Category Archives: Tenant Stories

The End of the Curse of Room 2

For the last six weeks I’d be forgiven for thinking that Room 2 has been cursed.  The first person to occupy was Paul who was evicted  after a week following five separate police visits, a warrant for a recall to prison with a charge of rape thrown in for good measure.  I never told you exactly how he left but I am in possession of his keys and a signed Voluntary Leaving Letter – I’m not a bin bags on the street kind of landlady.

Mario was next.  The one whose mum was desperate to be rid of him and also a well known face to the police, so the offer of a room was withdrawn as he had failed his referencing – even though he probably had a decent credit score.

The next to turn up and ask for the room was Belinda from Portugal.  Smiley, bouncy and recommended by another tenant who worked with her – she didn’t seem put off by the ingrained smell of testosterone or the fact that the toilet seats are permanently up.  Brave girl, I thought and her friend seems nice, also I do like a good recommendation from another, trusted tenant.  She was living with friends after a holiday in Portugal to visit family so struggled to provide a landlord reference.  Just before she was due to move in, Antonio called in distress; he knew her from a house he’d been living in where she regularly “entertained” gentlemen throughout the night and had been forced to return home following a spate of charges against her for dealing.  To be fair, she took the news of the room offer being withdrawn incredibly well.

Then Karim – came across as hardworking and had entered the UK years ago as a Kurdish asylum seeker, but his wife had just left him taking all the money.  During the referencing process the only black mark against his name was the wife who was apparently unpredictable and a “nightmare” manic depressive.  Well, that was OK as his wife had disappeared.  At 10pm on the Friday night before he was due to move in on Saturday morning, he called to say he’d forgiven his wife and could she move in too?  No.  My suspicion is that they figured it was easier for him to find accommodation and then she could surreptitiously get under the bedcovers without anyone noticing.

I took the decision to lay the room fallow (I think that’s what they do to a field to allow it to recover from the trauma of being turned over time and again) and see if anyone suitable appeared in my lap.  My confidence in tenant selection had taken a knock and I needed the current round of room hunting tenants to subside.  This time of year also brings out many of the people who may have been evicted over the summer and they don’t fancy spending a winter under the pier or don’t qualify for the local Winter Night Shelter.

A Familiar Face…

Then Greg called.  This potted history is going to make all our lives appear ridiculously simple: He has two children by two different women of which we’ll call one X,  plus a high maintenance, glamorous, pregnant girlfriend who we will call Y.  In the summer, Greg bonked X then Y.  X  found out, got cross so reported him for breaking his bail conditions not to contact her and he was thrown into prison for eight weeks.  Y was waiting for him when he came out and talked of setting up home together.  The next I knew I was receiving a reference check for Greg and X to take a house together.  I asked Greg if shacking up with the woman who put him in prison was a good idea whilst her arch rival was pregnant with his child, but he said it would be ‘fine’.  And there I thought that he would somehow find domestic bliss……..

Turns out that, once he’d bought new sheets, furniture, car and a Sky dish the relationship foundered within a few weeks as he “was working hard and not getting any”.  He answered my quizzical look by spelling out the word “S.E.X.”.  He’d been offered a roof over his head from friends “but they’re all coked up and I don’t want that life” and had decided he’d been at his happiest renting a room in my HMO where “the landlady was spot on”.  I think that was a compliment.

When I asked Tom what he thought about having Greg back into the fold he said “I’ve got two heads, darlin’ and only one of them’s for thinking and that one thinks it’s great!”.

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A Week In HMO Land

Too many events have taken place over the last few weeks to concentrate on just one for this post, so I’ll give you the headliners on what’s been happening in HMO Land.

It started with Adam going AWOL (Absent Without Leave) on me so I ended having to contact his mum to check on his safety.  His Facebook updates told me he was still alive and having fun but, for some reason, he neglected to read my notes, texts and listen to my calls.  Mum obviously got hold of him and he was gracious enough to do a midnight flit leaving his keys on the bed along with a couple of odd smelly socks and discarded packaging of a new phone and number – the lengths some tenants go to in order to avoid me!

Abandoned In The Cold

Then Gareth called in tears – he’d been woken that morning to give his girlfriend a lift into town from her house.  Dressed only in his boxers and T shirt, he grabbed his keys and she ordered him to drive to his houseshare and threw him out of the car with the parting words “You’re dumped!”.   Shivering on a snowy pavement, his bottom lip quivering with the effects of such unforeseen rejection, he called to ask me to collect his belongings from her house.  Not sure it’s in the Landlord’s Guide Book, but I sympathised, laughed and went to get them.  Mainly because his bank cards were in his bags and at least I had an outside charge of being paid his rent arrears.

Gareth then wanted to share his glee in getting a job interview but didn’t possess anything smart enough.  My partner kindly lent him a pair of trousers and I gave him a food package all in the hope that he can start earning some money.  In the meantime, he’s been adopted by a stray cat who is refusing to leave.

It’s Girls!!

Finally, we’ve got some girls!  Nice, working and pretty – the boys have been instructed to be on best behaviour and not to attempt any kind of drunken shenanigans.  Gareth called shortly after “Man, you’re killing me!  I’m heartbroken, desperate for a cuddle and you’ve put these two girls in the house with instructions that I’m not allowed near them.  That’s just unfair.” No, I think it’s a fair risk assessment.

Refuge for the Abused?

I’ve had a small single room vacant for a while as the house is a sensitive one and extremely quiet so only the most well behaved person would do.  Along comes Mark, a gas heating engineer (handy!).  When I asked why he had a huge gash across his forehead he said his girlfriend had hit him a couple of days ago.  “Blimey, she must have thrown you a good punch” I said.  “Oh no”, he replied “She picked up a bit of wood and whacked me with it”.  “Oh, what did you do to deserve that?”  “I don’t know, which is why I want to move before she does something else.”  Perhaps he needs to read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”.

Wild Card

And, lastly, my wild card.  I met Stan this afternoon who was upfront about his needing to claim LHA and his Nan had kindly offered the deposit and rent in advance (it’s great when someone loves them enough to help out).  He’s been sofa surfing and staying at the Downs “The Downs? I’ve never heard of that organisation.” I said.  “No” he replied “The D-O-W-N-S.  Those hills with grass on them.” “Oh, the South Downs! Bet that’s cold.”

So, off he’s gone to fill out the Tenant Information Form, get the proof from BHT (Brighton Housing Trust) that he’s been homeless so it can accompany his claim form and I’ll receive direct payment of his LHA (without having to beg for it)

Narrowly Missed

A policeman has  been referred to me who wants a room but  hasn’t returned my calls.

When I asked Tom what he thought of Stan he said “Hey, I ain’t judging no one.” So when I asked if he’d prefer to have a copper in the house he laughed “Well, I ain’t got nothing to hide but I bet the others wouldn’t be happy.”  Hmmm, a new method of voluntary eviction perhaps?!!

Interview for Property Tribes at The Landlord Law Conference

Last Friday Tessa held a Landlord Law Conference, part of Easy Law Training.  It was an informative and hands on day for landlords and agents.  She has kindly invited me to talk at an HMO course which she’s putting together on 23rd May 2013.  In the meantime, if you want to hear more about running HMOs here’s a short interview by Vanessa Warwick of Property Tribes.

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Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned!

Have you come across the phrase? I’ve never had the energy to take revenge on men who’ve let me down, but can’t help secretly laughing at my tenants’ love lives:

Regular readers will know that Greg, who rents a room, is still in prison and I eagerly anticipate his release in a couple of weeks as his rent hasn’t been paid since the beginning of January.  What you don’t know is how he got there and the story started last year (based on what I’ve picked up, not judicial evidence!).

Greg had a girlfriend, Jess, with whom he fathered a child.  This relationship failed so he started seeing Nicky (leggy, beautiful, smart, high maintenance).  Jess made allegations that Greg had hit her, it went to court and he was unceremoniously banged up in July last year then released on licence with instructions not to go near her or the child.  Nicky stood by him and all was well for the rest of the summer until they fell out after she produced a bag of cocaine after a night out and started to punch Greg so he hit her and she went to the police.  Telling me the story later his version was “I told her you don’t allow drugs in the house, she kept punching me as she was so pissed so I told her if she did it again I’d punch her back.  She did it again, so I punched her – after all, I had warned her”. Yes, but then he went on the run so the local Bobbies took the opportunity to come to my house for a cup of tea and the master room keys.

Greg went to Jess for comfort, Nicky let herself into his room whilst drunk/high, poured oil in the iron and kettle, smeared moisturiser on his clothes and fell asleep outside his bedroom door.  The other tenants nudged her a couple of times to check she was alive then did the sensible thing and left her to it – stepping over her on the way to the bathroom.  My tenants may not be rocket scientists, but they’re clever enough to know when not to get involved.

Greg phoned to say what had happened, Nicky sent me a long apologetic text and I just laughed – after all it wasn’t my clothes or love life.  They kissed and made up – much to Jess’s disapproval.  She went to the police to say that Greg had broken his licence conditions and, before you could say “Show me the evidence”, he’d been rearrested and thrown back into prison.

That’s not the end: Jess called to ask to be let into his room for retrieval of her jogging bottoms and, being the empathetic kind of girl I am, said if she got a signed note from him or was accompanied by the police, I was happy to oblige.  In the meantime, Nicky contacted me to ask if she could “do the room up” as a nice surprise for Greg when he got out – just a feature wall, new lampshade, etc.  He’s given her a key so I don’t think I can technically stop her but did suggest that maybe he’d appreciate a chilled bottle of Asti, soft music and her dressed in Ann Summers instead.

Andrew also fell out with his girlfriend.  Apparently it was down to the fact that she’s a bit posh and likes him for being rough and roguish but in the last year he’s become a bit too sensible by looking for a job and learning to budget.  We bumped into each other outside Sainsburys where he said even though it had been three days, he was really missing her.  The next day she called to say she wanted to get back with him, didn’t know she could trust him so could she see the CCTV footage of the last few days to check he hadn’t had other women in?  I said no on the basis that I promised the tenants the CCTV wasn’t there for spying only for incidences they’d reported.

“Thanks for that” said Andrew “As I did have a couple of girls sleep over and she would’ve flipped her lid”.

“Andrew!  It’s only been a few days – is that how you get over a broken heart?”

“Yeah, what else did you expect me to do?”

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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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‘Twas The Rent Collection Before Christmas

The weather’s miserable, the odds for a white Christmas are as wide as Tom being sober for the next 48 hours and the Christmas Spirit has yet to touch the hearts of my tenants.

This weekend I played a poor version of Santa and gave everyone a net of not only chocolate coins, but BANK NOTES as well!  However, the irony of me giving them money along with a rent receipt seemed completely lost on the tenants.  For good measure, I also gave each house a huge box of shortbread to share if they come out of their rooms on Christmas Day.

First off: Greg is spending his Christmas Day at Her Majesty’s Pleasure AGAIN.  I’m confused as to what happened exactly but it involved a court appearance, expectation of a slap on the wrist which became handcuffs and taken down to serve five weeks (or five months I got a bit lost on the story at that point) of his licence.  Luckily his housing benefit is being paid direct to me and his girlfriend is going to take in his net of money as a small consolation.

The Poles next door are getting into the swing of the yuletide festivities by partying and arguing all night.  No amount of police visits, banging on the door pleading to keep the noise down is helping.  Tenants are now on strict instructions to keep a noise diary, contact the police when the noise kicks off and we’ll try to find the landlord.

On top of that, there’s a clash of personalities.  I’m not entirely sure what’s going on but the accusations involve running up and down the stairs in the small hours of the night, followed by door banging which has produced genuine confusion between the perpetrator and accuser.  Having just received some personal bad news and said goodbye to my own children for the Christmas period I’m in no mood to sort out the squabbles of others – especially those that are old enough to make a cup of tea and sit down to sort out their differences.

The Good News:

To salvage a little Christmas magic, I’m pleased to report that Nadine has now finished chemo which has left her without hair and feeling worse for wear but ALIVE!  She starts radiotherapy in January and is sporting an array of woolly hats mimicking strange furry animals.  Stewart came across an enormous Christmas tree in a back alley which he’s shoved in a bucket and is looking forward to it dominating his room.

And Tom: I was given a nearly new washing machine to put in the house – rather than see the old one (which is on its last legs) go to the tip, he reckoned he could spruce it up and do a deal with the bloke on the corner to get some cash for it.  Fine, I said, but if you get more than twenty quid you have to give the remainder to a good cause – that means a registered charity, not the pub.

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Dealing With Cancer In An HMO – Nadine’s Story

Ben Reeve-Lewis recently recommended that I interview my HMO tenants to backup this blog’s aim of showing the human side to being a landlord.  Nadine is the first victim and knows why I’m writing about her (just in case anyone is worried about privacy infringements!).

Two months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and immediately underwent surgery.  The interview takes place from her hospital bed during her second chemo treatment.  She’s mostly positive, we’ve all had a laugh with her wig and NHS “fillet” as she calls it and now I want to understand, from her point of view, what it’s like to deal with debilitating treatment whilst sharing the house with relative strangers.

Whilst Nadine has been renting for years (she’s 45), this is her first experience of a room in a shared house.  She’d been stung a couple of times after someone purporting to be the landlord took a month’s rent in advance and deposit, gave her the keys, until she met a man in the kitchen claiming to be the actual landlord and threw her out, minus her belongings.  When she finally caught up with the original “landlord” he refused to give her any money back claiming that it was his fee for storing her goods!  After seeing various rooms in dreadful states – including one offering just a mattress on the floor – she landed on my doorstep through a contact at the Salvation Army.

How has your perception of house sharing shifted since being diagnosed with cancer?  “I’m less tolerant, which is to be expected.  I’ve always tried to keep everybody as friends but slightly at arms length then you don’t fall out with people or have problems.  I’ve found that I’ve had to involve a lot more people that I wouldn’t normally involve as I knew it would have an impact on their lives as well as mine which has been difficult and trying to get them to understand what’s going on .  I think they’ve sympathised, not empathised as until you’ve been there yourself you can’t empathise.

Have they sat and talked about what you’re going through or kept you at arms length?  “I think it’s brought us closer and I’ve tried to explain as much as possible, leaving booklets out asking them to read and understand what I’m likely to go through.  But it’s not their problem and it’s not fair for them to become too wrapped up in something that’s not their problem.”

I think that’s very generous of you to say that but there are 5 people in that house and it could have happened to anybody.  “Most of the tenants have been absolutely lovely, but I’ve become less tolerant of the noise and the people around me.  Two of them have even helped with the cleaning”

Do you feel comfortable in the house or would you  prefer to be in your own house?  “If I’m honest, of course I would prefer my own house and it’s only going to get worse, like the times when I’ve got no hair and I have to go into the kitchen and meet someone or their friend.  That’s the thing I will find difficult and I’ve discussed it with the others.   I notice I’m sneaking around more in case any of them are drunk!”

Do any of them understand your need for peace and quiet?  “I have tried to explain to them that there will be times when I will tell them to **** off but I don’t mean it, but it might happen and I’ve tried to pre-empt every situation that might go wrong as much as possible.”

Has having Andy there made it bearable? (Andy is Nadine’s step brother and a lovely fellow tenant who is registered partially blind) “Yes, because he’s made me a cup of tea, cooked meals, sorted out the buckets and it would be a lonely hell without him.  He has a calm quiet demeanour whereas the others will try to cheer me up and be positive!   I worry that, as the treatment goes on, it’s only going to get worse and have a profound effect on me and on the house.”

What’s your greatest dream?  “To travel to India, see the world, do voluntary work.  I don’t want lots of money, I want to be free.  Life’s too short and this illness has made me even more determined to achieve my dream”

On privacy: “I’m terrified that when I lose my hair I don’t want to have to put a wig on just to go to the bathroom.   I feel so self-conscious and what doesn’t help is that my room is by the front door so I hear all the comings and goings.”

Did the nurses or doctors show an interest in how you were going to be looked after at home?  “No, not really.  You’re expected just to get on with it and they wouldn’t give me patient transport – they said I had to get the bus.”

How have you changed emotionally through this experience?  “I’m an emotional wreck.  I feel very alone and it’s a lonely journey.  It doesn’t matter how many friends you’ve got, some have backed away because they don’t know how to deal with it or I think they think you’ll become too needy.  I haven’t seen some of them for months, but that’s because I’m probably off the scene.”

It must be very strange to feel alone when you’re in a house full of people.  “It is”.   Do you think it would be better in a bedsit?  “I think it would be the same as it hasn’t got anything to do with the amount of people around you but that it’s something you’re going through and nobody else is.”

Do you get support during the bad days?  “Not so much, because during the bad days you just want to curl up and die, but Macmillan are brilliant on the end of the phone and little texts from people letting me know they’re thinking of me is lovely.”  I’m frightened I’m turning into a neurotic monster but the drugs do make you feel intolerant of other people.”

Stop worrying about other people, concentrate on yourself.  There are far more antisocial behaviours you can inflict on the other tenants than being a stroppy bitch – normally that’s my job.  They’ll get over it and if they want to party they can go to their friends’ houses or the pub.  “I don’t like causing people trouble and I know it has a profound effect on everyone and I’ve spent months preparing them.  It’s very important, when living in a shared house, to keep a certain balance in terms of we all get on and we’re equal and we don’t feel anyone is given preferential treatment.  It doesn’t work if one person tries to be the head of the household or more dominant than the others  and it’s very difficult to keep it like that.  Shared housing is about tolerating.  It’s very difficult to get the exact balance of people.

Do you feel safe in the house?  “Most of the time, but at this point I’d love to have my own place just to have that bit of serenity and calm and you don’t have to worry about who’s coming in and out of the house and if there are too many people drinking there’s going to be a fight.”  These are valid issues that I can do something about.  I’d be livid if there were parties going on in other houses.  But I have to catch them at it otherwise they’re going to think they’re being gossiped about.  ” Yes, they’re lovely people but they do tend to forget.”

In Summary

The point about a shared house  – if you want to party, get your own house, go to someone else’s or go out.  This is where people are living and it has to be kept quiet as tenants have different shift work or routines.  I understand why she doesn’t want to upset anyone but for me it’s a big issue as I don’t want them traipsing around, getting pissed and throwing bricks through the window – yes, this has happened which he still hasn’t paid me back for.

Nadine’s treatment will last until after Christmas during which she has chemo sessions every two weeks which I take her to and bring her home with my builder as back up transport if I can’t do it.  We’ve put an external lock on the downstairs toilet so she can have some privacy while being sick and doesn’t run the risk of coming across the boys’ pee!

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HMO Tenant Home After Prison Spell

Greg returns from prison having only got into one fight and “has spent a lot of time thinking.  When you’re locked in a cell for 23 hours there ain’t much else to do”.  Good, well at least he’s had time to plan how he’s going to get out of this mess.

He was looking remarkably well and full of enthusiasm until he read the rent statement showing him to be £800 in arrears and counting.  For someone with no work and no income this is not an easy one to get out of.  “Are you gonna kick me out then?” he asked.  “Nope,” I said “But if you want to stay you’re going to have to start talking to me, stop lying and play by my rules otherwise I’ll kick you out legally”.  We came up with a plan which involved:

  1. Getting in touch with Housing to find out where he stands on his LHA. [Local Housing Allowance] I’d written to them to let them know that he was 8 week’s behind and, typically, received no response.  In the meantime, the prison Welfare Officer assured him that Housing would pay his rent for 4 months whilst inside.  Unsurprisingly, Greg thought it was all sorted.  Unsurprisingly to me, I knew some council worker was passing it around the system or using the paperwork as a mug coaster .
  2. Working out how much was left to pay:  Once we could find out how much and when his LHA would restart, we could work out the balance he needed to clear.  He’s a painter and decorator so I’ve offered to reduce the arrears a bit if he’ll paint the outside of the house before the neighbours pluck up confidence to tell me I’m letting the street down.
  3. How to pay the rest of the arrears without causing pressure:  When someone’s in this situation, with mounting debts and child maintenance to pay, the last thing they need is heaps more pressure from me when they’re doing the best they can.  We came up with an agreement to clear the remaining arrears over 6 months but with no figures to play with, this is an unknown.

So, I’m trying my best to help sort his accommodation out.  The Council?  Well, here’s a text from Greg this evening:

“Hi.  I ended up having to go to a pay phone and putting £9 in to phone HB [Housing Benefit].  Managed to get through in the end but all I managed to get before it cut out was it can take up to 14 working days after the job centre have been in contact with them.  He couldn’t tell me exact date of them releasing the money till Job Centre have been in touch.  Just wanted to let u know as I don’t want u thinking I’m being slack already”

I’m considering billing Mr Schapps £140 a week which is the amount it would cost our local council to put this young man into Bed and Breakfast accommodation if I’d done what any sane person would do and evict him.  However, I like his mum and dad, want to believe he’ll sort things out and am trying to forget that he told me he bumped into some of the prison inmates from his drug dealing days……………

I Have A New Assistant!

On a lighter note:  as it’s school holidays I’ve decided to try a new rent collecting strategy with the help of my six year old son.  He announced to the tenants that he wants to “be a police officer when I grow up”. “Oh no you don’t!” they all chorused.  He doesn’t want to now as HIS helmet boasts a blue flashing light.

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