Tag Archives: drugs

Eviction – From an HMO Point of View

Last week we had to evict Gareth.  I say “Had” because, despite trying to reason with him and help him find a way through his problems he had gone from a decent, working man in October last year to a cannabis smoking, paranoid boy who couldn’t even complete benefit claim forms in March this year.

His use of emotional blackmail was textbook which even my six year old son could have learnt a few tricks from him!  At 39 years old he reacted to the conflict over his rent arrears by crying, intimidating me and the other female tenants and threatening the male ones.  Things became so bad that I couldn’t enter the house for ten days and one of the girls had to temporarily move out.  This is the effect of anti-social behaviour in HMOs where the statutory legalities are the same as if the tenant were in a self contained unit, but the distress is unbearable to those living behind the same front door.

With every eviction I learn something new – about human nature and myself.

Human Nature

You can’t always change the way people think and behave.  As an outsider you can see the other person’s faults but that’s just your opinion, which is why it’s important to focus on the facts of the case. Some evictees understand how they come to this point in their tenancy and choose to continue to lead their lives in the only way they know how at the expense of their accommodation and the goodwill of those around them.

On the plus side, some DO see the light.  Greg, who was hovering on my Top Ten Worst Tenants list, for being anti-social and unreliable, is currently joining Tom on my Top Ten Best Tenant list.  After two spells in prison last year, his rent top up is bang on time and he answers my calls without hesitation.  Tom, despite being a binge alcoholic, has a strong ethos of honour and is as loyal to me and his housemates as a slightly erratic Rottweiler with the added bonus of weeding the front patio when it needs doing and putting the bins out.

About Myself

Yes, giving someone the benefit of the doubt is the Christian thing to do but the bit I wrestle with is setting limits.  I realise I can’t change anyone’s behaviour or how far they believe it’s OK to push me and take advantage, but I can know when to put the brakes on.  Each time I have to face facts and realise I’m being taken advantage of, a little bit of my belief in good presiding over evil dies.  Then I remember the tenants that have made it and have moved on with their lives.  I’ve also learnt to try to absolve myself but still ask: could I have done this better, reference checked more thoroughly, handled the situation differently or been harder on them earlier?

Whatever the answer, some landlords will tell you it’s difficult not to become emotionally involved with a few tenants.  I’m not talking about the ones who pay on time and you never see, but the ones you have known for many years and have shared their ups and downs over coffee and witnessed their  idiosyncrasies.  As an HMO landlord, once you enter the front door into the communal area, you have taken one step further into tenants’ lives than you otherwise would have done as a single let landlord.

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Proof: Weed Makes You Paranoid!

This is a tale of two boys, actually, they’re in their late 30s so should be called men, but I just can’t bring myself to do that.

They both took a room each in an HMO late last year – Gareth came down to be near his girlfriend, but she sensibly didn’t want him living with her, and Kurt upgraded from a caravan on a farm.  Both fitted my profile of nice blokes, good personal references, financially unconfirmed but eligible for LHA.

All started well: they found common ground in their weed smoking, had both received a bollocking off me and the threat of a police visit if I ever smelt the stuff again.  Their mutual regard for me as a bitch left them scratching their heads at my sniffer dog talents even though they  couldn’t “smell nufink”.

Kurt did well in getting his claim for LHA sorted and paying his top up on time so I haven’t seen much of him, but his complexion is evidence that he divides his time between being shut away with his computer and bunking at friends whilst becoming paler, thinner and struggling to hold a conversation.

After Gareth lost his job and his girlfriend, he spent most of his time crying but finally got round to claiming JSA and LHA.  Last Friday I accompanied him to the Housing Benefit offices to go through his paperwork as he couldn’t work out if he’d been paid, how much or what all the letters he was clutching meant.   As it’s Easter holidays, I left the kids at home in front of the TV with a pack of biscuits (tenant problem solving is no longer a novelty to them unless it involves the police) and promised to be back within half an hour.

Gareth and I registered then sat down to fill out his DHP form (Discretionary Housing Payment – good time to do this as it’s the beginning of the financial year) and I completed the Safeguard Form (to have payments made direct to me as he was 8 weeks in arrears).  He made such a fuss about the paperwork, chewed my pen to pieces and couldn’t stop crying and moaning “Why has my life come to this?  It ain’t fair, I try hard, everyone hates me, nobody loves me, etc. etc.”  Actually, he didn’t say the last bit but you get the picture.  In fact, he was making such a noise and I was getting so cross telling him to pull himself together and to save the tears for someone who hasn’t had to listen to him day in day out for the last couple of months that the Housing Benefit agent came over to ask if I was harassing him!

Paperwork filled in, he then got into my car uninvited and started on AGAIN.  I gave him a pack of tissues, suggested we drove to the bank to find his LHA payments which had definitely been made and I needed to check on my kids (by now I’d been away for almost 2 hours) who hadn’t realised I’d gone and could they have the remaining custard creams for lunch?

Kurt called me whilst I was waiting to say that Gareth had threatened him the night before, accusing him of breaking a computer so he was going to London for a few days as he feared for his life.  I told him he should have contacted the police if it was that bad and would drop in when they were both at home to sort this out.  He then texted “Thanks for your usual calm, level headed approach!  Also Gareth told me you thought it was me trying to get in that cupboard.  It wasn’t!” [the locked cupboard with the telephone line and router]

Shortly after, I received another text from Kurt:

“He [Gareth] was calm when I was there, tried to ask him to leave me alone by text, a veiled threat and some abuse and psychotic crap which I will show you later.  Had to leave my computer there unfortunately.  I won’t be back till Weds now.  Tbh I’ll be looking to get away from him asap just don’t have the money at the mo.”

A couple of days later:

“Just got back to Gareth stinking the kitchen out with weed and now he’s refusing to give me back my phone charger he borrowed because he is convinced that I have broken his computer, which he was convinced I did before he ever turned it on conveniently.  Anyway, hope you’re doing better than me!”

A couple of minutes later:

“He just did the intimidation thing again “Ohhh Kurt, you’re using my pan.  Only joking course you can use it….yeh, but don’t use my stuff again” he ain’t been out of prison that long and my feeling is he’s on his way back.  Didn’t know he had a pan.  I’m literally scared stiff to come here, Alice told me today she is too cos of the noise.  I’m working on staying at friends”

I asked why he thought Gareth was going to prison as I hadn’t realised he only came out last year and must have fibbed on his Tenant Information Form.  I won’t incriminate Gareth further as I’m sure it’s a storm in a teacup but the rest of the text read:

“He’s nice enough when he doesn’t flip.  There will never ever by any mutual ground between me and that psychotic bully”.

During this text conversation I was actually at the house changing a lightbulb- I only found out it had tripped the RCD because the tenants said the TVs hadn’t worked for 24 hours!  I took the opportunity to talk to Alice, who was fine but fed up of the atmosphere between the boys.  I then spoke to Gareth who, for once didn’t smell of weed and he asked why his ears were burning, was I talking about him and proceeded to gossip about Kurt.

Several calls from Gareth and texts from Kurt today bitching about each other and I’ve had to let my mobile battery run out for the sake of my sanity.

After thinking about it, I’ve decided to let them play this one out between themselves, see where their individual paranoia’s take them.   I’ll keep talking to the other tenants but really feel that they’d be happier if I stuck THEM in front of the telly with a pack of biscuits!

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A Moral Dilemma – Is My Tenant Still Alive?

Apologies for not posting last week – this being due to half term and not being able to get near the computer as the children felt that Moshi Monsters and Friv games were adding to their educational abilities.  We also took some time out to go to the Peak District and admire the rock formations – THAT’S educational!

Where’s Steve?

Six weeks have now passed since I’ve had any contact with Steve.  You may remember that he’s the tenant in one of my largest rooms priced at £100pw including all bills but, as he’d done well not smoking weed in the house and I thought we’d come to a mutual understanding on how to behave,  I gave him a preferential rate of £90pw.  Why?  Because I still hadn’t learnt from the old addage “Give ’em and inch and they’ll take a mile”.

After the marijuana incident (i.e. the whole street was mellowing under its influence the smell was so strong) and he’d asked to move into the bigger room, we got on well.  Housing Benefit paid his LHA allowance direct to me because Steve had been/still is a gambling addict and he then paid £112 as a top up.  He’s now 2 month’s down on his top up and nobody has heard sight nor sound of him.  His post is still there, his pants are still in the drawer, some toiletries are still on the dresser and his bed looks like, well, any man’s bed who isn’t hoping to impress a girl.  I’ve written to his guarantor and tried to contact his mother with no success.

From a legal point of view, because he’d moved room but within the same property, I’d created a new tenancy which meant I had to serve section 21 notice for the end of his fixed term of 14th December.  I was a bit annoyed as I’d received two legal viewpoints at the time from a landlord association: one told me to just get him to sign a letter acknowledging the move to a new room but it would continue as a periodic tenancy and another member of the team told me to create to new fixed term agreement and re-register the deposit.  Confusing, but all paperwork has been sorted, served and is now strewn across his bed  presumably in case he runs out of toilet roll.

Moral Dilemma

So, I’m in a dilemma.  House is quiet and stable without him, I’m getting two thirds of his rent paid direct to me by the council and I don’t have the expense of refurbishing his room which is likely to cost £200 (new carpet and full paint).  Do I consider the room to be abandoned (but I think there’s slightly too many belongings, albeit they’ve been undisturbed for six weeks); or proceed to get a court order if he hasn’t moved the stuff out by 14th December?  Morally, I probably should be trying harder to find him as we’re a small town and people don’t just disappear but his phone’s ringing so he’s clearly still charging it.  I do worry, with his history, that he could have come to a sticky end but hope a relative would’ve wanted to lay claim to his paltry belongings.  However, I haven’t applied for a court order before so I’d like to be able to say I know how to do it.  What would you do?

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How Far Do You Let a Tenant Run Up Rent Arrears?

In the normal world of landlording and legally speaking it’s recommended to allow two months worth of arrears to build up before issuing any notices.  However, this isn’t normal landlording otherwise everyone would be doing it!

Every Saturday, my tenants hear my bailiff style knock on the door between 9.30am and 11am. I’m not so archaic that I don’t offer for them to pay by standing order but only one tenant does this – I’m presuming the rest choose collection so the boys can show off their pants to me every week. If I’ve trained them well, they’ll be clutching the cash as they open their door or, if they don’t want to be disturbed, leave it in an envelope poking under the door.

So, what happens when they aren’t proffering the week’s rent?  Again, if they remember their training they’ll have called me a day or so beforehand with a suitable excuse to which I’ll sound suitably empathetic whilst I wait for them to tell me how they’ll sort the situation out and by what date.  If they’re too scared to talk to me or have conveniently forgotten they rent a room at the address, they’ll go AWOL but that’s a different subject which demands an alternative procedure which I made up but is fairly effective.  Another time….!  The great thing about HMOs is that if one room doesn’t pay up the other rooms should be still covering the mortgage and bills so you can attend to the non payer without worrying about repossession or delving into your own bank account.

Liam – An Erratic Payer

Liam rents my bedsit in a licensable HMO.   It’s an attic room with it’s own cooking facilities and he shares the bathroom with everyone else.  He arrived on the doorstep two years ago – muscular, vertically challenged, bursting with testosterone, cheeky smile and looks rather attractive in his underpants (which I found out three weeks into the tenancy, it wasn’t part of the referencing process!).  Liam was a window fitter until the recession when events seemed to conspire against him.  He’s picked up a variety of jobs on building sites, shop work and anyone who’ll have him but it’s been fraught with contracts suddenly coming to an end, broken promises and his inability to manage money.  He received a tax rebate earlier this year when he was £350 in arrears;  I called him to discover he was on the bus to meet some friends “but don’t worry it’ll be there on Monday”.  Was it heck.  He said his mates got him so drunk that he’d blown the lot at the casino – “I felt such a twat” he said.  Yep, he said it not me.

How far do you let someone go and how far do you believe the stories, show compassion, remember what it was like when you were young and rubbish with money?  I’m now short on goodwill after he phoned me on Sunday about the “stupid ****ing council won’t give me housing benefit!  What do they expect me to do?  I’d wring their ****ing necks if I could get past the bullet proof glass!”  It was my day off enjoying a bit of retail therapy and I so wasn’t interested in another set of excuses …. and told him.  “In that case” he said “I’ve got no other option but to do what my mates are doing and sell drugs but don’t worry, I won’t do it while I’m at your house”  Gee, thanks. However, I’m not worried for the existing street dealers just yet as he has as much ability to blend  into dark alleyways to do a deal with a junkie as a market trader advertising the catch of day.

I’ve given him a flexible payment schedule, bunged him a fiver when he had nothing to eat and no parents to call on (I’m such a sucker for orphans), a shoulder to cry on and offered cheaper rooms.  I’ve made him sound like an arrogant idiot but he’s lovely and I’m just annoyed that he hasn’t sorted himself out and is trying to rile me with the drug threat.

It IS possible to make money AND be compassionate when dealing with HMO tenants – the two are not mutually exclusive.  I make my entry level costs to a room affordable i.e. £150 deposit plus one week’s rent in advance, unlike other landlords who demand one month’s rent and one month’s deposit in advance – now that’s alot of money.

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