Mary Killen Mary Killen

Your problems solved

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

Dear Mary…

Q. Last year my husband and I bought a house on Exmoor which came with two cottages superfluous to our needs. We have been renting these out as holiday lets. Out of six recent lettings three of the punters, all of whom appeared happy while they were in situ, complained retrospectively and asked for money back and/or free weeks in the future. One complained of having been kept awake by an owl, another complained that she had been disappointed by the cottage because of the amount of Ikea furniture. We are sure that punters are just ‘trying it on’. How can we outwit future chancers?
Name and address withheld

A. Landlords should try to furnish their holiday-let properties from country auctions rather than from Ikea, as the McDonald’s-style ubiquity of Ikea furniture in such cottages is understandably depressing and rather defeats the point of hiring a country ‘retreat’*. Even so, this is not a case where compensation would be appropriate. One way for a landlord to outwit bogus compensation-seekers is to supply the rustic property with a visitors’ book. Visitors generally adore leaving reams of descriptive prose about the area and how much they have enjoyed their stay, often embellishing these with illustrations, and so on.They then forget about these eulogies. Later, when they have returned home and decide to go for compensation, the landlord can simply take a copy of their entry in the visitors’ book and send it to them with a simple note to the effect of ‘some mistake here, surely’. This usually nips compensation-seeking in the bud. *Remember that upholstered furniture must comply with fire-prevention regulations.

Q. Re double-breasted suits (22 November). The double-breasted suit has one particular merit. If (when) one develops what the Australians call the ‘veranda over the toy shop’, the DBS automatically becomes single.

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