These students moved into a flat where the landlord spied on them using security cameras

Big Landlady is watching you

The pandemic has forced students across the country to find last-minute accommodation, often sacrificing acceptable living conditions for semi-affordable prices. Molly’s experience, however, was anything but the norm, a genuinely surreal and bizarre story.

She moved into the home of a 95-year-old academic who was in hospital recovering from Covid-19. Katherine*, the landlady’s daughter, took Molly round the house and let her know she was the seventh person they’ve had move in this year. This would set alarm bells ringing for any hardened renter, however Molly had little choice and she and Nina*, her new housemate, settled in.

“On day three we saw the cameras. They weren’t very big but there were lights on them, little red lights that flashed”, Molly said.

Katherine explained they were installed to watch her mother and ensure her safety. A perfectly reasonable explanation, if the 95-year-old was actually still living there.

“It wasn’t up for discussion”, Molly says, and the cameras remained switched on.

The two housemates adapted to living like the subjects of some weird social experiment, developing their own methods to go undetected and stay under the radar.

“We knew the cameras were on and we got really adept to living sneakily. We would turn all the lights off on the landing and downstairs trying to avoid the cameras.”

However, Katherine was apparently wise to such tricks. Nina left the house one evening to meet a guy off Muzmatch and ended up staying over-night. The next morning Molly received an email, asking “Where is Nina?”, as Katherine hadn’t seen her return home on the cameras.

Two of the cameras, installed on the landing and in the kitchen

“My housemate got into trouble for going out and having a shag!”, Molly told The Tab.

When the two girls were complaining about being watched, Molly received an email from Katherine stating she “had better things to do than listen to [their] inane conversations” – that’s when they realised microphones had also been installed.

Stressed by uni work, or perhaps by the constant surveillance, Molly committed the cardinal sin one morning.

“I went outside for a cigarette and then got an email from Katherine saying she thought I was a non-smoker”, Molly laughs, “but that also could have been sugar daddy Paul snitching”.

Sugar daddy Paul was the next-door neighbour, who earned his title as the owner of a BMW and as a serious, unashamed Adele fan – much to the dismay of anyone living within a mile’s radius of his house.

“It was a boujee street, a leading UK politician lives there.”

Already seriously impressed she and Nina stayed on past the Muzmatch fiasco, I asked Molly what the final straw was that made her finally leave the house.

“I saw my friend from UCL in the street. We had a conversation in the front garden and a cup of tea. Katherine rung me and said “you can’t have anyone on the property”. That made me realise the cameras were better than I thought.

Molly moved out, having spent a month in what could only be described as a live adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, a fitting dystopian story in the time of Covid-19.

*Names changed for privacy and out of fear of Big Landlady