A story appearing on the BBC website a few weeks ago, about the poor chap that found his Airbnb flat had been turned into a “pop-up brothel“, gave me a good chuckle. Having previously been the proud owner of a knocking shop myself.
It was my first foray into the murky world of house buying. A nice three bed flat, in a quiet, residential area of the city; not yet robbed of character by the gentrification drive, so prevalent of the 80’s, which would have propelled it well beyond my limited price range. It had been on the market for a while, but, ever trusting, I put in an offer to become owner and resident of a mid-Victorian, corner property, on the first floor, with panoramic views over the city.
Turned up for the signing off ceremony a week later. “If you could sign here… here… and here…” Three ‘tongue-out-concentration-type’ signatures later, each less recognisable than the last, “…and this document is a declaration that you will only use the premises as a family home. If you could sign here…”
“Excuse me?” I had planned on letting out the other two rooms to a brace of students (maybe three), without which the mortgage would likely drown me. “Um. Is this normal?”
“Well, not really. It’s just that the property has a court order on it, stipulating that it must only be used as a family home.”
“A ‘court’ order?”
“Yes. But it’s only a formality. Really. Nothing to worry about…” A little unsettled, and devoid of any knowledge of what the right question might be, I shrugged, and signed.
Moving in day: the downstairs neighbours came out to quiz the sweaty band of disparate lads hoisting a bedroom to the first landing.
“Are you all moving in?” No. “How many people will be living here?” Just the one (for now). “Oh, thank heavens. The previous owner was a nightmare” Excuse me? “Yes. We had to get a court order to shut them down… Nice meeting you!” Um… OK…
Now. You would imagine, the place having stood empty for a while, that its prior history would be but a distance memory in the local folklore. Not so. First night, a trail of complete strangers rang the bell looking for Tony. Sorry, Tony no longer lives here, I smiled at the first. The last, a tardy 3am caller, was told in much less polite terms…
Next day, it was the neighbour across the hall who finally explained. “All times of day and night, strange men would turn up and ring the wrong buzzer,” like that was the most serious offence being committed, “and the girls would hang their naked breasts out of the windows, cat calling passers-by. We just couldn’t take anymore… it was awful…”
After a few months the random visits had all but ceased (though the final visitor, obviously a gent of limited appetites, didn’t show up till over a year after I’d moved in).
In the meantime, I’d managed to corral three students from the local Art School. The transition seemed fairly smooth, and we all got on OK with the various neighbours; those at least who bothered to pop their heads out the door when we might be passing.
Then there was the fateful night of the “first” party. Not entirely sure whose idea it was, but sounded like a splendid one at the time.
If it had been a particularly raucous affair, with scantily clad bodies (of either sex) hanging out of windows, we might have expected it. But when you are only half way through the dessert wine, the last thing you expect is fifteen of her majesty’s finest, waving a court order in one hand, banging on the door with the other, and demanding immediate access. Thankfully, the downstairs neighbour could vouch for the good character of the “boys upstairs”…
Moral of the story? Make sure you find out what your lawyer is hiding from you before signing any document that may result in wasting police time…