Category Archives: Future of HMOs

Tenants Feel Traded

Four people have come to us this week angry and desperate – all facing eviction due to their landlords’ circumstances changing.

I sat with one in a café where he worked.  He’d been given a few hours to move and the agent was rehoming his belongings into another house as we spoke; another who had been given 24 hours notice but didn’t know why; a young lady who I met on a course and whose landlord had neglected the flat for so many years that he decided to sell rather than repair; and another lady with 3 children whose landlord was returning from abroad.

All the circumstances leading to this point in their lives differed but brought about the same feeling – anger, dismay and trying to cope with life and work whilst dealing with an unknown future.  They also all said they felt as though they had been “traded” like commodities, disposed of as they no longer suited their landlord.

I’m pragmatic, believe change is good and you can’t have it your own way all of the time.  Sometimes life bites you on the bum and you have adjust to whatever is thrown at you, but that’s easy to say when you have a safety net, good credit history, flexible work and no requirement for a support network.  All of the above cases are economic migrants or in receipt of housing benefit – re-establishing their equilibrium will take a while.  They’re not stupid, illegal, immoral or prone to criminality – just a whim to someone else’s change of mind.

But, hey, I’m not innocent in all of this – one of my single mums’ has been told that, under the benefit cap, her rent allowance will reduce from £115 pw to £25pw in two months’ and saw no reason that I shouldn’t accept this drop.  The agents (if you need a fantastic, reasonably priced agent in Sunderland or Newcastle, email me) have carried out an income/expenditure sheet with her, and her Child Tax Credit and Income Support along with the new Housing Benefit are plenty enough for her to stay in the property but she’s adamant that it’s not her issue.

Wednesday found me collecting a tenant with toothache outside of a doctor’s who had refused to see him.  He’d been to the doctor as he has a heart complaint and his Romanian doctor had advised seeing the doctor before the dentist so the drugs required for dental surgery didn’t kill him.  We spent an hour finding a doctor willing to take on new patients and explaining the difference between private and NHS dentists.  He’s a lawyer in Romania and a carer in the UK and found our healthcare system incomprehensible.

So it’s a complicated new world we’re heading into (or always been in?) in terms of solving the housing crisis.  I thought I had some answers but I don’t except, landlords, keep your noses clean, don’t be greedy, help your good tenants, cast off ANYONE taking advantage of your good nature and maintain your integrity.  If you can do all this you are unlikely to become outrageously rich through renting property.  If these values are too much, you can always follow the Trump methodology of business.

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HMO Landlady Breaks Her Silence!

So far I’ve kept quiet about all the new tax and HMO minimum requirement legislations our “Dear Leaders” are proposing to throw at landlords over the next few years – I suppose if I didn’t give it any attention, they’d see sense, it would all go away and I wouldn’t look like an idiot for commenting.

It clearly isn’t going away so I’m now going to voice my opinions in a vague attempt to stick up for myself and other landlords who have contacted me for advice over the last few months.

Social Tenants

What next for housing benefit tenants, sorry, local housing allowance, no that’s not it, universal credit recipients?

I genuinely don’t mind how a tenant is funded providing Continue reading

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So You Want To Run An HMO?

This post has been borne out of the numerous emails I receive from people wanting to leave the day job and invest in property – focussing on HMOs due to their higher yield.  I answer every email honestly and, I hope, encouragingly but my enquirers disappear back into the virtual world and I never hear whether or not they’ve pursued their dreams.

If you’re considering writing to me for advice on ditching the 9-5 and earning enough money through HMOs to keep your family, go travelling and leave a decent nest egg for the kids, below is a typical response: Continue reading

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Implementing the Immigration Bill by HMO Landlords/ladies

I’ve been reading with great interest details of the Immigration Act which was announced on 14th May 2014 as, once implemented, this will affect all landlords but primarily HMO Landlords.  One of the highlights of the Act is:

“Requiring private landlords to check immigration status of tenants, preventing those with no right to live in the UK from accessing private housing”

Immigration minister, Mark Harper, diplomatically goes on to say “There is no doubt that immigrants have helped make Britain a richer and stronger society, but we must take firm action to address illegal immigration. Continue reading

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No Longer a Novice HMO Landlady

I’ve been reviewing the blog recently and decided that, after seven years, I am no longer a Novice Landlady.  Having said that, I’m not an expert in HMO legislation either – I’ll leave the ever changing rules to solicitors such as David Smith of Anthony Gold solicitors and local authorities who are paid far more than I to translate all the finer points.  Thank you to everyone on Twitter who consider me to be more well versed in this area and I’m just grateful we have a great HMO council department who trust me to do the right thing within the boundaries of the aforesaid legislation.

So, do I carry on with the blog as a journal, bringing you my tenant stories interspersed hopefully with a few nuggets of useful tips and information or do I make it more of an educational “How to run an HMO”?  Readers are very kind with their comments and often ask questions such as where they should invest, what yields I achieve and the finer details of how to make their venture into HMOs a profitable one.  I’m only one of many thousands of landlords (many of whom are making far more profit than me) and enjoy bringing the realities of the coalface to any new investor who thinks it’s all about yield.  Having said that, for a hefty fee, I’ll happily come out and show you how to set one up and  interview tenants!!

If you’re looking to chew the fat and debate the pros and cons of property investment, I heartily recommend Property Tribes, The Property Hub and Property 118 where you can connect with property people nationwide.  They are all online to give you their opinion and benefit of their experience but it’s no substitute for getting down and dirty and throwing yourself into the practicalities of BTL.  These sites weren’t around when I started and desktop research had little to offer.  As with Channel 4’s Undercover Boss, there’s no better way to understand your business’ strengths and weaknesses than experiencing all aspects of the work for yourself.  Once you know what makes your property profitable, then you can hand it over to a letting agent if you like.

With the acquisition of a new computer, I’ve decided to better systemise my business by creating tenant records and scanning in all their documentation then storing it somewhere between earth and Heaven.  At present, I often begin conversations with tenants “Remind me, when we last spoke….” or scrolling through texts to find out exactly the terminology one tenant used to slag off another.  In the same way that Miranda Hart promised herself to become a “new me” by power walking wherever she goes, drink fresh juice and eat homemade muffins, I aim to stop carrying around my tenant’s emotional baggage and rifling through Tenant Information Forms for email addresses that the cat’s been sleeping on.

However, it won’t be complete detachment.  Saturday morning rent collections (so few want them now) allow me to

  • Be shouted at by a Morroccan Rastafarian who couldn’t wash his dreadlocks properly because the shower was underperforming and he thought I was limiting the water output to save money,
  • Witness Tom’s attempt to drink himself to death after borrowing money for “rent” from a family member
  • Be given 70% proof orange liquid by some the Portuguese sisters/lesbians at 10am and
  • Try to assist a pedantic long term tenant who says he’s living with damp, when all I can find is a small brown stain on the ceiling 20 feet away and he won’t give me permission to send in a decorator.  He wants fifty quid “for materials” to do the work himself.

If you’re new to investing and have already bought and read my book, I can now recommend Property Geeks new book Beyond The Bricks  which is available to preorder.  It’s hot on the heels of  his immensely successful first book “Property Investment For Beginners”.  With all the above knowledge available at your fingertips, now is the time for you to jump feet first into Buy To Let.  (Just don’t ask me to point you in the direction of the next hot investment location!)

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HMO Landlord Course Now Launched!

Following the popularity of “Renting HMOs Sussed”, I am now delighted to announce the launch of three course dates for “How To Be A Successful HMO Landlord”.

– Choice of  half day seminars on Saturdays 15th June, 13th July and 14th September 2013

– Convenient Brighton location

– Thinking of investing in or already an HMO Landlord?  This course is definitely for you!

This course will give you everything you need to run a happy, successful HMO with minimum tenant turnover and maximum rental yield.  I will talk you through the HMO market, how to make the most of your HMO and, most importantly, how to run it successfully for you and your tenants.   Local HMO landlords will be on hand to answer any questions and give advice.  Click here for more information and to book – I look forward to meeting you!

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HMO Landlady vs The Homeless Shelter

This week threw up an interesting case: I met a young girl called Kirstie at our local homeless charity. She had been accepted on a 12 week “back to work” programme helping out in the shop and organising the meals for the Drop In Centre. The support workers had asked me to meet her with a view to letting her a room but decided to be slightly economical with the truth – “lovely girl”, “good worker”, “just needs a chance” whilst looking shiftily over my shoulder.

Regular readers will know that in the past I’ve taken just about anyone on providing they can string a sentence together and aren’t displaying any obvious signs of substance abuse. However, after my narrow scrape last time, I’ve decided to be a bit more cautious as I’m letting the room on behalf of another landlord. On meeting her she came across as a scrap of girl, vulnerable, bewildered and happy to let everyone else talk for her. When I asked about references they all nodded and said “No problem. Her Social Worker, Foster Carers and Probation Officers can all give her a reference”. I bet they bl**dy well could – anything to get her off their case list as she’d just turned 19 and I guess was about to be unceremoniously evicted from the care system that has been supporting her.

During the interview it was difficult to get a measure of HER. I wanted to see her personality, see if she really did want to turn her back on her apparently violent past and was genuinely fed up of the chaotic lives of the friends she’d surrounded herself with, but I just couldn’t find a way in especially as it felt like I had the entire homeless population of the South Coast breathing down my neck, quick to block my intrusive questioning.

For the next 24 hours I pondered, wrestled with my conscience to rescue and give this little girl a clean bed in a safe environment versus using my experienced loaf and knowing deep in my gut that, by the end of the weekend, she’d have invited her mates around to see how well she’d done, they’d all decide it was warmer than their gaffs and I’d have a riot on my hands. Presumptuous on my part, yes, but I’ve been here before – several times.

Time for facts: I banded her name around my existing tenants who all knew her as a feisty little thing when drunk and the family was infamous locally; Mum was an addict, step dad and dad both died from drug addiction followed shortly after by her brother, another brother was in prison and the other teenage brother in B&B accommodation until the state had no legal duty to look after him. OK, so they knew her worst side – there HAD to be a good one. I contacted the local PC who Kirstie said she had a good relationship with (never a good sign if you’re that young and know your local Bobby well). “Put it this way” he said “Last time we had to arrest her it took four officers just to get her into the van. Funnily enough I’m just going through her ASBO and typing up a possession report – I’m really not sure you’re brave enough for this one”.

The following day I went back to the shelter and met with her and the support worker who possesses the Christian belief that everyone has a good side and they just need a chance (which I agree with, by the way). With coffee in hand they finally revealed to me what I’d already found out and I explained that I couldn’t risk putting her in a shared house with four other working tenants. Immediately, their defensive hackles rose and they prepared for attack. “Look” I said “I’ve housed some people you may just know:

Adam – kids taken taken into care and subsequently adopted after he failed to maintain contact, ran off to marry a Thai girl who loved him very much over the internet. Last heard of in the Bangkok Hilton suffering gangrene having trafficked drugs

Pascal – reportedly ex-French Foreign Legion, alcoholic with a knife wielding girlfriend in constant tow. Asked me to marry him during the eviction process.

Jeremy – took a drugs overdose, was stripped and robbed of his belongings and I found him 2 hours away from death. The b***ard never did thank me

Jenny – two kids taken away from her, several suicide attempts, part time prostitute and caused the police to kick every door in the house off its hinges.

Alex – serial shoplifter and drug user and last seen under the “Have You Seen This Person?” column in our local paper

Finally Tom – binge alcoholic and Andrew – trying to make it after a life in foster care. Both still with me, but not without their issues.”

“Oh, you housed THEM?! I guess you do know what you’re talking about then” and they graciously, but reluctantly backed down.

“Yes, just because you give these people good references based on their ability to turn up to the shelter remember you haven’t seen them at 1am on a Saturday night.” We calmed down and I explained that the trouble with finding their customers accommodation is not the lack of deposit or first month’s rent (that can be achieved through various council/charity run schemes) but the lack of CREDIBILITY. They turn up, have a well practised story to hand, cause chaos with other tenants and move on, unable to deal with the responsibility of holding down a job, paying rent on time and being considerate to fellow housemates. Because, for some, it’s boring, conventional and tedious and it’s much more fun having a piss up on the beach and appearing at whichever charity is dishing out the hot meal that day.

Now, I was still open to persuasion so explained to Kirstie that I, and any landlord she comes across, will want references and credibility. “As landlords we have a responsibility to the other tenants in the house. We need to know that you’re reliable and trustworthy which can be demonstrated through your turning up to work (paid or voluntary) every day. We also want to know that you’re a good tenant who is able to respect other people and the need to be quiet at certain times of the day as well as paying your rent regularly. The problem is, you don’t have any of these which is why landlords who are advertising rooms are turning you away. I can show you how to build up those references and how to go about securing a room – are you interested?”

While she was thinking about it, I showed her the local YMCA information. It’s sheltered accommodation with a 24 hour watch, £8 a week top up from benefits and you can only get a bed by being referred through your Social Worker. If she could do some time there, get a reference from the Manager then she’s half way to proving she would be a good tenant; the other half would be to turn up and complete her 12 week back to work programme and get a reference from them too. I’ve offered the possibility of a room which may be coming up later in the year if she can gather her references together. Will she pick up the gauntlet and prove everyone wrong or will it just be too much like hard work? She didn’t looked convinced.

Afterwards I spent a bit of time with the support workers and their customers talking about the legal implications of giving someone unreliable a tenancy. We’re not all heartless carpet baggers, just fed up of having to deal with anti-social behaviour at 2 o’clock on a weekend morning. This interaction has awoken my ideal of Supported Living which you can read about here. Idealistic? Probably, but my waking hours are spent working out a viable, self sufficient plan to create something which is a combination of a Tracy Beaker style home (drama about a children’s home aka The Dumping Ground) and The Good Life – supporting vulnerable/displaced adults to become independent within a safe community. Anyone got a spare £250K and feeling philanthropic?

Next Post: Besieged by tenants’ disgruntled girlfriends – why don’t they learn from “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”?!

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