I am surrounded by boxes. My belongings are all packed up and ready to go but I’m wondering about my landlord. ‘William’ is a decent man: jovial, down-to-earth, compassionate and reasonable. Admittedly, he never got round to sorting out those blinds (by the time I had completely lost patience he was obviously going bankrupt) and I always organised repairs, which, while not ideal, hardly adds up to a Rachmanite reign of terror.
William is in trouble. He isn’t stupid, but then neither does he possess a rapier-like business mind; he’s no ruthless, highly driven tycoon. He simply followed accepted wisdom: invest in property. Many others did the same, a decision which has condemned them forever, as serial investors like William are burdened with around £750,000 of debt, if not more. He’ll never repay his creditors. I understand that even when you’re discharged from bankruptcy, they never let you go.
Nor was William unhinged by greed. Like many people he realised that we are all living longer, while the state pension, upon which we reasonably intended to rely, is shrinking by the day. Sensibly (it seemed) he accumulated flats to safeguard his future. Swiftly and easily he expanded his newbuild portfolio until he owned twelve buy-to-let properties. Who financed all those mortgages? The now infamous Northern Rock, that’s who, currently the official Emperors of Repossession, despite having been nationalised.
I may have inadvertently given readers the impression that William was based abroad: he’s not. He lives in a different town, far enough away to explain why he misunderstood the dodgy nature of this particular neighbourhood. When he bought my flat in Dovecot Towers the market was booming. His perhaps cannier friend was purchasing the flat next door, but quietly backed out.
William visited just the once, and gazed approvingly at a then modest building-site opposite, before announcing his ambition to invest there as well. He appreciated that the surrounding area was ear-marked for development, but was never told exactly how many better quality blocks were planned. Obviously, the widespread and ill-timed completion of nicer ‘apartments’ has devalued his stock.
We met recently on neutral ground. He wanted me to stay. I begged him to seek legal advice and stressed the dire nature of Dovecot Towers, emphasising the troubles I’ve detailed here. He was devastated, and actually started to sweat as the magnitude of his predicament hit home. Afterwards, I sent him a formal document detailing the many problems in this building which have decreased its value, intended to support any claim against the idle and ignorant management company if it allowed him to claw something back from this catastrophe.
My compassion is currently under strain, however. William has vanished without providing the promised reference. I know there’s a lot on his mind, but it’s impossible to find a flat without such assurances, and I don’t even know how long I can stay here. The bailiffs could arrive within the next month. I was living in the devil’s own piggy-bank, and somebody has smashed it.