Tag Archives: Houses of Multiple Occupation

A Feel Good Story and Very Exciting News!

Picking up the on the trend of prime time reality TV documentaries, I would love to have a clichéd Immigrant Romanian Benefit Street tenant to report on but sadly they’re all working their proverbial nuts off as we speak.

Instead, I want to tell you about Lara who came to me via the Council’s Homeless Team a few weeks ago.  Her two adult sons were in supported accommodation and Lara’s non existent finances meant she had been begging sofas to sleep on from friends for the last five months.  She was tired, miserable and had been forced out of her lodging room after the landlord used to leave her presents to clear up around (not in) the toilet.

Just like a TV charity advertisement, she’s now happy, warm with a TV for entertainment and living like a queen – even buying herself some leopard print bedding from Primark to prove it.  The real point is this; the Council appear to have revised their Bond Scheme – they provide a 4 weeks’ upfront deposit paid via bank transfer into the landlord’s account and this sum is collected at £20 a month from the tenant’s benefits.  Housing benefit payments should then kick in four week’s later meaning the tenant is constantly four week’s in advance providing they keep up the payments. The bond is then returned to the council who check the tenant has kept up with repayments and the money is returned to the tenant if the landlord hasn’t made any deductions at the end of the tenancy.

Well done, Eastbourne Borough Council – good system, advertise it more!

One In, One Nearly Out

Tom is at risk of homelessness after we spent this evening watching CCTV footage of the police Continue reading

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All That Glitters Is Not Gold!

As yet another marketing email drops into my Inbox extolling the virtual virtues of HMO ownership,  I’ve decided I can no longer stop myself from passing comment on the increased hype of HMOs.

The email came from an estate agent I sacked last year for being useless and, eight years ago, actually told me they wouldn’t touch HMOs with a barge pole.  Why then, did they send me and possibly a thousand other property investors on their target list, promises of glittering HMO yields?

The reason, I believe, must be this:  with the rise of online and high street letting agents all scrabbling to secure properties to let, margins are thinner as they compete to offer the cheapest headline service.  However, the fees to cover their operational costs (cars, staff, rates,) HAVE to come from somewhere so they divide and spread their costs.  Here are some examples of fees levied to the tenant and landlord before a let has begun: Continue reading

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Christmas of Domestic Disturbances

Happy New Year and welcome to a first globally bumpy week of 2015!  The events around the world over Christmas and the last few days have certainly put any trivial issues I have into perspective.

Christmas Disturbance

At 11.30pm on Christmas Eve, whilst digesting the contents of Swedish Christmas Eve dinner and discussing the origins of Elk meatballs, the phone rang to say one of the tenants was locked out.  It was minus 10 degrees where I was so I felt sorry for them, phoned a friend who was holding the keys, organised re-entry only to discover in the meantime the tenant had rung the doorbell and, lo and behold, someone bothered to let her in.  Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be too reactive.

A few days later, I was enjoying a bit of TV catch-up Downton Abbey by the fire when a tenant called at 10pm which I ignored and they could leave a message if it was urgent.  His persistent ringing punctuated my daydream of owning a team of domestic workers (Downton had THREE nannies, for goodness sake!) and I threw a coat over my pyjamas to head down to the house.  One very cold night, two police cars, four bored policeman, a tenant clutching an arm, another sobbing in her room and a howling, ranting Portuguese called Amaro banging around in the back of one of the police cars.

Amaro’s girlfriend, Kalina, was 30 minutes late home from work and he was waiting for her.  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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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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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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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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