My flatmate is about to have their birthday in lockdown and they want to have a party. It would mean having like 10 people in the flat. I don't want to say no, but I am also worried about breaking lockdown and spreading the virus. This is complicated by the fact that said flatmate is also my landlord. Please help. I don't know how to approach this!
Despite lockdown, the suspension of our social lives and the economy, other people continue to test us, don’t they? The things that unite us – whether it’s our tolerance for coronavirus-related risk or the contents of our bank accounts – have never stood in starker contrast to those that mark us apart. The pandemic has reminded us that we live apart from one another in more ways than one in Britain today.
For you, my friend, this must feel extremely loud and incredibly close – and not just because your mate doesn’t register the concept of social distancing at all. I don’t envy your situation. You have encountered one of the most obnoxious characters in our housing wealth-based class system: the friendlord. This is where the boundaries blur. You see, there are few things that go together as badly as money, friends and renting. And, sure as night follows day, just as a landlord can never really be a friend, a friend can never really be a landlord.
First things first, I must tell you something. This is an important and little-known bit of renting law: if you live with your landlord, you are actually an “occupier” and not a tenant, even if you have signed a tenancy agreement.
As Citizen’s Advice point out on their website, "If you share some accommodation with your landlord, such as the bathroom or kitchen, then you're known as an excluded occupier." In a nutshell, excluded occupiers have very limited rights and, if your landlord – in this case, your mate – lives in the accommodation as their only or principal home, then this is definitely the housing jargon that best describes your situation.
I’m not suggesting you're about to fall out with your friend but rather that you’re not just in a grey area of friendship and finance – you’re in one for tenant law, too. The precarity of neither wanting to lose a friend nor your home makes it a lot harder to upset the apple cart.
All this being said, birthdays are important – they’re our own personal new years, a chance to begin again and all the mistakes we made in the preceding 12 months wash us clean as we enter another calendar year. Nonetheless, the rules are clear: having multiple people from other households inside your house is strictly forbidden. You could, in theory, end up like the group of 16 mates in Florida who all caught COVID after a night together in a friend’s bar.
Honestly, your options are limited. My gut is saying that you should opt for radical honesty: talk about it, do the right thing, be open about your concerns and be “that guy” because, in the end, if you can’t be honest with the person you live with in a pandemic, are they even really a friend at all? My heart says you will probably ignore me and say nothing but quietly seethe in the corner, sinking beers until you have a very nice time and then spend the next 14 days awash with guilt and pranging out every time you sneeze. But, in the end, reader, that’s your call.
My next-door neighbour is a father of four, grandfather of two and a womaniser of many. Amazingly, he is still up to his antics during this lockdown! In fairness to him, he appeared to stop ageing at 40 years old and looks much younger, making him a hit with the ladies. He has a rotation of mature women who drop by his house or pick him up to take him out.
I assumed that lockdown would force him to spend some much needed introspection on years of bad behaviour (I'm not even talking about the womanising, this guy climbed into our garden, scaled our tree and tried to cut it down because he did not like looking at it). But he’s refused to comply with social distancing by having different lady friends quarantine with him each week.
Lots of neighbours are putting in a Herculean effort to help others out in the pandemic. Usually, I'd say hate the game and not the player, but are booty calls acceptable at this moment in time? Do they count as an essential service?
Here’s what’s wrong with your neighbour: he doesn’t give a fuck about other people. Yeah, sex is great and all, but has he ever tried not being a dick? Like you, part of me respects the glib attitude. Don’t like how a tree looks? Cut it down. Need a cuddle? Call someone on your roster. Get what you can because if this year has taught us anything, it’s that we really don’t know what’s coming next.
But you also reap what you sow and, aside from chlamydia (STIs are, after all, on the rise among older people), it’s highly likely that he’s spreading COVID-19. By disregarding the rules on social distancing and how many people you can have inside your home at once, the likelihood of him being a vector for the virus is strong. And there’s nothing less sexy than that.
I’m going to be blunt: if this pandemic didn’t bring humility and common sense to his door, nothing will. So to answer your question: are booty calls acceptable? Do they count as an essential service? No, they don’t.
At the time you wrote to me, he was flouting the rules that explicitly said you could not have someone from another household inside your own home. They’ve relaxed a little now, of course. If you live alone, you’re allowed to have someone from another household in your “support bubble”, which is a polite way of saying people who don’t have a family, partner or any housemates are allowed one booty call – but not multiple women “on rotation”.
Shelter’s advisor told me they can’t tell you what to do about him. If you’re particularly concerned, they suggested giving Citizens Advice a shout, but I question what they’ll be able to offer you in such matters of love and lust. You could call the police, but are you really going to tell on a horny old serial shagger? To you, dear reader, I’d just suggest avoiding him like, well, the plague.