So here we go again. First respondee to the room ad, following the Paul scenario, was another English guy who sounded normal on the phone and, despite the fact his name was distinctly Italian, he was born and bred in the area and had a crop of red hair. I thought he must be the worst identity thief in history, until he produced his photo I.D. confirming his name.
Call me paranoid or just smarting from the last experience, I launched into interrogation mode. From his answers I gathered that:
1) He has a fiancée who, in turn, has her own children. Red Flag #1: why isn’t going to live with her then and isn’t that a lot of responsibility when you’re only 24?
2) Mum will pay deposit and a month up front. Red Flag #2: Why does mum want you out of her house so badly that she’s willing to pay when I’m only asking for deposit and a week up front? She also sounded a bit desperate on the phone.
3) Dates on the Tenant Information Form. Red Flag #3: Lots of crossings out and too much time trying to work out dates and where he lived.
4) Work. There was a Supervisor’s name, no company and his job title was Ground Worker. Red Flag #4: I interpret this to be the equivalent of a modern day chain gang rebranded as Community Service.
5) He was 25 minutes late to the viewing and hadn’t bothered to call or text to let me know. Red Flag #5: Demonstrates no consideration or awareness
Landlords, learn from this!
Take this as a lesson to all HMO Landlords: when the red flags start flying on points (1) and (2), if you can’t get satisfactory answers, leave the interview. Often I’m so determined to find something “right” about someone or any nugget of information that will add credibility to the Tenant Information Form that I’ll ignore the frantic waving of red material as I have an unhealthy belief that the majority of people are honest and not pre-programmed to pull an entire wool sack over my eyes.
It was only once it had been confirmed that the deceitful little sausage had just come out of prison and was another well known character round town, that I gave up and withdrew the offer of the room on the basis that he had marked “No” to the question about a criminal record. Depending on his conviction and sentence, renting him a self contained unit wouldn’t be a problem, but putting him in a shared house with established tenants just wouldn’t be fair on them. In our parting phone call he finally admitted to being known to the police for a variety of offences but said he’d grown up and wanted to show everyone he could behave.
By 9am this morning he’d left a voicemail and sent a text begging me to reconsider the offer of the room:
“I have been in trouble with the police in the past when I was a teenager, but I’m not violent. This room was an answer to my prayers and again I implore you to reconsider. I’m an amiable guy and the other housemates would get on with me. I wouldn’t often be there as my work can sometimes take me quite far afield – Bognor Regis, for example.”
Final red flag (or perhaps I should call it the chequered flag): begging for a room once your short and previous history has been uncovered is simply undignified. Also, Bognor Regis is quite commutable from our town, but when you’ve been banged up in HMP Lewes for a while I suppose it could feel quite far afield.
Note: This is NOT a blog post intended to be biased against offenders, but with data protection preventing landlords from knowing about previous convictions, they are putting the other HMO tenants and the landlords and managers at risk. Offenders straight out of prison should seek temporary accommodation via Supported Housing or the YMCA to build up tenant references, credibility and allow enough time for the police to forget their name.