This is a ridiculous question, I know, but came to light after a phone call from Lewis. Lewis left one of my rooms earlier this year after falling in love and moving in with his new girlfriend, but unfortunately owed me around £300 in rent arrears. Not one to stand in the way of a true romance I told him, if he wanted a landlord reference, he’d need to pay off his arrears first as our town is small and I’m reluctant to lie to a fellow HMO landlord. We wished each other well and he left looking like the cat that got the cream.
Not 3 months later and he’s on the phone. To be fair, he did pay £50 off his arrears just after he left then called to explain that his mum had a number of suicide attempts, his sisters were out of control, his dad’s alcoholism wasn’t helping and his girlfriend had dumped him – could I give him a room or a reference? Sorry about his personal circumstances, but no.
We went on to discuss the welfare of the other housemates and I told him that, since Christmas, three of them had lost their jobs. “You know what?” he replied “That bloody house is cursed. I lost my job within a couple of months of moving in. What did you do in your past life that’s come back to haunt you and the rest of us?” “Actually” I reasoned “People downgrade from self contained accommodation to a room because their life is starting to fall apart. I really don’t think it’s me.” This isn’t true as almost everyone who lost their job had seemingly secure, long term positions. However, it got me wondering about my past misdemeanours………………..
Tom – Again!
Sunday morning and the phone goes saying that Tom had burst through the front door the previous evening, banged on everyone’s door swearing at each tenant demanding to know who had left a knife covered in chocolate spread in his beautifully polished sink and they were all a bunch of “F****** ***ts” for not respecting his cleaning skills. This sparked wall punching and accusations over the pee on the bathroom floors and all hell broke loose between Greg, Andrew, Justin and Tom – only 3 of whom were sober. I called a house meeting on the Monday and asked everyone involved to come along to get the underlying issues sorted.
Standing in the kitchen with 4 HUGE, jumpy, testosterone fuelled men baring their teeth and trying to talk over each other about the issue of who last used chocolate spread, it became almost laughable (to me). Failing to calm them down enough so each tenant could voice his grievances I ended up grabbing a wooden spoon and using it as a Talking Stick. The purpose of the Talking Stick is to only allow the person holding it to speak and everyone else must keep quiet until they’ve finished and each person has a turn to hold it. After a shaky start and lots of indignant interruptions, it worked! Greg was fed up of the toilet being dirty, Andrew was upset at being threatened in front of his girlfriend, Tom was depressed at being unemployed and spending his days cleaning the kitchen after the others and felt their dirty dishes disrespected him, and Jason, it appeared, was just there for fun.
I explained to Tom that, if he lived in my house, my kitchen, the sink and most of the house would cause him a coronary as it’s so untidy and was it really fair to take out his frustrations on the other tenants? Andrew agreed to make an effort to wash up and, as for the pee, short of doing a DNA test no-one would confess. Everyone shook hands, stopped short of a bear hug and felt happy that the air had been cleared.
Is the house cursed? I really hope not – at least for the sake of the next tenant. Perhaps I should warn him……