Tag Archives: housing benefit

Tenants Feel Traded

Four people have come to us this week angry and desperate – all facing eviction due to their landlords’ circumstances changing.

I sat with one in a café where he worked.  He’d been given a few hours to move and the agent was rehoming his belongings into another house as we spoke; another who had been given 24 hours notice but didn’t know why; a young lady who I met on a course and whose landlord had neglected the flat for so many years that he decided to sell rather than repair; and another lady with 3 children whose landlord was returning from abroad.

All the circumstances leading to this point in their lives differed but brought about the same feeling – anger, dismay and trying to cope with life and work whilst dealing with an unknown future.  They also all said they felt as though they had been “traded” like commodities, disposed of as they no longer suited their landlord.

I’m pragmatic, believe change is good and you can’t have it your own way all of the time.  Sometimes life bites you on the bum and you have adjust to whatever is thrown at you, but that’s easy to say when you have a safety net, good credit history, flexible work and no requirement for a support network.  All of the above cases are economic migrants or in receipt of housing benefit – re-establishing their equilibrium will take a while.  They’re not stupid, illegal, immoral or prone to criminality – just a whim to someone else’s change of mind.

But, hey, I’m not innocent in all of this – one of my single mums’ has been told that, under the benefit cap, her rent allowance will reduce from £115 pw to £25pw in two months’ and saw no reason that I shouldn’t accept this drop.  The agents (if you need a fantastic, reasonably priced agent in Sunderland or Newcastle, email me) have carried out an income/expenditure sheet with her, and her Child Tax Credit and Income Support along with the new Housing Benefit are plenty enough for her to stay in the property but she’s adamant that it’s not her issue.

Wednesday found me collecting a tenant with toothache outside of a doctor’s who had refused to see him.  He’d been to the doctor as he has a heart complaint and his Romanian doctor had advised seeing the doctor before the dentist so the drugs required for dental surgery didn’t kill him.  We spent an hour finding a doctor willing to take on new patients and explaining the difference between private and NHS dentists.  He’s a lawyer in Romania and a carer in the UK and found our healthcare system incomprehensible.

So it’s a complicated new world we’re heading into (or always been in?) in terms of solving the housing crisis.  I thought I had some answers but I don’t except, landlords, keep your noses clean, don’t be greedy, help your good tenants, cast off ANYONE taking advantage of your good nature and maintain your integrity.  If you can do all this you are unlikely to become outrageously rich through renting property.  If these values are too much, you can always follow the Trump methodology of business.

4 Comments

Filed under Future of HMOs

HMO Landlady Breaks Her Silence!

So far I’ve kept quiet about all the new tax and HMO minimum requirement legislations our “Dear Leaders” are proposing to throw at landlords over the next few years – I suppose if I didn’t give it any attention, they’d see sense, it would all go away and I wouldn’t look like an idiot for commenting.

It clearly isn’t going away so I’m now going to voice my opinions in a vague attempt to stick up for myself and other landlords who have contacted me for advice over the last few months.

Social Tenants

What next for housing benefit tenants, sorry, local housing allowance, no that’s not it, universal credit recipients?

I genuinely don’t mind how a tenant is funded providing Continue reading

13 Comments

Filed under Future of HMOs, Management of an HMO

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

5 Comments

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

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Management of an HMO, Tenant Stories

Review of Britain’s Benefit Tenants

Last night Channel 4’s Britain’s Benefit Tenants had my partner and I screaming into the sofa cushions at the naivety of the characters:  one of whom was the optimistic landlord who invested his hard earned pension pot of £40k into a Hartlepool terraced house he’d never seen before. Looking forlornly at his due diligence homework courtesy of Google, he realised he’d cocked up.  Fighting his corner was the lettings agent from NGU Homelettings, David,  chasing rent arrears from a lady who refused to answer his efforts to contact her so he could “prevent her eviction”.  One of his other cases were two drugged up brothers who were finally being evicted after a year and were oblivious to their dog peeing against a cupboard fondly labelled as a family heirloom.

After the programme, I dismounted from my high horse and remembered the following:

  1. My ex husband and myself also bought property (pre 2008 ) – unseen and unresearched – based on NGU Homelettings advice and investment potential for which they levied a hefty armchair and refurb fees.  My excuse?  I thought my ex husband knew something I didn’t.  His excuse?  The same as the landlord who bought the property in Hartlepool in a street where no one wanted to live – on paper it was a strong investment.
  1. As I was screaming into the pillow “You’ve waiting HOW long to evict the tenant?!?” the unswerving, magnanimous David excused the delay by saying something along the lines of  “It’s better to keep someone in the property and have a chance of them receiving Housing Benefit to pass onto the landlord”. To be fair, he worked hard at trying to get that something or anything out of the tenant and I admired his patience.  After all, he doesn’t have the luxury of quiet, clean, risk free tenants waiting in the wings to snap up one crappy, trashed house after another in a street where even the trades fear to tread.

On the subject of crap, did you see HOW much the tenants left behind?  Again, David shrugged his shoulders and decided it could have been worse – at least they didn’t nick the copper.

Three Lucky Benefit Tenants

A few weeks ago an opportunity came up for Nadine, Anthony and a friend to move into a proper house after accepting that they would be 150 years old before any kind of social housing would be available.  I’ve said before in a previous post that perhaps living in a room long term as you grow old could have a negative effect on one’s mental health. But with no job (or likely to ever have one) and relying solely on welfare, they knew most agents would balk at allowing them to rent any of their landlord’s precious abodes, despite the fact that they’d managed to save for a deposit and the first month’s rent.  Their prayers were answered when a client of ours bought a lovely 3 bed house, handed it to us to manage and declared that Nadine et al sounded fabulous (although we did have to encourage Anthony into a clean T shirt before he met her).  The landlord is now in possession of long term, reliable tenants and the tenants are ecstatic to have room to swing the proverbial cat.

But the crap they left behind!  I love these people and would stand up in a court of law to defend their honour.  However, after the fifth trip to the tip with their unwanted possessions I was ready to kill them.  I have come to realise, when you’re on benefits anything free/gratis makes your heart leap with joy even if you don’t need it.  I know Nadine would trawl the charity shops far and wide looking for something to bring home – clothes, pictures, lava lamps and a very weird set of elephants.  None of them have a car so there was never going to be a hope in hell that they could get rid of their hoard.  I spent a very wet and windy day sitting in the car listening to Tom confess his latest sexual exploits as he helped me take the detritus to the tip.  And it wasn’t the smelly mattress which made me gag.

Want to learn how to be a great landlord or letting agent?

We’re pulling together locations and subjects for Easy Law Training’s Workshops which will stretch from Kent to Dorset and delivered by fully qualified legal professionals. If you haven’t done it yet, please click here to enter the survey and let us know where you’d like to meet us.

1 Comment

Filed under being a landlord

Happy HMO Tenants – And How To Keep Them That Way!

With the tantalising onset of summer, comes happier moods and none more so than in my “mature” house.   They’re still recovering from Simon’s outburst last month after he turned the whole house into a gibbering wreck, became paranoid that they were all against him and, as I later found out, had hounded them all into submission with his constant bullying.

This is a house I go to at least weekly, if not twice weekly and the tenants have been with me 7 years – so how the hell hadn’t I seen the destruction that was being wrecked by one person?  Because they were terrified of getting him into trouble with me.  There had been constant weekend parties, late night weed smoking, music playing and what felt like hundreds of strangers running amok through the house.

The tenants are in their 40s and 50s and usually not afraid to speak their minds, but what has come out is the systematic abuse levied by 24 year old Simon telling them that he “had rights” and “could do what he wanted” whilst appearing completely angelic to me.  He’d trashed the garden with BBQ parties and stolen all the kitchen equipment upon his eviction.

To help dissipate the atmosphere Simon left behind, the tenants asked if they could finally do up the garden.   Remember, this is their HOME, not a temporary place to stay until a Council house comes available as they’ve given up on that idea.  As benefit claimants, they don’t have much money and each pound not spent on necessities is a pound closer to saving for clothes or cider.  So, yesterday afternoon, we took a trip to the local garden centre with a budget of £40 and I sat in the car whilst they spent a happy hour choosing plants and compost.  To be honest, it was a bit like taking out a couple of aged relatives as they had a domestic half way round the bedding plant section after failing to agree on Salmon pink or white geraniums.

Back at the house, spent and happy here is the result:

Gardening

We’ve since taken Chris, a 62 year old who enjoys listening to Radio 4, has a penchant for brown clothes, walks his ex-wife’s dog and, quite frankly, has “had enough of bleedin’ wimmin” – we love him!

Moral of this story:

(1) Don’t underestimate the damage one bad tenant can do in an HMO and,

(2) long term HMO tenants are happy to take responsibility for their environment – so give them some cash to make it home and let them choose the household items that make them feel they truly belong.

8 Comments

Filed under Management of an HMO

‘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.

10 Comments

Filed under Management of an HMO, Tenant Stories