12 Horrifying Stories of Grim Landlord DIY Patches

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A ceiling light next to huge leaks

Photo: ONA_PLANAS/Getty

Negotiating the rental market can feel like a maze of pitfalls and mole problems. Once upon a time, living with a holey floor, a mold-encrusted ceiling, or a potential life hazard might have raised a few eyebrows. Homeowners these days are all too happy to ignore them or, worse, attempt a quick fix themselves.

When I lived in my old college house, the boiler was stored in a small closet at the top of the attic stairs. It was at least 20 years old, with Post-It notes on the rotten contraption telling us which buttons to turn when it stopped, which it did quite regularly. British Gas periodically came to fix it if it leaked or broke, which was like sticking a band-aid over a hole in the Titanic. Turns out our owner had put it there to tighten another piece, and he said he would need to remove part of the roof and use a crane to replace it.

Sadly, stories like this are normal in the landowner’s wild world. Using plastic bags to repair leaks? Plywood to cover a hole in the floor? For those afflicted by Landlord Brain and consumed by the insatiable need to live off the hard-earned cash of poor tenants, all of these things aren’t just acceptable – they’re worthy solutions. Fitting rooms Where grand designs. Someone call Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen!

Below are 12 horrifying stories of the DIY homeowner at his worst. Some people have multiple horror stories. Some names have been changed to protect the identity of tenants from any reprisals from their current landlord. But all have suffered the curse of wealthy owners.

“In our university accommodation one year, water started coming through our ceiling and the walls got so wet after a while that we ended up with a hole in the wall. It turned out that there was a balcony above the room where all the water was leaking in. To fix the hole they stuck a Sainsbury bag into the white wall then put a square piece of wood on top which obviously did nothing.The moisture remains and the leak is not repaired at all. – Sam Jones*, London

“During my third year of college I lived in what I would describe as initially decent student accommodation. A few months later we spotted what we thought was a leak in the shower, which we could see due to the growing ring of humidity and the rather large bulge in the ceiling from the hallway below.

“As the weeks passed, the hollow in the ceiling got wider and wider, seeming close to collapsing in on itself. The shower became like an old school Raven challenge, each of us jokingly announcing that we were risking the shower, half-expecting our naked bodies to fall through the floor and slam on the cold, hard tiles below.

“After months of harassment, the owner informed us that he was sending ‘Raphael’, who turned out to be a painter. To fix the dangerous leak in our ceiling – which at this stage was presumably rotting the blades of floor – he painted over the damp, rather boring ring with a different shade of white, but still leaving a rather dangerous looking mass. Chloe Smith, York

A plug sealed above the sink.

The plug sealed at the top of the sink. Photo: Perry Broadman

We had a leak in the shower, so our landlord called in “builders”, but alas, they had absolutely no idea what they were doing. They came up with budget sealant and just squeezed it like toothpaste into various parts of the bathroom including the top of the sink where they decided to seal the sink stopper above the sink… [But] the leak was in the tub. – Perry Broadman*, London

“Our landlord owned our apartment and the one next door, both ground floor and basement. The bathroom in the neighboring apartment was flooded and their entire living room was destroyed. The flood then broke into our apartment: I came home one day and my room was completely flooded with water from the bathroom and my clothes and papers were swaying. I ended up having to move into college accommodation for a week.

“When I returned I realized that while the water had drained away the owner had simply tried to use a dehumidifier to suck out all the remaining water from the carpet and floor. The next door had tried to sue him for a bunch of lost property, but he just walked away for the rest of the term, as far as I remember. Hannah McGreevey, Durham

“Our wardrobe in our college house had sliding doors. For some reason the floorboards were really warped, so after a while the doors wouldn’t slide anymore. Instead of fixing the floor, our landlord just… ‘remove the doors! We came back and they were just gone… There was also a problem after a while with our bedroom doors not opening due to the increasingly warped floors. They are came to ‘fix it’ but, instead, they just sawed an inch off the bottom of each of our doors… Needless to say they are opening now. Sam Jones*, London

A chair repaired by the owner that is still broken.

The chair repaired by the owner. Photo: Beth Martin

“When we moved into our house, one of the chairs in the dining room was a little wobbly, but we didn’t give it much thought. We all moved in at different times and when one of the new roommates is arrived, we had coffee in the kitchen. Our poor roommate sat on the dodgy chair and fell on the floor! We asked our landlord to fix or replace the chair, so she came. After a lot of hammering and fussing, we were given this monstrosity – a nail driven haphazardly into one of the chair’s worn supports, finished off with a curlicue of duct tape when the nail didn’t quite work. It remains in the kitchen; a beacon of disappointment. — Beth Martin*, London

“One random night in my student house where I was living with six other students, the floor in our downstairs bathroom collapsed as someone walked through it. The floors below were obviously quite old and had been wet from various leaks and had caved in. We contacted our landlord [who] basically, lay a few thin plywood boards over the hole in the floor, then cover it with lino. It was like we were “walking the plank” every time we went to the bathroom or took a shower. — Ollie Davies, York

“There was one room I went to see that had an empty six-quart milk bottle wedged under the Velux window to keep it open. It was during a heat wave and that was the only way to keep it open to do getting some air into the room. It was a loft extension and had been a very dodgy job. To make matters worse, there were also buckets in the kitchen to catch drips from a leak and the mold everywhere. The worst part is that the owner pulled over in a nice huge expensive car. The house was an absolute dive. — Grainne Hallahan, London

A plastic wrapped kitchen wall with melted plastic above the oven

Plastic melted above an oven. Photo: Celia Hansell

“Before we moved into our student house, our landlord actually wrapped the whole kitchen wall in plastic to save him from having to plaster it. They then placed an oven against the wall, so the gases hot melted the plastic when they seeped out of the oven This of course released plastic fumes into the kitchen every time we used the oven… We all felt terrible all the time and we didn’t couldn’t figure out why until someone came to fix the oven after it had – thankfully – broken down. Celia Hansell, Brighton

“Long story, but our neighbor came by and told us something was leaking from our apartment. The owner’s handyman took a look, but found nothing. Shortly after, the The neighbour’s ceiling collapsed and since the apartment below belonged to the town hall, they got involved.

“For some stupid reason our toilet tank was behind the bathroom tiles so they couldn’t get to it without knocking down the wall. They found sloppy plumbing, which explains the leak. So we had a hole in the wall between our apartment and our neighbor’s bathroom for about a week. The owner’s handyman eventually re-tiled the wall…but left no room for the toilet to reconnect…so they had to knock down part of the wall to reconnect it again.

“They also removed the shower wall to find the leak, so we had to shower the other way for a while to stop the water from entering the next apartment.” — Helen Simmons, London

“Our skylight started leaking, so we called the owner to ask him to fix the problem. He didn’t want to pay to have it fixed, so we ended up with a black trash bag on top of the skylight ‘secured “with tiles.” — Tom Lane*, Swindon

“The walls of our university were so damp that there was black and white mold everywhere. Whenever the wall got really moldy we would tell the owner and she would send someone to paint over it… [which] didn’t exactly solve the problem. Oh and when we moved in the lights couldn’t be used due to the humidity issues. The DIY fix was for us to never turn the lights on and that was standard for the whole rental. Sam Jones*, London

*Name has been changed to protect identity

@matilda_martin

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