Yep, a pretty boring title but I want to put a little thoughtette out there. When I bought my first HMO it was sold with tenants in situ although nobody had actually told them that I was wanting to keep them on. On sale completion, I collected the keys from the agent, tentatively opened the front door to be confronted by a load of suitcases and four very anxious tenants sitting in the dining room. It turned out that the vendor’s solicitor had sent them a letter letting them know the property had been sold but no other information. I’d already tried to contact the vendor prior to completion to understand who was living there and on what basis, but she hid behind the fact she spoke only Chinese and refused to answer my calls. As my solicitor pointed out “Well, she understood enough English to buy the property in the first place so don’t believe she hasn’t enough vocabulary to sell it”. Well, it was the heady, greedy days of 2007 and I was as gullible as an excitable dog chasing a ball over a cliff.
The tenants had been issued a one page licence which looked on the surface OK and covered most aspects so I continued to run with these for a while until I got a call from the local council. I’d homed another Sally Army customer and, after discovering his girlfriend locked in the room having had a miscarriage then, a week later, his naked body and room stripped bare after taking an overdose of drugs, I asked him to leave. Someone from the council, presumably the lovely Ben Reeve Lewis’ evil twin brother said they would take me to court for wrongful eviction (technically sort of correct, but I didn’t actually chuck his stuff out on the street) until I employed a local, even more, naive solicitor and they let me go on the basis that I did actually save the ungrateful man’s life. The paramedics said he would have been dead within the next couple of hours if I hadn’t found him AND I even went to hospital clutching grapes – he told me he’d had a bad case of food poisoning! I’ve only ever seen one dead person and this tenant looked pretty similar apart from the fact rigamortis hadn’t set in.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies
Having been educated that my licences weren’t worth the paper they were written on, I joined a Landlords Association which, at the time, was the best move. (Having said that, I’ve been given different advice by the same helpline on more than one occasion but nobody died so I’m overlooking that) and issued all tenants with a standard AST. Phew, legal now. What struck me right from the beginning of issuing these ASTs is that they are, in the most part, unsuitable for HMOs. The main reason being, if a tenant is anti-social or carrying out criminal/illegal activity it affects the very people he or she shares the house with. I appreciate that, with police and witness statements, grounds for possession can be made within a couple of weeks and granted if the court agrees with the severity – however this is a lengthy and costly process for someone in an 80 quid a week room.
How, as a landlord, are you expected to protect four decent law abiding tenants who just want to go to the bathroom or make a cuppa whilst one naughty tenant is running amok? I had a situation where four frightened girls had to barricade themselves in their rooms whilst a nasty drug dealer, who lied that he worked at B&Q, ran an all night drug trading session and allowed his junkie mates to use the bathroom and kitchen. How on earth could I have protected those girls, who were absolutely terrified, against the threats and abuse they got whenever they left their rooms? I got to a point where I was going to move in and play Burt Bacharach at 6am every morning. I tackled the council about this and, predictably, they couldn’t give me an answer.
Landlord Law wrote a blog about house share tenancies which will give you some good guidance. However, I put it to anyone to provide me with a cast iron HMO tenancy agreement that protects the existing incumbents against having to put up with ongoing anti-social behaviour during the two month Section 21 process. Yes, the police can be called in severe cases but they’ll only take the errant tenant into custody for one night releasing them back to the house to unleash untold vengeance on the informant.