I’m in the process of trying to buy a house in Sheffield, four doors up from my sister. It’s a private sale; the current owner, a friend of hers, now lives in New Zealand and has let the place to a young couple, a self-employed garden designer and his girlfriend.
A week or two ago, when we got to the point in the transaction where the owner had let them know it was going ahead, my sister popped round to introduce herself and reassure them that, since they seemed to be good tenants, we would continue their contract on the same terms. They confessed that they had been a little worried about the impending change of landlord, especially since they had made some minor improvements to the property, and would ideally want to stay there for a few years until they could save up a deposit for a place of their own. In fact, if we didn’t mind, they’d like to do a bit more work on it. Would we consider, for example, going 50-50 on a fitted kitchen?
When my sister got home, the phone rang: it was the tenant. He just wanted to mention to her that for the last couple of months he had been making rent payments to the letting agent in cash. It was just that a company he’d done some work for had gone bankrupt and he hadn’t received money from them, though it did look as though the problem would shortly be resolved, and then he would set up the standing order again. He’d be grateful if my sister wouldn’t mention this to his partner.
My sister, a debt counsellor by trade, wondered if we shouldn’t contact the letting agent to check this one out.
Then, on Wednesday night, she came home late to find a rotating blue light outside the couple’s house, along with what looked like a forensics van. Could it be drugs, or stolen goods, she wondered? The police wouldn’t tell her much, but then she sent me a story from BBC South Yorkshire: our friendly green-fingered prospective tenant is up before the beak on no less than 24 counts of armed robbery, across five counties, over the last two months.
On the same BBC South Yorkshire page, another headline says National debt helpline launches. I wonder if the two are connected – or not?