Not so long ago, as an HMO Landlady I was looked upon as the poor relation in landlord terms. I would attend meetings and be one of the only HMO landlords NOT housing students and my peers would sniff disdainfully or snigger as I defended my market. How the world is a-changing… (well, my world – I think the actual world has enough on its plate).
This week I was asked to advise a landlord who was hoping to rent to students but has changed market due to an oversupply of accommodation and our town’s university cheekily about to charge the same annual fees as Oxford and Cambridge – talk about delusions of adequacy. I was flattered that he’d asked me to help give him some tips and advise the layout – no one’s normally interested when I wax lyrical about HMOs. He told me he was going to place the ad online only to attract working people and to presumably deter anyone not suitable from seeing the ad in print as they wrap the newspaper around their bottle of vodka. He’s going to do just fine as he’d already decided on a comprehensive referencing technique and drawn up room contracts – it took me 2 years to get to that stage!
Then, I was asked by a letting agent to look at a six bedroomed house that he’d been asked to tenant. OK house, OK rooms but with a prevailing smell of damp, unfinished bathrooms, but all the fire regs were in place and the landlord wanted £400pm PLUS bills. Now, bearing in mind my most expensive room is £100pw incl all bills for a huge room, that’s steep. He also revealed that the landlord was trying to raise £2.5 million to buy more HMOs.
The next call came from someone wanting to give out my number to a family member who wants to get into HMOs for their yield. In the five years I’ve been operating HMOs not ONE landlord has ever thought it was a good idea to let property this way and advised me to jump ship in favour of students. (Not my market of choice due to their lack of domestic skills – even my own children manage to clear up after themselves). They didn’t understand that, buying at the height of the property boom in 2007 meant I HAD to do HMOs otherwise the buildings couldn’t pay.
So, for five years I’ve been paddling away, becoming accustomed to the sneers, riding the storms with the help of my landlord association saying “Well, what did you expect?” and having many moments of wanting to winch myself to safety to hold down a normal job. Judging by the number of ads in the paper this week, lots of landlords are riding the Room Letting wave – but will they stick with it?
I put an ad in the paper this week and only received two calls: one from a bloke who, asked where he’s living now, said “On the street” and it took every ounce of will to tell him I couldn’t help and hang up. For the next half hour I was going to call him back but my head took over to remind me how many time I’ve been proverbally shafted by the homeless over the years.
The next respondee was Ashley: he told me his ex-girlfriend was having an affair and managed to get him sectioned based on false evidence of depression and self harm with a supporting testimonial from his mum. He has now been released and is being housed in a B&B at a cost to Housing Benefit of £140pw plus a top up of £40pw and an £18pw service charge. Perhaps I could throw in a bowl of cornflakes and a cuppa every morning and charge £198pw! To summise: plausible story, the first I’ve ever heard involving sectioning and, as I’ve said before I’m a sucker for a sob story. Unfortunately, he failed my referencing test – he couldn’t look me in the eye without jumping from one leg to another.
So, once the reality of HMO landlording has worn down even the sharks, the bottom feeders such as myself will still be going strong…………….!!