How Far Do You Let a Tenant Run Up Rent Arrears?

In the normal world of landlording and legally speaking it’s recommended to allow two months worth of arrears to build up before issuing any notices.  However, this isn’t normal landlording otherwise everyone would be doing it!

Every Saturday, my tenants hear my bailiff style knock on the door between 9.30am and 11am. I’m not so archaic that I don’t offer for them to pay by standing order but only one tenant does this – I’m presuming the rest choose collection so the boys can show off their pants to me every week. If I’ve trained them well, they’ll be clutching the cash as they open their door or, if they don’t want to be disturbed, leave it in an envelope poking under the door.

So, what happens when they aren’t proffering the week’s rent?  Again, if they remember their training they’ll have called me a day or so beforehand with a suitable excuse to which I’ll sound suitably empathetic whilst I wait for them to tell me how they’ll sort the situation out and by what date.  If they’re too scared to talk to me or have conveniently forgotten they rent a room at the address, they’ll go AWOL but that’s a different subject which demands an alternative procedure which I made up but is fairly effective.  Another time….!  The great thing about HMOs is that if one room doesn’t pay up the other rooms should be still covering the mortgage and bills so you can attend to the non payer without worrying about repossession or delving into your own bank account.

Liam – An Erratic Payer

Liam rents my bedsit in a licensable HMO.   It’s an attic room with it’s own cooking facilities and he shares the bathroom with everyone else.  He arrived on the doorstep two years ago – muscular, vertically challenged, bursting with testosterone, cheeky smile and looks rather attractive in his underpants (which I found out three weeks into the tenancy, it wasn’t part of the referencing process!).  Liam was a window fitter until the recession when events seemed to conspire against him.  He’s picked up a variety of jobs on building sites, shop work and anyone who’ll have him but it’s been fraught with contracts suddenly coming to an end, broken promises and his inability to manage money.  He received a tax rebate earlier this year when he was £350 in arrears;  I called him to discover he was on the bus to meet some friends “but don’t worry it’ll be there on Monday”.  Was it heck.  He said his mates got him so drunk that he’d blown the lot at the casino – “I felt such a twat” he said.  Yep, he said it not me.

How far do you let someone go and how far do you believe the stories, show compassion, remember what it was like when you were young and rubbish with money?  I’m now short on goodwill after he phoned me on Sunday about the “stupid ****ing council won’t give me housing benefit!  What do they expect me to do?  I’d wring their ****ing necks if I could get past the bullet proof glass!”  It was my day off enjoying a bit of retail therapy and I so wasn’t interested in another set of excuses …. and told him.  “In that case” he said “I’ve got no other option but to do what my mates are doing and sell drugs but don’t worry, I won’t do it while I’m at your house”  Gee, thanks. However, I’m not worried for the existing street dealers just yet as he has as much ability to blend  into dark alleyways to do a deal with a junkie as a market trader advertising the catch of day.

I’ve given him a flexible payment schedule, bunged him a fiver when he had nothing to eat and no parents to call on (I’m such a sucker for orphans), a shoulder to cry on and offered cheaper rooms.  I’ve made him sound like an arrogant idiot but he’s lovely and I’m just annoyed that he hasn’t sorted himself out and is trying to rile me with the drug threat.

It IS possible to make money AND be compassionate when dealing with HMO tenants – the two are not mutually exclusive.  I make my entry level costs to a room affordable i.e. £150 deposit plus one week’s rent in advance, unlike other landlords who demand one month’s rent and one month’s deposit in advance – now that’s alot of money.


Filed under Rent, Tenant Stories

6 responses to “How Far Do You Let a Tenant Run Up Rent Arrears?

  1. Ann Patey

    At least you have a tenant who looks good in his underpants! One of ours lives in his underpants when at home. Nice chap but not attractive and a total slob. He’s been there for 8 years so all new tenants have to learn to live with Tommo and his disgusting habits. Every now and again a row flares up and I have to call him in for a talk. (The underpants are so scary I daren’t visit him.) Luckily he loves being bossed about by women so the female tenants make him toe the line as far as behaviour in the house goes.

    • I know! All my boys love being bossed around but I try to do it at arms length as sometimes I just want to shake some common sense into them! Your Tommo and some of my lot are the reasons why HMOs can work in the long term as these tenants enjoy the privacy of their own rooms but like knowing that someone else is in the house. They don’t necessarily want to be the best of friends but, if having a room is all that they can afford, they may as well make it home. I was only going to do this job for 5 years, make squillions of money but now realise that if my tenants and I stick together, we could have a long and fruitful partnership, especially as I’m likely to make any capital gain in the near future. Thanks for your continued reading, Ann, I do appreciate it!

  2. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    You know the old housing corporation always leant on hosuing associations to serve notices within a month of arrears on the basis that it isnt helpful to let people get into more arrears than necessary. Many tenants would get angry, feeling there was no breathing space but the quick action was done for their benefit.

    I’m inclined to agree on that. Why wait 2 months? It may seem harsh but some lessons are hard. As for admitting spending his rent in a casino, I’m sorry but I dont care how great he looks in his pants, that is taking the pee. I look OK in my pants but Frazzy still makes me clean the toilet, no quarter is given

    • Aha! But I bet she MAKES you clean the toilet in your pants – adds a bit of a thrill to a boring chore. Seriously though, it’s a tricky to know if someone’s genuinley struggling or taking the pee and I get really fed up of repeating myself. Every morning I say to the kids: clear your bowls, brush your hair, wash your face, clean your teeth – you would’ve thought after the 100th day of saying it, they would have learnt. It’s the same with tenants – pay your rent on time, be mindful of others, let me know if you see a suspicious wet patch on the ceiling, etc….. To be fair, I even bore myself sometimes with instructions. Liam and I have had a chat and we’ll see what happens next; in the meantime, Steve is still missing presumed dead even though his LHA is being paid direct to me (it’s been 6 weeks since a positive sighting). Perhaps aliens have decided he’s a prime specimen of human being and want to clone him. I’ll sort it after half term…….

  3. Ben reeve-Lewis

    She doesnt, she knows better than that. I dont look too bad but I aint George Clooney.

    I think there are some things in life we just have to accept that the deal is saying it 100 times. Whenever I had issues to discuss with my daughter i used to approach it as a Waltons moment, where you sit them on your knee, make your point and they say “Gee your right Grandpa, I love you”, but in reality they sit with a sour expression until you have finished talking and then scream “Yeah but I f****in hate her!!!!!!!”

  4. Pingback: Am I Really Guilty of Breaking the Law? | A Practical Guide to Managing a House of Multiple Occupation

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