HMO Tenants – What Happens When They’ve Got Kids?

This week, I placed an ad in our local paper and received a call from a guy who wanted a room for himself, his wife and two children.  I used my ususal excuse of “Under the terms of my insurance, I’m not allowed to accept children.  Very sorry”.  A lame excuse? Possibly, but to put a whole family in one room would get right up the nose of my other tenants – not to mention the creation of a queue for the bathroom.

What Do You Do If a Tenant Has A Child?

Now, tenants with children come in different formats: girl gets pregnant whilst in a house share, families can only afford one room (I often find this of foreign sounding applicants so maybe they don’t qualify for housing benefit help?) or, typically, bloke has been ejected from his marriage and home for a variety of reasons and desperately wants access to his child.  We have a house which I renamed “Fathers For Justice” House as all the tenants were aged 20-30 years old, had fallen foul of the missus, lost all their money as I’m guessing their other half dealt with the finances and all they had left was a suitcase, a battered ego and a promise of child access.


Jason turned up on the doorstep clutching my phone number exactly 3 years ago this month.  He had no money, a pile of debt, an angry ex-wife and two children.  He’d been recommended by an existing tenant and, as regular readers know, I’m a sucker for a sob story.  He’s a proud dad and pictures of his children are blue tacked all over the walls, they regularly come to the house and he keeps their scooters and a few toys in his room.  When he was broke he still remembered their birthdays, kitted them out from charity shops in an attempt to provide and made sure he never missed an access visit.  He’s now debt free, works hard and his kids are absolutely delightful – they’ve never stayed over for the night as Jason’s mum lives nearby.

John, a  great bloke, handsome, but unreliable and slightly hygenically challenged.  Claimed his wife had him done for domestic abuse and kept moving so he couldn’t make contact with her or their three children.  He was with me for over a year until I had to evict him for non payment of rent, but we left on friendly terms and he’d managed to trace his children via Facebook.  Domestic abuse?  I doubt it, he visibly cowered when I had to give him my “I’m your New Best Friend before homelessness” talk.

Simon: has been with me for over 3 years and is in his mid twenties.  He has a 9 year old son, Billy, who lives with the mother and her heroin addict boyfriend on a council estate.  Simon trys hard, earns little and is a constant worrier – he also managed to get his new girlfriend pregnant earlier this year so he and I had to have a chat about “responsibility”.  Billy has been somewhat a victim of tug of love as his mother decides as and when Simon can see him and it can be very irregular.  Simon misses him when he’s not allowed access (for no good reason), can’t claim legal aid to challege any access issues but showers Billy with fatherly love and discipline when he stays over, especially as he was on a threat of a junior ASBO.  By the way, Simon doesn’t want to move in with his girlfriend as he’s enjoying the houseshare so much and she has three other kids!

Neil: again, mid twenties and a bit of a wide boy with a beautiful three year old daughter.  She used to stay over every other weekend until one my female meddling tenants suggested that the sleeping arrangements were “inappropriate”.  She narrowly avoided a punch.

Tom: the saddest case of all.  Two years ago his wife revealed that his 18 year old son wasn’t actually his and to this day they still haven’t spoken…………

The Point I’m Trying To Make

HMOs are NOT a suitable environment for a child to grow up in, not least due to the transient and unreliable tenants but also because children make noise at 6.30am and enjoy running water with the basin plug left in whilst expressing themselves through wall art.  However, who am I to say that a tenant can’t have reasonable access to his child?  He’s lost everything and the only accommodation he can afford is a rented room in a shared house or a park bench.  The bond between the parent and child should be allowed to grow during the difficult circumstances he’s found himself in and it may just be the one thing that doesn’t turn him to drink, drugs or beating up other tenants.


Filed under Tenant Stories

13 responses to “HMO Tenants – What Happens When They’ve Got Kids?

  1. Sally Barrett

    I’ve become an addict!

    Your articles touch issues which an awful lot of people wouldn’t touch with a barge pole – especially today’s one!

    PS I’m telling allsorts of people to take a look at your site and hopefully it will prick a few consciences.

    • martin

      John was a tenant from oveseas who was the most stable tenant I’ve ever had: he paid by Standing Order, was friendly to all other tenants, hepled a lot in cleaning and gardening, a perfect tenant. Two years later his ex-wife turned up from abroad with two kids on a two weeks daddy visiting holiday. I told them about the law, insurance , etc. then I decided to turn a blind eye hoping 2 weeks would fly by. They did but mom and 2 kids stayed an extra 4 weeks as they became romantically re-entagled. I threatened to call social services, police the british army, you name it, before they both realised why the had divorced and she dissapeared back to the states. John is still with us, but I aviod small talk incase he brings it up.

      • Hi Martin. Don’t you just love some of these people?! I too had a guy who wanted a large room to himself until I caught sight of the 2 kids in the back of his car and he finally admitted it was for the whole family! I did feel sorry for him as he was clearly desperate. Kids are a tricky one as this post talks about. As the recession continues tenants are trying to reduce their costs wherever possible. I’m not keen on couples either in case they become pregnant and I’d lose all my other tenants when they come home, inebriated, to a crying baby at 3 am!

  2. Brilliants article. You have a handy knack of talking about the problems of HMO tenants but at the same time as championing their humanity. More and more peple are forced into shared living and I know many tenants with families in London who are now moving into 1 room to cut down on costs. The 2 bed flat above me and Frazzy has 3 women in it and this is definately a sign of the times.

    We will need more HMOs come January but I fear this will lead to more problems as so many HMO landlords dont have your understanding or practical approach. We ll done girl

    • Ben, another compliment – thank you. There is still a long way to go on this subject and I know we have thrown some ideas around which I am still working on. I, too am concerned about the January influx – there’s gong to be an awful lot of destabilized young people next year. Having said that, there is evidence that more landlords are considering HMOs so maybe a few of them will provide some decent accommodation!?! By the way, some interesting artciles on your Money Saving Expert paper!

  3. Visited following Ben’s tweet. What an incredibly moving post. I have worked as a volunteer with vulnerable adults and housing is truly a minefield for the myriad personal issues and baggage some folk carry through their lives. The impact this has on their relationship with their children means that those issues ricochet down generations.

    • Thank you. I’m not a socialist but working with this tenant market makes me realise that we’re not all cast from the same mold and some people need more of a helping hand than others and yet, in this advanced world of ours, we don’t seem to be able to provide that safety net. I have a genuine friendship and respect for my tenants and it’s reflected in the low room turnover – but it’s taken years to get here! All I want is for HMO landlords to understand this market and show a little compassion? Or just stick to students!!

  4. Ben reeve-Lewis

    I have to investigate complaints of harassment and illegal eviction, and this is the stock in trade of an inner city HMO landlord but I can never take action because so many HMO tenants just accept being pushed around as ‘The way it is’.

    I really think HMOs are a separate class of endeavour. On the one hand they often (In south London anyway) attract the landlords in search of a quick buck with minimal input. Property fraud and violence are depressingly common. The problems created by a hands-off approach are felt by the tenants who just feel dumped in there to get by as best they can. The result being they never value where they live and they treat the property accordingly. Which in turn fuels landlord’s complaints that “Tenants are scum”, which I have heard so many times it doesn’t even make me wince anymore.

    I recently bumped into an old client in the street who had rented from one of our more notorious arseholes and I asked him how it panned out. He just shrugged and smiled, saying “He’s a landlord isnt he” . I thought that mute acceptance was really depressing.

    On the other hand landlords arent social workers either.

    The question for me is, come January, when the single room rate of housing benefit extends to the age of 35 and we will need more HMOs than ever, who will jump in to fill the gap? People like you or the usual arseholes?

    We do indeed live in interesting times

    • Thanks, Ben, good point. There will always be the arsehole landlords who are out to make a quick buck and, like other undesirable features of our society, impossible to eradicate. And who’d want to? You’d be the first person out of a job! Like you, I’m concerned for the vulnerable tenants who don’t feel they have a choice and they probably don’t. That’s why I need to win the lottery/find a generous benefactor looking for a quick route to heaven/think of a brilliant money making scheme and attempt to house a large portion of people who would otherwise fall into unscrupulous hands. Then, upon my death and when they’ve all been trained how to live together properly, it will become a self sufficient charity not unlike Dr Barnardos!!! Watch out for my post due out in the next day or so about “How to Patronise the Homeless in the Name of the Church” or something like that (still working on the title!!).

  5. Ben reeve-Lewis

    Haha you continue to surprise.

    I think Mother Theresa once said “We cant do great acts of compassion, we can only do simple acts with great compassion”.

    I dont think we need to win the lottery, we just need to be there.

    My favourite story, EVER, was hearing about a San Francisco cop who was driving over the Golden Gate bridge with his partner and encountered a suicide jumper, looking to hurl himself off the bridge. They stopped to talk him out of it and without warning the guy jumped.

    The cop launched himself after him and his partner grabbed his belt. The three of them formed this line and gradually pulled each other back onto dry land.

    When asked why he did it, the leaping cop said “ I have no idea, all I thought is, I couldn’t let him go on his own” .

    There’s no politics there, no religion, no philosophy, just one human being responding to another.

  6. Ben reeve-Lewis

    Haha and theres always that

  7. Dan Dennis

    Nice article

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