The Landlady has a lucky escape

As a fairly proficient landlady, I am often rather alarmed when I hear about tenants living in squalid and potentially dangerous properties, who are too afraid to challenge their respective landlords about their living conditions. In some cases, the local council have to get involved and force the landlord into rectifying these issues. Perhaps many tenants do not realise that the law is very much on their side and they should not have to tolerate what amounts to bullying behaviour from their landlords. As a person who seems to traditionally end up running the freeholds of various properties, I know only too well how disinterested many landlords are in their rental portfolios, as long as the money keeps rolling in. For example, I am organising the painting of the Communal Hallway in Hastings at the moment and have had no response from fellow lessees regarding what colour I should paint below the dado…

“There were indeed roaring flames shooting up from the cooker”

Taking all the above into consideration, I was rather alarmed to this week discover a potential time-bomb ticking away in my own house. I awoke on Tuesday morning to three missed calls from the tenant who rents the ground floor flat in my house. I always switch my phone off at night to deflect potential calls from deeply unsavoury friends of mine who often telephone from the Lion and Lobster to urge me to go down there, which always ends in (my) tears.

With each call, my tenant left increasingly frantic messages. I bolted straight down there as soon as I received the messages to find out exactly what had gone on. Apparently, my tenant had been awoken at 2.30am by the sound of ‘roaring flames’.

Under further inspection, there were indeed roaring flames shooting up from behind the back of the cooker. The tenant quickly threw water onto the flames and put the fire out, then called the emergency services as she could smell gas. The emergency gas people came out and discovered that a live wire behind the gas cooker had been arcing off the gas supply pipe and had eventually melted it, then set fire to it. What are the chances of that? To put it in perspective, it is the equivalent of lighting a live gas supply in the middle of a pile of wood.

The scary thing is that the live wire must have been
there since I bought the flat in 1999. I have had at least eight gas safety checks since then, which haven’t picked up on the problem. Scarier still, the tenant had been away for the two days prior to the conflagration and had only returned that evening. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened had she not been there, as although I have smoke alarms in my flat, they wouldn’t have gone off until the entire ground floor had burnt out.

Fortunately, I was able to get the gas supply back on and the offending wire removed the same day. My tenant and I agree that we must have some sort of angels watching over us…

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