Today’s post focuses on our foreign and immigration-approved (I think) tenants – we may share a commonality as EU citizens but the last few weeks have shown that we’re definitely still worlds, continents and nations apart.
It started off with a faulty fire alarm. The two storey maisonette was classed as an HMO by the council as it was part of a three storey building even though we don’t own the flat below which has its own entrance. Under the HMO regulations we were required to install a Grade D alarm system providing every room with their own hard wired smoke alarm and linking it to the flat below.
There’s been quite a bit of room changeover recently and this HMO has one very grumpy English man, a Czech lady, two Portuguese men and a Spaniard.
The smoke alarms started to go off at seemingly random times but mainly throughout the night so we asked everyone to check their own alarm to see which was flashing red to show which one was faulty. Everyone denied seeing any red lights – I’ll clarify – anyone who read and understood my texts denied either hearing the alarm or bothered to report it sounding. It was only the frequent calls from the Englishman and the lady in the flat below which gave us an idea of what was going on.
After seeking advice from the manufacturer and various alarm system engineers we went into the rooms to remove one alarm at a time to find the fault. What we found:
- Enough tobacco in one room to start a distribution centre
- Alarms covered with sellotape
- Smashed Hush buttons
- A collection of candles which would make a fireman hyperventilate
- Men with hands down their pants for protection, repeating “it not me, it not me” whilst looking me straight in the eye.
I haven’t carried out a good tenant talking-to for a while so I gathered them in the kitchen and, using my newly honed mediation skills, asked if at any point they have been in any doubt that SMOKING IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN IN THE HOUSE?! They all nodded that they knew this at the beginning of the tenancy. The Portuguese piped up with the excuse: if he was smoking out of the window, surely that can’t be classed as smoking in the house?
At that moment I felt like a smoke alarm flashing a red light and sounded out at the same decibel “It’s not the smoking that’s the problem, it’s the fire risk and the smell. If the house catches fire you ALL lose your accommodation and it won’t be my problem. Also, after you leave, how can I sell a room stinking of smoke? You’ll all end up losing your deposits. I know you smoke, but trying to get away with it when the house is rigged up with sensitive fire alarms defies stupidity. (This was bit much for Google Translate but I think they got it)
You can stay and not smoke in your rooms or you can leave and find accommodation where there aren’t any alarms and you can smoke at will. What do you want to do?”
They all mumbled something (probably akin to B***CH in their own language) but made it look like they understood and agreed to abide by the rules.
In an HMO of tenants who don’t speak English, not only will they be reluctant to communicate with the landlord but they often won’t talk to each other either. This means the house doesn’t gel, problems go unreported and misunderstandings escalate. The Czech tenant makes herself understood to me and the rest of the housemates by shouting “OK!” and “NO!” whilst gesticulating wildly (bit like Father Ted’s drunken old priest, Father Jack) and the only person she smiles and coos at is my partner.
And It’s Goodbye To The Drug Den
On a positive note, the local drug den has finally been closed down in a dramatic raid after the police could no longer turn a blind eye to their activities. It forms part of a terrace of houses in which we have an HMO, so that’s now one in the eye to the other letting agents who accused us of anti-social behaviour over the last few months. The best bit was they couldn’t work out which house the trouble was coming from because they never bothered visiting the properties to find out for themselves but had somehow managed to get hold of our number so assumed it was our tenants. As if.