Keeping Track of Rents and a Hot Tip from HMO Landlady

How do YOU track your rent payments?  If you have a few properties, the due dates and tenant names are probably buried in your subconscious to be flagged up on or around the day the payment is due.  However, if you’ve grown your portfolio – be it single lets or multi lets – your poor brain can only cope with so much data as daily To Do lists vie for your attention.

With 34 rooms on the go I don’t need a rent alert – I have an inbuilt one when I enter a room and the rent isn’t there. I have two rent collecting days: Saturday and Monday and for eight years most tenants have become institutionalised enough to know where to leave their rent on which day.  I pick it up, leave a receipt, a copy of which stays in the rent book.  Hardly cutting edge, but the philosophy of “if it ain’t there, you ain’t paid” has served me pretty well and I can make a chase up call within a few seconds.

With the popularity of internet banking, this means more enlightened tenants can set up a standing order to pay weekly, four weekly or monthly and I just spend a few minutes checking them off – but into what?  There’s no point writing a receipt as the proof of payment is on the bank statement so I use an Excel spreadsheet to record payments ready for calculation at the end of the tax year.

Again, this works to a point.  The danger is when a tenant decides to combine the two and pay the rent in cash over the bank counter and, in this instance, my bank won’t allow a reference from the payee.  Anyone unable to set up a standing order or declines the cash collection option, normally has a sporadic approach to paying their rent i.e. they do it when they’ve got enough money and happen to be passing my bank on the way to the pub.  It’s easy to track one or two over the counter cash transactions but any more than that and, to be honest anyone could’ve paid, and I spend time tracking down the tenant and the date the rent was really due – it’s easy to sneak in a free week or two with this method.

The Future?

My partner recently won a contract to let and manage twelve student lets which converts to 64 tenants in addition to all his other single lets.  After a summer of madly getting all the buildings fit for purpose, it became clear that an Excel spreadsheet and monitoring online payments just wasn’t going to cut it – mainly due to the students referencing their payments as “RENT” – no source name and no property reference.  We’ve had evenings of tearing our hair out with frustration, especially as the students were in no hurry to complete any paperwork or make payments until 5 minutes before Fresher’s Week started.

I’d been playing around with the idea of building a database for a while as I’m sure I’d been on an Access course about 25 years ago which is probably when it was first invented.  After f**ting around at the design stage, we conceded to Rent Pro who seemed to have done most of the work that I was trying to achieve already.  It’s not particularly sophisticated in it’s overall look and design but it does the job at £78 a month which is cheaper than getting someone to build a database or dealing with my stress levels.

It’ll throw up overdue rents, rent review dates, AST end dates, landlord reports, property reports and so much more!  However, like anything in life, the information it chucks out is only as good as the data you’ve chucked carefully entered in.  I’m still playing around with its capabilities but each day enlightens me a little more and I can see that I will eventually be able to press a button and it will spew out a property’s latest rent report, making me look fabulously efficient.

Hot Tip

Lastly, I would like to thank The Property Podcast for featuring HMO Landlady on their first Property Investment tips and advice podcast which was broadcast on 2nd October http://thepropertyhub.net/tpp080-property-investment-tips-advice/.  I love podcasts and have been a listener of the Property Podcast since they launched eighteen months ago. I’ve picked up some interesting property nuggets whilst walking the dog or watching the kids at swimming.  These types of podcasts prove that routine tasks can be turned into important information gathering sessions and I like the way Rob Dix and Rob Bence bounce off each other, don’t try to sell unrealistic dreams and sift through all the geeky stuff on the internet to recommend tried and tested resources to their listeners.  Rob Dix is a self confessed geek, is a journalist and landlord by trade – all professions he can do whilst appreciating the beach from any global destination.  Rob Bence, by comparison, is voluntarily tied to the desk of his successful UK based RMP Property and together they are bringing sensible property investment to the ears of the masses such as you and me.

The Property Podcast lasts around 30 minutes and is released on a Thursday

Property Investment Tips  lasts around 15 minutes and is released on a Friday. http://thepropertyhub.net/?powerpress_embed=4814-podcast&powerpress_player=default

6 Comments

Filed under being a landlord

6 responses to “Keeping Track of Rents and a Hot Tip from HMO Landlady

  1. jim

    how does rent pro deal with students referencing their payments as ‘Rent’? Surely you still have to identify who the payment was from before you enter the details into the software?

    • Hi Jim. You’re absolutely right. I meant the words Rent appear on the bank statements not Rentpro. The inputting of data is down to me – it’s just trying to trace it all which takes the time.

  2. Have you thought about Direct Debit? You get to know immediately when a tenant has cancelled the DD (i.e before the rent is due) whereas a BACS you only find out after the event. There’s a fee (£2 per payment) but depending on your bank charges you might get charges for paying cash in at the branch anyway – HSBC charge 90p per deposit + 1% of the cash value (!).

    I’ve been using GoCardless – http://goo.gl/f9zBrK – successfully for my other business (good feedback from customers so far) and plan to start using it for rent before Christmas.

    The GoCardless guys are pretty smart, so it integrates with things like Sage for automatic reconciliation, my new favourite account software (Xero) or just export as a plain Excel file.

    Keep up the good work,
    Chris

    • Thanks Chris. I’ll check out the idea of DD as that sounds much more efficient. My son’s Scout group use GoCardless and I’m impressed with them so may look at that too. The only positive about personal rent collecting is I get to see inside everyone’s room and can spot problems but it’s probably time I caught up to the 21st Century.

      Thanks for reading and giving useful feedback.

  3. Pingback: Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #178

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