The perfect landlord

02:21, Jul 03 2011
craig cliff
Craig Cliff.

We have a lovely landlord right now. She lives in the Wairarapa and every time she comes over to do landlordy things (pull up weeds, check on the new windows) she brings a gift basket of wines and cheeses.

I wish she'd come more often, which feels wrong to say about your landlord.

But she's not my favourite landlord. No, sir. That would be the scatterbrained shopkeeper in Edinburgh whose favourite place in the world was Dubai and who once came back sporting a purple- tinted mullet.

He was terrible with names, wore tracksuit bottoms and paint- flecked polo shirts and had a thick Scottish accent despite being born somewhere else. I never quite found out where, but he had the habit of talking to call centre workers in their native tongue (Urdu? Bengali? Not sure).

His name was Joe and he was obsessed with showers. "Whenever I look at a new place," he said as he showed me around the flat for the first time, "I check for built-in wardrobes. And if they have them," he said, pulling open the white wardrobe door in my prospective room, "I turn it into a shower."

And there was a shower, complete with power nozzle and endless hot water, according to Joe's sales pitch.


I said I'd take the room within five minutes but ended up staying with Joe for over an hour as he was distracted by his ever-ringing cellphone and people arriving to view the other room I hadn't called dibs on.

In stolen minutes when we should have been talking turkey about keys and utilities, Joe told me about his multiple sclerosis ("I'd get these headaches and would have to pull over and tie a shirt around my head"), showed me a photo of his daughter on his cellphone, and made several slightly racist comments that had me wincing.

As a landlord he had his downsides.

He was constantly around at the flat unannounced and yet it took forever for things to get fixed.

Once he asked me if he could smoke in my room.

I told him I'd prefer not, then five minutes later he lit up.

"Joe?" I said.

"Oh, right, sorry."

Say what you will about Joe but the man knew how to apologise.

When, after a year, the rent became too much for me, Joe offered to show me a cheaper room. "It's nae far," he said, and managed to convince me to climb into the back of his white panel van, which was loaded with paint tins, loose hammers and screwdrivers.

There were no windows, so it was pitch black once he'd shut me in.

It struck me then how, with anyone else, this could be a scary moment.

I tried my best to follow the lefts and rights and avoid the sliding tools, but after five minutes I had no idea where we were.

The flat was a no-go (full of smokers), so Joe dropped my rent and I stayed put in my room with the wardrobe- shower.

Generous, crazy, infuriating, lovable. That was Joe. The perfect landlord for a wannabe writer in a foreign land.

The Dominion Post