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.