Last week we had to evict Gareth. I say “Had” because, despite trying to reason with him and help him find a way through his problems he had gone from a decent, working man in October last year to a cannabis smoking, paranoid boy who couldn’t even complete benefit claim forms in March this year.
His use of emotional blackmail was textbook which even my six year old son could have learnt a few tricks from him! At 39 years old he reacted to the conflict over his rent arrears by crying, intimidating me and the other female tenants and threatening the male ones. Things became so bad that I couldn’t enter the house for ten days and one of the girls had to temporarily move out. This is the effect of anti-social behaviour in HMOs where the statutory legalities are the same as if the tenant were in a self contained unit, but the distress is unbearable to those living behind the same front door.
With every eviction I learn something new – about human nature and myself.
You can’t always change the way people think and behave. As an outsider you can see the other person’s faults but that’s just your opinion, which is why it’s important to focus on the facts of the case. Some evictees understand how they come to this point in their tenancy and choose to continue to lead their lives in the only way they know how at the expense of their accommodation and the goodwill of those around them.
On the plus side, some DO see the light. Greg, who was hovering on my Top Ten Worst Tenants list, for being anti-social and unreliable, is currently joining Tom on my Top Ten Best Tenant list. After two spells in prison last year, his rent top up is bang on time and he answers my calls without hesitation. Tom, despite being a binge alcoholic, has a strong ethos of honour and is as loyal to me and his housemates as a slightly erratic Rottweiler with the added bonus of weeding the front patio when it needs doing and putting the bins out.
Yes, giving someone the benefit of the doubt is the Christian thing to do but the bit I wrestle with is setting limits. I realise I can’t change anyone’s behaviour or how far they believe it’s OK to push me and take advantage, but I can know when to put the brakes on. Each time I have to face facts and realise I’m being taken advantage of, a little bit of my belief in good presiding over evil dies. Then I remember the tenants that have made it and have moved on with their lives. I’ve also learnt to try to absolve myself but still ask: could I have done this better, reference checked more thoroughly, handled the situation differently or been harder on them earlier?
Whatever the answer, some landlords will tell you it’s difficult not to become emotionally involved with a few tenants. I’m not talking about the ones who pay on time and you never see, but the ones you have known for many years and have shared their ups and downs over coffee and witnessed their idiosyncrasies. As an HMO landlord, once you enter the front door into the communal area, you have taken one step further into tenants’ lives than you otherwise would have done as a single let landlord.