I found 25 people living in my 2 bedroom flat!

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I am fortunate enough to own five or six properties across the UK, all of which have thrown up different challenges. But probably the most unusual story I have to tell is about a two bedroom apartment in South Bermondsey, South London.

The apartment is a large 1,600 square-foot property, which is worth around £500,000. I decided to let it out to two friendly and unassuming girls studying in London. They were having trouble getting references, so I accepted three months’ rent in advance as security.

The tenancy worked happily for around eight months, until one day I got a call from an estate agent in the area. The property has a big open glass window on one side, and the agent had noticed that the apartment looked messy and that there appeared to be tents erected inside. I thought that it might be the girls messing around having a slumber party or something, but I called them to let them know that I would be coming around for a routine inspection at the weekend.

Well, when I went to visit the property a few days later - not only was there no sign of the girls, but it was worse than I could have ever feared.  There appeared to be three or four families living in every room! I’m not sure of the exact number of people staying there, but I counted 25 toothbrushes!

It was clear that the people had vacated in a hurry and weren't coming back. And so began the clean-up process. We threw away truck-loads of stuff, there were flies and maggots everywhere, and it cost me £9,000 in professional cleaning, decorating and retiling, to get the property back to a state where I could even consider looking for new tenants.

I never did find out who the extra people living there were, or where they came from. They may have been friends or family, or more likely the girls were just a front for an organised group offering illegal housing on the cheap. But one thing’s for sure, the standard of living can’t have been great, as they were sharing one light-bulb between them!   

My next tenants there were a couple of Australian guys in their 20s, who I was wary might not clean and tidy the places as often as they should, and as bachelors, might be partial to a party or two!

But they turned out to be exemplary tenants, who actually helped restore one of the tables the girls had damaged, with their own brand of Australian varnish! Which goes to show you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover when it comes to tenants!  

Michael Hoskinson – London

Property Eye says: Make sure that you get all your tenants referenced thoroughly with full background checks and that you have comprehensive insurance that will cover your against damage cause towards the property.  

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