Category Archives: Tenant Stories

No One Likes A Bed Bug

But they liked John – a lot.  John has been a faithful, landlord-fearing, regular paying tenant for 10 years.  He keeps himself to himself and, whilst I’ve been aware of his limitations we keep pretty much out of each other’s way.  He fills his time collecting supermarket trolleys, putting out the bins and filling the garden with scary looking 3ft high gnomes.  His other activities raise a few eyebrows but nothing which breaks the law.

We’ve been trying to control an outbreak of bed bugs for a few months in a room next to his, but every treatment seemed to stop working after a couple of months.  After a bit of surreptitious detective work, we found the bugs’ headquarters in John’s room – in his mattress, his chair, his sofa and even his childhood teddy bear.  They had stopped being discreet by only coming out at night and had gone into full on party mode as soon as they sensed a human food source nearby.

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I’m not going to go into the science behind bedbugs or how to treat them as I’ve recently covered this in an article for HMO Magazine. Click on the link and the next issue is out soon.

John was devastated and genuinely had no idea he was their host.  Continue reading

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Implementing the Immigration Bill

The phone rings late one night last week.  It’s Erica, sobbing hysterically down the phone in broken English that her new husband, Harry, had been taken into custody and she didn’t know what to do.

Harry and Erica married last month; she’s Polish in her late thirties and he’s Indian in his mid twenties.  She swears to me it’s mad, impulsive, passionate love and he just smiles and nods in agreement.  They’re hard working, quiet, pleasant and an asset to the house and, quite frankly, anyone who can put up with binge drinking Tom and not moan to me about it, becomes a star tenant.

The story goes that Harry and two friends had been walking down the street that night. On spotting a police car, they pulled their hoodies over their heads and dashed into Ladbrokes.  The police watched as the men wandered Continue reading

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Benefit Tenants – The Reality of When It Goes Wrong

You may remember a few months ago I told you the story of Joe who turned up on the doorstep, courtesy of a friend, with pennies in his pocket and a cat called Bill.

His accommodation story has now ended; after being awarded the local housing allowance of £67 a week and various promises of being able to afford the £33 a week top up, Joe received his benefit and managed to spend the lot. Various texts, telephone conversations and letters ensued to which he replied with protestations that he’d been to the bank and paid up. He progressed to a raft of excuses relating to poorly relatives and his own mental health issues, ending up at the “nobody likes me any more, I have nothing to live for” attitude. Eventually, he admitted he’d spent the lot.

But what on? He didn’t look like he was into drugs, drink or gambling but consistently never had any money. Eventually, even the cat got fed up of him and left the house last week and hasn’t been seen since. His housing worker and friend finally persuaded him to give up the room, leave the telly I’d bought and the keys and take up a work offer abroad before I submitted court papers under a Section 8 notice.

On clearing out the room I found out what he’d been spending his money on – SHOES! Pairs and pairs of shoes but none worth having despite us having the same foot size.

Eviction Looming

The current case we’re working on is that of 3 friends all claiming LHA who moved into a 3 bed house. Within a month they’d fallen out with each other (having been friends for over 20 years) and one of them left after the fixed period; they couldn’t find a replacement because they weren’t talking to each other and can’t leave because no other landlord wants the remaining two. They now have their Possession Order dated for next week and their benefit payments have been stopped.

I recently watched an interesting interview with Vanessa from Property Tribes and Kent landlord, Fergus Wilson. He said in one of the videos (you may need to watch both) that he doesn’t believe it’s up to the PRS to house the poor and needy (or in my case, mentally needy). At first I was shocked but after listening to his reasoning and based on my own experience, I’m actually starting to agree that the majority of the PRS landlords are simply not geared up to handle the social issues which accompany those tenants who don’t have a support network and are not mentally or mobility impaired enough to qualify for Supported Housing.

Those landlords like me who are happy to take a chance on someone claiming Housing Benefit are left out in the cold. When Joe’s rent was eight weeks’ in arrears I followed procedure and applied to the council for his benefit to be paid directly to me. At the same time, I emailed the council to find out whether they would act to home the 2 sitting tenants upon receipt of the Possession Order, the expiry date on the Order or when the bailiffs turn up to evict them. To date I have received absolutely no response. (But I’d rather say “Sweet F.A.”.

So, what will bring the plight of those not bright or able enough to hold down a tenancy in the PRS to the attention of the Government? The councils are fully aware of the scarcity of housing and prioritise need based on a banding system but even those people at the top of the waiting list spend their days with their fingers cross to find a secure base to call home. We’re based in Eastbourne and are lucky to have numerous promenade shelters and benches overlooking the sea . Perhaps when these are full and the octogenarian tourists from Up North, on their morning constitution, trip over the unfortunates and their empty cans of Special Brew, someone may raise a cautious hand in protest.

Keeping The Faith

Will I take a chance on a housing benefit tenant again? Of course I will. I like diversity in the HMOs and someone needs to be at home to put out the bins, let the plumber in and give a damn about the house. In fact, I’ve just offered a tenancy to a lovely 28 year old girl with a muscular disease who is currently sofa surfing which exacerbates her condition. She used to work in an office, shared a flat with a friend and was then struck down with this ongoing illness. Suddenly no one wanted to offer her a tenancy after her friend sold the flat. She’s ill enough to qualify for a PIP (Personal Independent Payment) and ESA (Employment Support Allowance) but not ill enough for Supported Housing. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place – that goes for both of us.

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Free To A Good Home: One (Almost) House Trained Tenant

Arrgh!  I first began this blog as a form of therapy to offload some of the ridiculousness of human nature which us landlords come across on a daily basis.  Thankfully over the last couple of years I’ve either become a better judge of character or God threw me some decent, independent, rent paying tenants just to give me a break.

Throughout the blog posts, Tom has appeared on a regular basis as either the cause of some unacceptable behaviour or as an inspiration with his unique quotes.  On average, every 6 months he goes off the rails, gets blind drunk and throws his not inconsiderable weight around the house and is completely oblivious the next day of anything which occurred 12 hours earlier.  I have a rant at him, produce the evidence and issue yet another Section 21.

He’s been a tenant for 8 years and I’m now convinced he suffers from a learning difficulty and is unable to interpret people, emotions or social situations.  He’s nearly 50 and conditions such as dyspraxia, autism, ADHD, etc. weren’t acknowledged or diagnosed when he was young to the extent they are today.  I’m also convinced that is why he drinks – it’s never at home, always in a pub and he’s always the first to buy someone else a drink.  He has a “friend” who can mend a phone, operate a lawnmower, do a deal on a laptop  or window cleaning but these “friends” never visit, never have a name and are nowhere to be seen on Christmas Day.  When he has only loose change in his pocket, he always makes sure there’s food in the fridge and his sheets and clothes are pressed, the house is spotless and he loves to help out other housemates. This can go on for weeks on end and he has never, ever once been late with his rent top up.

Then, he obtains some cash from somewhere, goes to the pub, comes home with or without a police escort and without provocation becomes so angry the other housemates are scared as he bashes his way round the hall and upstairs to bed.  They’re lucky if he doesn’t p**s himself along the way.  They all say the same thing – what a wonderful, kind man sober, but an incontrollable nightmare when drunk.

According to Tom, he’s been in the Army, worked in the scaffolding and security businesses and run warehouses but I’ve glimpsed his CV and he’s been unable to hold down a job for more than a few months since school.  As someone once said “Run a warehouse?  He can hardly run a bath”.

At the beginning of the year I was at the end of my tether as to what to do with him after he set off the fire alarm thinking it was the light switch.  I contacted social services for advice as I deem him on the verge of vulnerable if evicted as he was previously homeless before he came to me.  I didn’t get a response.  I know the council are under far too much pressure finding housing for those people for whom they have a legal responsibility and as a single man with no dependants, he won’t be entitled to any sheltered housing.

I have no idea what will happen to him or how this particular situation will end but I do know that I’m sorely tempted to wrap Tom up in a blanket one night, place him in a moses basket with a bottle of whisky and a note with his name and NI number and leave him on the doorstep of the council’s housing department to be discovered the next morning.

Have you booked your place on Easy Law Training’s courses yet?  We’re running an Essential Legal Points for Landlords workshop on Thursday 24th September 2015 in Winchester, Hampshire and HMO Law and Practice workshop on Thursday 8th October 2015 in Maidstone, Kent.  Click the links to book.

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Call Me a Cynic, But…….

A fehomeless-man2w weeks ago I visited a wealthy market town and came across a man sitting forlornly in a passageway wearing dirty clothes.  On the floor in front of him was a sign on which he’d scratched the words “Homeless” and an old tobacco tin with a few coppers in it.

I watched with interest as the police chatted to him, well-to-do ladies threw in a pound or two whilst smiling sympathetically having relinquished their guilt and a bohemian dressed girl from the organic, wholefood restaurant across the road gave him some food and a reassuring hug.

All this took place within about half an hour and he hadn’t hurled abuse at anyone so I decided it was my turn to pitch in: he said that a rehoming charity were trying to help him and he’d come to be near his son and wanted to visit him.  I asked if he wanted me to help him find accommodation Continue reading

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How The Market Is Changing

From where I’m sitting, this is purely subjective of course. Having run HMOs for 7 years and I’d only planned to do it for 5 years, reckon I’m now a couple of years past retirement. The plan had been to squeeze as much yield out of them as possible, sell at a profit and do something else. As a plan it had strategy, goals and optimism but, in reality, it was nothing better than a property wealth creation course pie-in-the-sky unsubstantiated greedy wish.

Instead, thanks to the recession and divorce, I have a niche business, constant room demand, an appreciation of real life on minimum or no wage and a set of tenants whom I couldn’t bequeath to another landlord with a clear conscience (on both sides).

What do you mean The Market is changing?

From 2007-2011 every tenant which arrived on the doorstep came armed with a good sob story, housing benefit papers to sign, could be found on any benefit database under several addresses and, if I was really unlucky, on a few police databases as well. Apart from Paul and Andrew in recent times, everyone else has pretty much kept their nose clean (to my knowledge). I suspect a couple are up to some dodgy deals and workings but we need a few in society just to keep the police on their toes and prove we still have freedom of movement (Yes, I do believe Big Brother will be a reality in my lifetime).

Perhaps I’m getting better at filtering advertisement responses? Immediate “no”s are: Continue reading

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New Year, New Leaks, New Horizons

Happy New Year to all my Readers!  I hope this year brings you all that you strive for and thank you for coming back to read more about the realities of running HMOs.

Importance of Ongoing Maintenance

A dull subject but, despite the torrential rain and storms over the Christmas period, we only suffered one tiny leak across all the properties.  This is proof in itself of the need to consistently address any maintenance issues as soon as they occur and don’t patch the holes or be a skinflint otherwise your phone will be ringing off the hook with distraught tenants whilst you’re trying to toast yourself by the fire.

Talking of leaks, the biggest one I had was inside a house.  Lilian from Portugal called saying “Metal thing on wall, it dripping water.  You come”.   I was there within a couple of minutes (beauty of having the properties in one area) to find a not insubstantial lady trying to hold up her room radiator  whilst water gushed, yes, gushed NOT dripped from the pipes flooding the carpet.  I swore, phoned the builder who is working on the new project, took over holding the radiator as she was about let go and shouted descriptions for towels, buckets and shallow pots to capture the water.  She came back with most of the saucepans and a tooth mug.  Have you seen how much water can come out of a radiator and how long it takes?   All the knobs to turn off the supply were stuck, the pathetic tiny pipes feeding it were bending under the pressure, she and I were trying to prevent the radiator falling any further whilst the builder and his mate cracked a few jokes, ferried the escaping water to the bathroom and tried to work out how to stop it racing through the system and onto our feet

Finally it all stopped, the boiler and water supply to the property had to be turned off which meant no flushing toilets, no showers and no heating.  In the calm I asked Lilian how it happened “I don know.  Not my fault” until I pointed out all the washing which was stuffed behind the radiator.  She then had the cheek to complain that it was cold and she couldn’t go to the loo.  “The shopping centre behind the house has plenty of toilets, use those till it closes and we’ll have come up with a solution by then” and I left her to ponder the folly of her actions.  To be fair the fixings weren’t great, but they’d stood up to two previous tenants before her and I suspect she’d either leant on it or it had yielded under the weight of her enormous underwear.

A Landlord Must Have

I was amazed that the above leak hadn’t caused more damage in the room below until Roman, another Pole reliant on Google Translate, left on Christmas Eve.  I pulled back his curtains to find huge amounts of mould growing up the bay window.  He’d been drying clothes in his room, hadn’t opened any windows and there must have been water somewhere above his ceiling but he didn’t think to mention it!

Out came the Marigolds and a trusty bottle of Muffycid which is, quite simply, the most effective mould killer/cleaner I’ve found.  Spray it on, sit back and play Candy Crush on your phone for 15 minutes, et Voila!  The mould has disappeared and there’s a slight bleach smell – just make sure you’re wearing old clothes as it’ll ruin any fabric it touches.

Muffycid

 

 

 

 

Keeping Tenants

Many of my tenants have been working their socks off in the hotels during Christmas and New Year, paying their rent from tips (lots of £5 notes!) and have gone home for January and half of February whilst the hotels close.  Realising that most of them wanted to give up their rooms and look again when they came back, I offered them the deal of half rent whilst they were away to encourage them to have somewhere to leave their stuff and return.  It’s not in my interest to have empty rooms at this time of year or to go through the process of settling in new tenants.  All of them took the deal and are now spending time with family and hopefully Immigration will let them back into the country in a few weeks time.

Finally, New Horizons

Following Nadine’s cancer treatment last year and her mother’s death, she has taken a long desired voyage.  Her mum left her a little money so she’s gone for the trip of a lifetime for four weeks to discover the delights of India and its people.  She said “I’ve got more surgery to come, I have no idea how long I’ll live, so I’m just going to go and realise my dream before I undergo more surgery later this year”.  And, yes, she got the half rent deal too.

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