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Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:18 pm
by HelenAshby
Don't laugh cos this is a really awkward and tricky problem for me.

I let two rooms (next to each other) to lodgers and am heavily dependent on the income. One is a young Russian of 28. He's quiet and doesn't say much to me because his English isn't good so every attempt at conversation is a big strain for both of us, but he's a good lodger in many ways, rent always on time, tidy, trustworthy etc.

The other lodger, female, moved out yesterday and told me that his room smells.

When he was last physically close to me -- leaning over me to pay his rent on my desk, I smelled that he does indeed have BO but it is not a sweaty young man smell, more of an "old man" smell, like stale pee. The sort of thing you smell when you pass a tramp in the street, or sometimes an elderly person in the supermarket queue. My b/f suggested, maybe he wets the bed? So I sneaked in and sniffed his bed and bedding and there is no pee smell. There is a faint unpleasant smell but I cannot put my finger on what it is. He loves fresh air so his window is kept wide open all day so its not stale air.

The woman lodger has just moved out, whether because of the man's smell or partly because of it, I don't know. (She gave another reason.)

Someone lovely and clean and fresh came to view the room today. He said he has turned down many rooms because the houses or residents were smelly or dirty, so I was pretty horrified when we were outside the Russian's room, and we could both smell this nasty pong. So this pong may end up costing me money in lost rent.

The odd thing is, he has lived with me a year and never smelled bad before. There is a functioning shower right outside his room and a washing machine and he seems to make use of both.

Sorry this is very long winded.

The problem is, how on earth can I approach my lodger? It is hard enough to tell ANYONE that they have B.O. and I have never had the courage to do so with colleagues and friends. Because of the language difficulty, I would not even be able to drop a humorous hint or beat around the bush and hope he gets the message. I am going to have to spell it out in words of one syllable, maybe even with a dictionary <!>, and what if he denies it? I have read many times that people with BO cannot themselves smell it. I don't know anyone who speaks Russian who could have a quiet word with him. I do have a friend who speaks Russian but she lives in another country. I could ask her to write to him in Russian, but honestly I am cringing!

I am shying away from this SO MUCH that in some ways I would rather just give him notice to leave rather than have to bring up such an excruciatingly embarrassing subject.

Any advice for me anyone?


Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:52 pm
by Ticktock
Young men aren't the most hygienic of beasts, let alone young men far from home and with a serious communication barrier. I wonder if he is using detergent (don't assume he will know this) on his clothes, and whether he is drying them on the same day. In my youth I certainly had to rewash a few loads as I didn't get them dry quickly enough and they started to smell.

The plus side is that he is a reliable trustworthy lodger, is this so common that you can risk throwing him out because you are being very 'english'...

At the end of the day it is your house so you can ask him to go if you want, but it must be worth a little embarassment to clear up what may be a quite innocent misunderstanding?

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:19 pm
by HelenAshby
Hi Tick

Yes he uses proper washing powder I see him using it, and dries his clothes in the tumble drier. And he hasn't smelled for the past year. But it's not a musty smell, it's a pee-like smell <embarrassed>.

I'm not bothered that he smells, because he rarely gets close to me. My worry is that he might put off other lodgers, which means losing my income, and worry that his room might smell even after he has moved out :cry:

I know I have to tell him - but how can I pluck up the courage?

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:23 pm
by HelenAshby
Gosh I am feeling even more nervous about this now, seeing that 21 people have viewed the thread and nobody has any advice for me.... :-?

He's in the kitchen right now. ...... what to say?

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:00 am
by snail
If you keep the rest of the house really clean and fresh, I don't think a lodger would be too worried that just his room smelt, if they didn't have to go into it? You could always wash the carpet and curtains after he moves out.

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:31 pm
by HelenAshby
Hi 'Snail' . Just realised I am the only idiot on here using her real name. Oh dear! The smell can be smelled standing outside his room with the door shut. Also he himself smells bad and there are times when he and the person in the other room will be standing very close like passing on the stairs or using the kitchen at the same time etc.

When lodgers are leaving during the 2 weeks notice period I advertise the room and people come and view and move in the day after the old one moves out. This is because these room rents are my entire income so I can't afford to have any "empty" time at all. If I don't fix this problem I won't be able to even let anyone view the room until he is gone and the room cleaned in the way you describe and that means losing several weeks rent.

But the good news is, I took a deep breath and spoke to him. I had a brainwave of my own. Instead of saying HE smelled bad, I said a funny smell was coming from his room, and did he know what it was. I was congratulating myself on this genius move, but it didn't work because he just replied that he could not smell anything, then turned away and got on with cooking. Mind you I suppose I have "sown a seed" for the future. If there is no improvement I can request a room inspection I suppose.

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 3:58 pm
by dragon_rider
Hi Helen

I was wondering if there was anyway you could tell him that someone has said something. You could say that someone was looking at the other room, but turned it down because of the smell coming from his room. Try and emphasis the fact that you've not really noticed anything until recently, and say perhaps something has been spilt or something. Give him a bottle of Oust or Febreze, or similar and ask him to spray in advance of anyone coming round. If he gets cross, say that you cannot afford for people to not take the room next door and that while you don't have a problem, if other people do, it is necessary to ensure that the room smells nice.

If he isn't interested in helping in that way, I suggest you take matters into your own hands. When you've got someone coming round, knock on his door, tell him what is happening and tell him that you are going to spray the air freshener, kind of whether he likes it or not.

He may not be aware that he smells but it is going to be an issue for you, and you cannot afford to be nice in this situation. I had a similar problem at uni, one of my housemates smoked pot and the place stank of it. We would clean up for viewings and landlord visits, and when she didn't help out, we just went into her room and gave her no choice. I know that it isn't quite the same, but it is a similar issue.

I hope this helps. Sometimes you just have to do these things, however hard it is. It is better to let the room and not have a void, than have it empty just to save his feelings. If the language barrier is a real issue, you could try typing the English into one of the online translation websites. The translations aren't always great but it might get the point across.

Sorry if this isn't any good.

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:15 pm
by Ticktock
Something dragon rider said just rang some bells, that and his denial of any smell, no-one misses an ammonia like smell...

Is he producing home-brew drugs? Ammonia is a common ingredient in the brewing of meth, and in Russia this is very common. Would explain the smell outside the room, after all if it was a personal smell it would be overwhelming up close.

I might move the room inspection up a bit...

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:31 pm
by snail
HelenAshby wrote:Hi 'Snail' . Just realised I am the only idiot on here using her real name. Oh dear!

I can change your username if you wish, Helen - just send me a PM (private message). If you click on my name you'll see a link to PM me.

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:20 pm
by HelenAshby
@Dragon -- thank you for these clever ideas. I think that I am so English, so reserved, and cringing so much that I am not able to see past my embarrassment to a practical solution. I like the Oust idea. I never use air fresheners, so I kind of forgot they even exist.

Not able to tell him that I am losing rent because of the smell, because the man who viewed the room on Tuesday took it [phew!] but he is excessively fastidious, to the extent that he spent five hours scrubbing my oven clean before he would deign to use it! And he is also foreign and only 24 so it just goes to show, you cannot jump to stereotype conclusions about age/gender/foreignness, Ticktock! Being so picky, I won't be surprised if he makes a fuss about the smell, then we can use the Oust solution I guess.

@Ticktock -- does Russian home brew smell of ammonia? If so yuk how do they drink it? So far as I can tell, my Russian does not drink alcohol at all. (He's very quiet, shy and effeminate, with a pony tail and a mincing walk.) But thanks for the idea, I will sneak in his room when he is at work and have a good old poke around.

@Snail -- I'll keep my name because I have no intention of ever posting anything so personal that it would require my anonymity. I don't have any problems, though I am rather in shock -- the coroner wrote to me to say that the lady lodger who recently moved out took her own life a day or so later and I must go to the police station to make a statement about her state of mind when she moved out.

Thanks again all


Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 4:30 pm
by snail
That's just awful about your lady lodger :(

I think Ticktock meant methamphetamine, so drugs, not something you drink.

I hope it sorts itself out for you.

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:13 pm
by HelenAshby
Hmmm. I am not familiar with the drugs world.

I thinkthe word "brewed" made me think of alcohol :-)

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:51 pm
by peecee
HelenAshby wrote:I thinkthe word "brewed" made me think of alcohol :-)

Helen, were we separated at birth? :wink:

If your new lodger is so fastidious, he may not be nervous about having a go at Stinky Boy; it does seem easier for boys to make comments about personal hygiene to each other. A few years ago, in the office next to mine, one of the ultra-geeks stayed at his computer all weekend, he didn't go home, wash, anything civilised. When his boss came in on Monday, he said "Paul! Go home and have a bath, you stink!". I didn't know where to look, but the boss shrugged and said "well, he needed to be told".

Wait and see what happens now - I just hope it's not your lodger's expensive aftershave/perfume that's causing the pong... :D

Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:37 pm
by HelenAshby
It would be good if that happened but they are not "blokey" blokes at all. Plus the new boy is Spanish and the smelly one is 5 yrs older than him and neither speaks the others language.

I can easily imagine the scenario at your workplace -- blokes are blunt and cut to the chase.


Re: Lodger started to smell

PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 2:51 am
by captainf
I dont really have any advice to offer, but I just wanted to say it sounds so heart breaking that your previous female lodger took her own life. That poor woman. How very sad :(