Category Archives: Rent

Thank You HMCTS!!

Now, I’m not all that great with technology – my website needs updating, my social media presence is non existent and Facebook flabbergasts me.  However, I have just discovered a fantastic link to complete eviction forms which I believe must have been developed just for me.

Ten years’ ago I unknowingly evicted a tenant illegally which brought forth the wrath of the council, their solicitors, Citizens Advice and some bloke working for a homeless charity who threatened in no uncertain terms to “sort me out”.  It wasn’t a great experience especially as the tenant was found half dead and naked, I’d had to give him the kiss of life which turned out to be more of a peck of derision, AND visited him in hospital with grapes.

From then on, Continue reading

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Filed under being a landlord, Management of an HMO, Rent

Why I Can’t Afford LHA Claimants Any More

Five years ago, the prime room rental market was students and people in receipt of Housing Benefit.  Put an ad in the paper and 9 out of 10 respondents were those on housing benefit – probably a key reason that so many fellow landlords stuck their nose up at me saying I was “mad” and “do you want to make life more difficult for yourself?”.

Housing Benefit vs LHA

I liked Housing Benefit claimants: they tend to stay longer, were satisfied with their environment and, as they were home much of the day, kept an eye on the comings and goings of the house.  Once you understood how the system worked, the claim process was relatively straightforward: upon production of landlord evidence of a room offer the tenant would approach our local Housing and Legal Aid Centre and a cheque for four weeks advance rent was made payable to the landlord.  The tenant would then fill in their part of the claim form and the landlord would fill in the other parts including their bank details for the benefit to be paid into.  We’d sit back, wait and within 4-6 weeks the rent was paid direct into the landlord’s account regularly.  If there were any queries, I’d call the Housing Benefit team (I knew each agent by their first name), find out at what stage the claim was at or if they were waiting for any more information so I could chase the tenant.

Under the LHA system, the process is no longer so transparent.  The tenant can make the claim, the landlord fills in what’s included in the rent and, even though the tenant signs permission for the landlord to discuss the claim, that is the last I’ll see or hear until the tenant hands over the money.  I’ve tried to chase a claim only to discover that the call centre had moved to Slough (nowhere near us) and, despite being allowed to discuss it, the staff couldn’t give me any information “under Data Protection” and “You’ll have to ask the tenant yourself”.  I want to scream down the phone “I bl***y well would if I thought I’d be getting a straight answer and was prepared to camp outside their room all night until they got home!”.

Why LHA Doesn’t Help Tenants

My tenants don’t mean to not hand over the LHA payment, but when their bank account is in the red, they have no mobile credit, possibly haven’t eaten for a while, eeking out their tobacco pouch so their roll up resembles more Rizla and saffron strands than a good smoke, I empathise with their temptation to hand over £150 rather than the £200 paid by the Council.  In their heads (especially if they’ve recently been working), 50 quid is easy to reimburse within the next couple of weeks.  Then the reality sets in that there’s no financial room to manoeuvre: skimming £20/£30/£40 off the LHA payment to cover the shortfall of Job Seekers Allowance means they end up £300-£400 in arrears before you know it and start to get stressed.   At that point, they do what most of us do when we get stressed – drink more, smoke more, blow whatever cash is available because, let’s face it, it can’t get much worse.  Their girlfriend/boyfriend, friends and parents are probably financially exhausted, they’re drowning in debt, despondent from hitting a job wall – so what if they fall out with their landlady on top?  Life is so chaotic we’ll string her along with a few well honed excuses that used to work on our mothers and teachers.

Greg is £500 in arrears and I don’t want to see him homeless but this is what’s happened to him.  When the process starts I meet with the tenant and explain that this is what will happen and, in order to avoid it, we have to work together.  I’ll happily reduce the rent to reflect the LHA payment provided that the LHA is handed over as regular as clockwork.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I promise.  It won’t happen to me and I’ll be working again soon.”  I’ve experienced this time and time again.  The most common excuse is “Housing have messed up my claim AGAIN” – and I can’t check out its validity.

Back to Basics – The Real Reason for Housing Benefit

The market’s changed.  For every ad I place the majority of calls will be from working professionals who have chosen an all-inclusive rate so they have enough salary left over to have a life.  I no longer need to fill the rooms with the slightly odd, vaguely desperate or those that fall out of society’s moral code of conduct.

Back in the late 1940s the Social Security System was so named because:

SOCIAL                 def pertaining to human society

SECURITY             def freedom from danger, risk, etc; safety

There are still at least 1 out of 10 callers wanting a room who won’t pass the referencing process, can’t get the deposit together or will struggle to conform to a landlord’s ideal tenant.

My business head tells me to go with this new professional market demand and fill the houses with law abiding, rent paying via standing order tenants who read and abide by the AST and wash their sheets weekly.  My life will be calmer yet poorer through the lack of tenants educating me on the true meaning of survival and refusal to conform to society’s expectations.

Please, bring back direct payments to landlords so our business heads no longer discriminate against the unemployed.

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Filed under being a landlord, Future of HMOs, Rent

CCTV Installed, But There’s Trouble

The week started well with the French accountant duly moved in.  It was a bit complicated trying to explain the digital switchover to him and the availability of a link up to the satellite dish but he listened politely until he said “Is not a problem, I ‘ave ze laptop”.    The next issue came when we were going through the AST and I apologised for not being able to insert the accents on his surname of Désiré (Deziray) so it had come out Desire which, after last week’s post, I felt this was becoming a recurring theme!  “Zat is not my name, it is my middle name” he said “My last name is Durand”.  It pays not to rush through a Tenant Information Form.

CCTV has been installed in the other house and there’s been a few feathers ruffled.  The main issue seems to be that the boys thought I’d have the system linked to my home computer and would spend a girls’ night in watching them walking up and down the hallways in their pants.  They’ve been assured that there are easier and more pleasurable ways to search the internet for men in pants and the footage is only stored on the recorder locked in the cellar.  However, capturing one of them trying to get in the house after a night out then falling asleep on the stairs may just be worth a post on YouTube……

Huddled in the cellar,  the engineer was showing me how to operate the monitor and recorder.  Tom had obviously forgotten the role of the cameras and heard us talking  – the cameras duly picked him up sitting down with his ear to the stair tread trying to listen to our conversation.  A very, very funny moment.

Call came in today from one of the rooms saying that the recorder has been beeping all night so I waited till darkness fell and went to investigate.  Turns out that, when it’s pitch black, the camera’s infra-red lights kick in and make a continuous and annoyingly loud beep.   We’ve rigged up a light to stay on all night and I’ll get in touch with the engineer, even though he said he’d “Never, ever heard of such a thing”.  Well, in that case, he can sit in the dark cellar after hours with strange men theorising the problem and experience the issue for himself.

George, my bedsit tenant is £400 in arrears after Housing Benefit allegedly “messed up the claim” or you can translate it as “I lost my job, didn’t have any money for six weeks and, when it came in, I took the decision that paying you is last on my To Do list”.  I’ve given him a credit limit and told him that as soon as the arrears go over it, I’ll regretfully issue a Section 21 notice.  This gives him time to sort out any issues with Housing Benefit or elect to throw some cash my way to keep him under the threshold.  After all, I’ve got a misbehaving CCTV system to pay for.

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Filed under Management of an HMO, Rent