ethel, a single parent, has qualified for a council flat after a long time on the housing list and proudly informed me she is off to University to study to become a Social Worker. I was proud of my little part in that – taking a punt on her way back in the summer of 2006 and looking after her while she was with me. We both had a little tear threatening at this exchange.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness, or so they say. May the long stream of cleanliness-obsessed churchgoers who present themselves to live in my little safe haven in Nunhead, thrive and never cease. Oh frabjous day, which caused me to lose most of my fingernails (being a landlady is hands-on work) but never mind.
I retired to bed, after a very long day, with a happy heart. Whilst I am sure my tenants did too, their night’s sleep was not quite so physically comfy since there are no beds until today or tomorrow! But a roof over your head is worth a lot. If I ever take that for granted, dear Readers, please remind me how fortunate I am.