Keeping your HMO in good decorative condition is an often overlooked and boring part of the landlord duties (especially once the novelty has worn off). In the beginning it’s obvious to set up the building looking new and clean – after all, “Shiny Sells” one letting agent told me. Depending on your tenants’ standard of care, the property can quickly become scuffed, shabby and develop a strange musty smell.
With single lets, a landlord expects to have to do a light refurb (if they’re lucky) at the end of each tenancy to freshen their product up to sell, but in HMOs you can be constantly selling rooms with quick turnarounds, so don’t have the luxury of waiting until the paint has dried. This became screamingly obvious to me this September with 14 room changes. FOURTEEN!! A few people left, then existing tenants wanted to upgrade, move to join friends or find a room with a view. After a while I became reluctant to answer the phone and had to set up a wall chart just to track the movement and tenancy dates of each resident.
Donning my Marigolds I was lucky enough to get away with a light dusting in most of the rooms and only had to carry out a full on refurb of carpet and furniture in one room. I had my light bulb moment when showing some applicants around a house which has seen little to no movement for a year and realised the bathroom was looking tired and grotty. It’s difficult to ban the bathroom for 24 hours whilst the new mastic dries. The room turnarounds were often less than a few hours so it was a case of clearing out the rubbish, crazily spraying Febreeze and checking under the bed for forgotten porn mags.
All this change means new tenants to train, an increase in lockouts as they forget the bedroom doors are self closing and the inevitable clash of personalities who struggle to exercise tolerance. One poor guy is being bullied by four Spanish ladies for constantly leaving his dirty dishes in the sink. “If I want to be nagged, I’d be bl**dy married!” he grumbled.
There is a cleaner who goes into each house to “do” the communal areas once a week. Unfortunately, he was sacked last week by two Portuguese chambermaids who declared that they could do the job better and for free. Taking cleanliness a stage further I bought those plastic runners for the hallway to extend the life of the carpet, only to find that they’d been taken up and chucked under the stairs so I put them back this afternoon. This is a game which could go on forever…
A quick update on the tenants: Tom has a job. A job which is six days a week and he’s now held for three weeks which is two weeks and 5 days longer than I thought he’d handle it. The only problem is, he gets a full month’s pay mid October and I fear that we’ll find him in a gutter having spent his entire earnings before I’ve managed to relieve him of his rent. Simon also has also secured himself a job so he can now afford to install his own dedicated broadband connection for gaming online. At least he’s not looking to move in with a girlfriend, but since his new employer ordered him to wear deodorant, you never know.
And finally, one tenant gossiped that Colin had been making le cinq á sept calls to the new Polish lady downstairs . So I asked how she was settling in and was he making her feel welcome? “Oh yes” he replied “She’s lovely”. “But how do you communicate as she doesn’t speak English?”
“We use Google Translate and understand each other perfectly”. I would have thought the computer would have got in the way