Friday column: The end of summer

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Friday 31st August 2018

Exasperated tenants have been venting their anger about having to put up with Dickensian squalor and ruthless landlords.

Members of the Generation Rent group asked renters to post their experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #ventyourrent and were inundated with tales of woe. They ranged from stories of damp and mould to a landlord who constructed a glass-bricked room inside the tenant’s flat to sleep in when he visited from Spain.

I haven’t come across anything quite so extreme but my children’s renting stories have been stressful to say the least.

In one house-share in Wales my student son returned from lectures to find a hole had been drilled through the exterior wall and into his room. A cable had been pushed through the hole and plugged into the electric socket. Puzzled, my son popped outside to investigate. He discovered his landlord was building a property on land next door and had cheekily decided to use his tenants’ electricity and water supply, paid for by them. Had he asked them first? Of course he hadn’t.

When my daughter rented a room in Paris from a delightful sculptress the landlady’s dad arrived from Italy every month to stay for a week. He slept on a camp bed in the sitting room, which meant that half the flat was out of bounds for one week in four.

Thousands of tenants are paying through the nose to live in sub-standard properties. A Londoner posted pictures of walls covered in black mould on Twitter and revealed they were paying £1,650 a month for the privilege.

As I write, my son has just moved out of his latest student property and is waiting for his hefty deposit to be repaid. His landlord has been nothing but helpful and courteous and has put up with my son keeping five bikes in his garage – but will he hand back the deposit? Watch this space.

One of the delights of finding a new author is binge reading their novels as avidly as ploughing through a TV box set.

That’s exactly what I did when I discovered Sabine Durrant’s psychological thrillers. I started with Lie With Me and the minute I finished that I downloaded Take Me In and Under Your Skin. I finished both in a trice and now I’m on to Remember Me This Way.

So what makes Durrant, former literary editor of The Sunday Times, such a compelling writer? Well for a start, her novels are snappy and well crafted, her plots twist and turn (but unlike some I could name, they aren’t predictable) and they aren’t full of blood and gore (essential for a lightweight thriller reader like me). Best of all, her books are partly set in south London, an area she writes so fondly and knowledgably about that I can picture it exactly. The leafy commons, the residential streets, the posh delis in Northcote Road – Durrant captures them all perfectly.

There’s a nip in the air and fewer holidaymakers in the small seaside town where I live. Term has begun at some schools, the ferry is less full and the seafront, pedestrianised all summer, will be open to traffic again soon. I’m definitely ready for autumn so is it just me or is anyone else feel irritated that weather forecasters are now predicting an Indian summer?

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