Yet Another Wake Up Call

Do you remember me telling you in past posts to REFERENCE CHECK YOUR TENANTS by whatever means possible?  I don’t waste the money on credit checks as most of my charges would fail miserably, so usually turn to past landlords, work or family members (if they’ve never rented or worked).  I’ve even checked them out with their probation officer, housing support worker and the agent at the Job Centre – then considered their interview, checked their answers matched the ones on the phone (liars always forget their first answer) and consulted my gut.

If you’ve read my book, you’ll see there’s a Tenant Information Form in there purposefully laid out on one side so the tenant can’t “forget” to complete the information on the reverse.  If they want the room, this is the first piece of paper they MUST complete before the referencing can commence.

99% of the time I practice what I preach.  However, as you read in my last post, I had one more room to sell after two weeks of 14 tenants moving or leaving and I was riding high on the success rate.  One more room sold meant I could ignore unknown numbers, avoid telephone interviewing whilst watching the kids at swim club, and not have to slow the car down long enough to throw them into the house before going off to conduct a viewing.

The Wake Up Call

Paul was quite posh, involved in setting up his father-in-law’s call centre, he needed a room temporarily.  His girlfriend seemed nice, he didn’t pounce desperately on the room and appeared to consider its pros and cons, came up with the deposit and rent, shook my hand and acquainted himself with the other lads.  After all, no one with anything to hide would live in a house with CCTV, right?

The first warning was two days later when Anthony called to say Paul had woken everyone up at 4am, crashed around the kitchen then went upstairs to throw up all over the bathroom floor before going to bed.  An odd way to ingratiate himself into the household, but hoped it was a one off.  A day later Simon called to say the police had woken him up at 3.45am by shining their torches through his bedroom window (it’s downstairs, they’re not the Flying Squad) looking for Paul.  I contacted him to ask for an explanation to which he coolly replied that the alarms had gone off at work and he was the only keyholder (my God, he’s good!).  The next day (Friday) another two officers appeared and tried to arrest poor Serghei as he came out of the bathroom and only let him go once he’d found some ID and apparently screamed like a girl.  Sitting at another kids club (those without children, consider yourself lucky that you get to go to the pub at 7pm on a Friday night) Anthony called to say he really didn’t like the new guy and why does he wear a hoody with the hood up when wandering round the house?  I said I’d talk to him when I visited the following day.

Went home, finally got the longed for wine and the phone goes again at 10.30pm.  This time five officers, looking for an excuse to the kick the door down, turned up intent on catching their prey.  After they left empty handed, I called my friendly copper who obligingly collected the keys from me to hand to the Night Custody Sergeant thereby avoiding any need for the Boys In Blue to flex their muscles on the new front door.

The following morning, I found a note from Paul to apologise his rent wasn’t there, he’d lost his phone, but he’d been called away and he’d pay me next week, but perhaps I’d like to email him?  At that moment, another two officers arrived (if I was a girl into uniformed men I would have been in heaven by this point!).  It turned out he was wanted on a recall to prison but they couldn’t tell me what for (good old data protection) despite clutching no less than four pages of criminal activity reports (he’s only 26!) and they strongly advised me to have someone else with me when I met him.

They left, promising to return, and I surveyed his scarce possessions and nine empty wine bottles.  I emailed him and said that as we both know this has got bugger all to do with keyholder duties, could he let me know what was going on?  He replied that he was up on a charge of rape, had gone into hiding and received an email from the police checking he was OK and could he present himself at a police station to ensure his safety as he had been found at a well known suicide spot.  Unfortunately for the police, he wasn’t falling for it and resolutely stayed under their radar.

Tom, to his dismay, had been absent during all of this as he’s been in his new job for three weeks and we’re very proud.  He asked why I’d chosen Paul because “I didn’t like the look of ‘im from the moment I met ‘im.  I ‘ave a sixth sense about these things and I’ve never been wrong, ‘ave I darlin’?”, I replied that he had been too sensible for too long and thought Paul could be a bit of sport for him.   We decided to look at the CCTV recordings to check if he really did wear a hoody to go to the loo.  When the builder saw him he said “I know him!  I saw him dragging my neighbour’s daughter down the street by her hair last year”.  You see, he may have been wearing a hoody, but he forgot to put on a face mask – not that bright after all.

His details have now been uploaded to the excellent Landlord Referencing Service website which lifestyle references tenants and reveals details no credit report ever could.  It’s simple to use, reasonably priced and the more landlords who upload tenant details, the less chance we have of unwittingly becoming the next victim.  (You can also upload your good tenants too). Please note that I have no financial interest in this company, but support its aim.


Filed under being a landlord, Management of an HMO

10 responses to “Yet Another Wake Up Call

  1. A prime example of why Lifestyle Referencing your applicant tenants is a must for all landlords and letting agents in the UK. Thank you for uploading this tenant onto our system, and keep up the excellent blog posts and advice.
    Now onto reading your book :0)

  2. Pingback: Tenant wanted for rape | Yet Another Wake Up Call |

  3. Dale Roberts

    As a South African who has bought “buy to let” as an investment in the UK, I would like to add that the credit referencing checks available in the UK are cursory at best compared to what I have available in SA. Our last “tenant” verified by Homelet as acceptable based on telephonic calls to his past “landlord” and “employer”, was a Nigerian with a false passport. It took me 6 months to evict him at enormous cost and Homelet refused to accept any responsibility for their erroneous report. Although I have listed him on Landlord Referencing, the chances of him appearing under the same name again are remote. In other words he is probably living elsewhere, rent free, till the very friendly tenant laws in the UK give the next Landlord the right to evict him. The credit referencing companies in SA can be cross checked, list all accounts, addresses, and employment records AND verify the identity document via a link to our Home Affairs Department.

    • Hello Dale. For every corrupt tenant there is also a corrupt landlord! It’s tricky to foresee if a tenant will be your jewel or thorn. I use letting agents for properties outside my local area and realise I’m putting my faith in them getting it right and I’m not always comfortable with that ! Where is your property based? My partner is a letting agent in the Sussex area and I’ve learnt from him how important it is to listen carefully to what the person viewing the property is saying (most bad tenants will be practised in saying what they think you want to hear) and your gut instinct.

      I’m sorry to hear of your bad experience but at least they’ve gone and don’t let it knock your confidence. I’ve only just learnt not to beat myself up when I get it wrong and try to be philosophical!

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  5. Hi. My wife and I have been renovating properties for some years, as a self employed builder we have always been in a good position to do the work ourselves. I’ve worked for numerous landlords over the years mostly renting to low income/benefit or students. Even most of the so called professional tenants have little or no respect for properties.

    It did cross our minds whether to do another house up for rent hence I came across your site trying to find out what the current market holds for rented accommodation and found your site very useful. Thank you

    • Hello Lee and thank you for commenting.

      I can only talk for my area in terms of ongoing rental demand: my market has altered from LHA tenants wanting value for money rooms to mainly economic and low paid workers who move into a flat only to find the utility bills crippling. However, as more landlords move into HMOs, tenants are demanding higher standards and we’ve found that “shiny and new” sells. There is still lots of demand for the really cheap, small rooms (£65pw of which I have two) but I’ve noticed in our local paper few rooms are priced under £90pw.

      Being hands on really helps too and we have alot of loyalty as tenants know we won’t scam them or steal their deposits. This helps as existing tenants recommend their friends who are terrified of greedy landlords and grotty rooms.

      We are currently developing a new project which will include showers in the rooms and a shared kitchen, but the tenants will have to pay for their own electricity in the rooms which should only be about £10 every fortnight.

      As the cost of living goes up, young people would rather spend their money on leisure than utilities and I can see many of them living in rooms until they get hitched or start a family. If you do decide to go down the HMO route, my advice is to be as hands on as possible, keep your tenants close and build up a good relationship with each of them. Good luck!

      • Thanks for your response! I would certainly be interested in reading about your next project. I think for us we would start down the single occupier route.

        To quote –

        ” This helps as existing tenants recommend their friends who are terrified of greedy landlords and grotty rooms.”

        I have worked in many places like this, Some of the haven’t been fit for animals let alone people. Very depressing, its no wonder they don’t have any respect for the property.

        “shiny and new” sells.”

        You hit the proverbial nail on the head!

  6. Pingback: The End of the Curse of Room 2 | A Practical Guide to Managing a House of Multiple Occupation

  7. Pingback: How The Market Is Changing | A Practical Guide to Managing a House of Multiple Occupation

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