Standing in the kitchen of my four-bedroom rental flat, I feel ashamed. It looks like a slum.
There are dirty dishes piled on every work surface and on the table; the sink is full of cold, grey, greasy water; the window blind is lopsided; the hob is caked in burnt-on fat and the floor is filthy.
Wearily, I trudge up the stairs, past the walls splattered with tea stains, to the bathroom, which is equally horrific.
There’s a line of scum around the bath, the shower screen has a thick crust of limescale, the ceiling and walls are covered in black mould spores and the sink is filthy.
Normally, it wouldn’t be my problem if my tenants chose to live in a pigsty like this, but one of the four is leaving at the end of the month so I have to try to re-let her room.
Fat chance I’m going to be able to persuade anyone else to move into this mess.
The other three tenants have been living in the flat for years, but I usually have to re-let the fourth bedroom every six months or so because no one else wants to live this way.
This last flatmate only moved in during the summer and already she has decided to move on.
Usually when I advertise for a fourth tenant I send in a cleaner to make the flat more presentable, at least for the viewings, but now I think more drastic action is needed.
There’s only so much you can achieve with a damp cloth and a bottle of Cif.
I think it’s time for a total refurbishment. The kitchen cupboards are shabby, the laminate has peeled off one of the doors under the sink and the décor is dated, though the appliances are all fairly new.
I’d like to change the bathroom into a wetroom, which might be easier for tenants to keep clean, and put something harder wearing in place of the worn staircarpet. The trouble is, what to do about the three remaining tenants?
They are happy to put up with the flat as it is because the rent is cheap, and I am sure they don’t want to leave.
However, the renovations will take at least six weeks so they will have to find somewhere else to live. None of them has much cash.
One is a student, one is unemployed and the other has a low-waged job.
I have known all of these tenants for quite some time and they are all nice people, if a bit grubby, so I do feel a bit responsible for them.
I have tried on numerous occasions to persuade them to keep the flat clean but it goes in one ear and out the other.
I am tempted to give them one last chance to clean up, but I know from past experience that the flat will be filthy again within days.
Plus, I’m sick of feeling apologetic about the state of this flat. I want to feel proud that the properties I let are not just safe and warm but also clean and comfortable.
So I have decided. I am going to give them two months’ notice to move out. They only have themselves to blame.
There is an unwritten contract between tenant and landlord. If I give you a clean flat, then you should keep it clean.
Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas or views, tweet @vicwhitlock.