Taking that lease seriously!

What the foreign tenant should do to fulfill the obligations set out in the standard lease of a London flat

Dear Stanley,

Thank you for your email. You raise the issue of what you have to do during your tenancy to fulfill the terms of the lease with regard to the roof, gutters, gullies, downpipes etc. My wife and I are pleased that you raised this point and would advise you as follows:

2.11(b) Keep the roof area pipes gutters downpipes and gullies serving the property open and in good working and free from obstructions.

Now we are in a period of climate change and London is a semi-tropical location where the heavens open and fifty centimeters of water fall from the sky in half an hour, it is important to watch the gutters and gullies. Before taking preventative measures visit your local mountain gear shop and buy a full set of climbing ropes, a rope gun, crampons, absailing gear, and appropriate boots, and just in case you get caught in the gully, 5lbs of bully beef, an inflatable bed and a pup tent (your wife can throw you Aberdeen steaks from the rooftop if necessary).

Using the gun, fire the end of the rope across the gap between our rear section of the building and the chimney pots on the other side, over the gully. Make sure the line is secure. Then, hanging onto the rope, start crossing the intervening gap. When half way across, look down and see if there are any leaves and other detritus in the gully or the gutters that could dam flood water, cause a back up and thus allow water to enter the premises.

Some tenants at this stage have been known to let go the rope and fall thirty feet into the gully below. This is not advised as there is no way of getting up again without calling the Fire Brigade. (Also note that the National Health Service currently have a three month waiting list for people falling thirty feet from a rope onto a hard surface. They justify this by assuming that you are just plain stupid. Some argue that such problems should not be treatable under current NHS rules).

Instead, you should hang onto the rope with your right hand while fixing a vertical rope to the horizontal one you are holding. This has to be done with the left hand. Once secure, you can slide down the vertical rope onto the gully roof. You should be carrying, in addition to the camping gear and hard rations mentioned above, a full tool kit with you to clean and repair any hole discovered in the gully. This would normally include a blow torch, leaf blower, dustpan and brush, and a black plastic bag in which to dispose of the bird droppings, decayed leaves, chewing gum wrappers and messages in bottles left there by previous tenants who have manfully attempted to keep the gullies clear open and in good working order.

Once the gully is clear, shin up the vertical rope carrying the full kit as described above and re-trace your handgrips. Dispose of the leaves etc at dead of night in the bin opposite the front door. If discovered you may be courteously requested by the local busybody to put the rubbish back where you found it.

In any case, you will now have to recover the other end of the rope that straddles the gully. Gripping the horizontal rope with both hands move carefully across the gully in the direction of the other end by the chimney pots……….

12.(d) During the winter months to take adequate precautions to avoid damage from the freezing and bursting of pipes.

On no account call a plumber without visiting a bank beforehand and negotiating a sizeable line of credit. British plumbers usually quote a figure, then on arrival explain that, owing to the incredible difficulties of the job and the lousy quality of the work done by the people who originally installed the pipes/toilet/bath or shower, the cost will regrettably be just under double the quoted price. Curiously, the water will not flow until the check is cleared and the plumber has returned to make “adjustments” and has prepared a second call-out invoice.

To avoid these disagreeable visits here are some do-it-yourself tips: everyone has cast-off clothes. Gather together your out-of-fashion Dior, Prada etc creations and go out on the roof terrace. Be sure the garments are woolen; synthetics are cold-conductors, and in any case are often removed by pigeons for nest-building. Since you cannot wear them in London (owing to the activities of the local animal rights activists), we highly recommend any old mink or sable coats or wraps you happen to have lying around.

Look for exposed pipes and wrap them with the woolen garments. Used woolen panties, scarves, long combinations or the hairy vests preferred by solitary Trappist monks in caves may also be used. Lash the clothes to the pipes with red ribbon in case it snows and you want to recover the said clothes quickly for a dinner at the Ritz hotel.

Hot sticky toffee pudding may be used as a poultice to encase any pipes you suspect might have already been frozen. On the other hand fish and chips or spotted dick may also be use. No one was going to eat it in any case.

August 2007