Tag Archives: rent arrears

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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2012 Looking Positive for Tenants!

For the last 5 years January has tended to be a month of tenant depression and apathy.  Casual work is near existent or thin on the ground, most were paid before Christmas so have had to survive an extra 1 or 2 weeks or, as in most cases, it was all spent during Christmas and New Year.  Typically, I’ll have at least 3 tenants starting the month with “Err, can’t pay the rent because [delete as appropriate] I needed to get my girlfriend a very expensive present/I wanted a top of the range mobile/dunno, just don’t have any”.  It’s OK, I budget for this and they usually catch up by the end of the February [if they want to stay!].

But not this year!  Maybe it’s the winter sunshine, maybe it’s because no one can sink any lower in terms of job prospects or maybe they realise the Government training schemes won’t give them a job and they’ll have to do it all by themselves.  The recession in 2008 seemed to hit my tenants first – no longer able to pass themselves off as builders, kitchen fitters or painters as they did in the boom years due to plenty of work and a shortage of decent, qualified people to do it.   Four years of moaning about “this bl**dy country” and no jobs for the unskilled, yet not a peep about the rising cost of beer, they’ve had to learn to be more creative with their job search.

David has finally got himself a retail job in a health food shop (a complete antithesis of all he believes in!), Nadine has become involved in setting up a drug rehabilitation project to further her volunteering skills, Justin’s doing well at his new charity job selling subscriptions on the street and Zitomir (the mad Czech) has been working hard doing “security” and been very quiet after inviting my children to meet his non-English speaking children and “perhaps we could turn it into a date?” idea.  Even Tom is fired up with a new project: having realised he’s not very employable but has some creative skills he’s going to renovate unwanted furniture and sell it on.  I’ve given him a couple of pieces to start with and told him to research the local vintage shops (which are springing up all over) and Ebay.  In fact, Ebay is a bit difficult due his lack of computer skills and, er, computer.  I suggested he gave a house mate 10% of the profits to list any pieces for him.

Alas, the same cannot be said for my Romanian Border Guard.  His command of English is outstanding, his work ethic beyond reproach and he’s always well presented.  He’s desperate to get a card that allows him to work legitimately in the UK, rather than the 4 hours cleaning a day he does at the moment, his paperwork is in order, but the powers-that-be have refused to grant him the necessary permit.  He says that, according to his compatriots in London, it’s because he’s Romanian and the UK Government have issued an order, just before Christmas, not to give any Romanian nationals the right to work here.

On another note: according to the tenants, CSCS cards (permits that allow one to work in the building trade) can be bought from a bloke in the pub for £110.  Alternatively, you can be conventional by studying  the Health and Safety manual and take it up to 3 times free of charge!

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Am I Really Guilty of Breaking the Law?

Landlord Law Blog posted an article about rent books this week which I read with a mixture of interest and guilt.  Since falling into running HMOs I’ve been vaguely aware that it’s a legal requirement for landlords to provide rent books to tenants who pay on a weekly basis.

About once a year I think “I must provide rent books so I don’t get thrown into jail” but the following questions always nag me:

  1. How often will my tenant remember where their rent book is?
  2. Will they remember to leave it out with their rent each week?  I’ve spent years training them to leave their rent in a conspicuous place and don’t enjoy rifling through their underwear drawers or bedside tables to look for it (with their permission!)
  3. How often will I have to replace their rent books when they’ve lost them thereby losing their record of payments from the beginning of their tenancy?
  4. Who’s going to tell me off for not providing them?

I’m not being glib about the need for a record of payments, just about the method.  Maybe the tenants have total trust in me or maybe it’s ignorance but all they care about is that the cash is handed over to me and I provide the accommodation.  I issue a receipt for each payment received, a date for when the next rent is due and, if they’re short or overpay, it’s all recorded in duplicate so we both know where we stand.  Then, I don’t care if they wipe their noses on the receipt, use it instead of a Rizla or file it for safekeeping because my master book has all the payment records for all tenants dating back to the beginning of my landlord career (in case the Inland Revenue want a fascinating read!).

If a tenant is struggling to keep up to date with their rent, I’ll issue a rent statement showing their payment record which also goes onto their file so I can keep track of bad debt for accounting purposes.  Now, if all this sounds like I enjoy being organised – I don’t and have to force myself to stick a book keeping head on for an hour a week.  One tenant’s rent arrears statement runs into three pages when he got into trouble a couple of years ago.  I’m desperate for him to catch up just to save on ink!

The solution, of course, is to get everyone to pay monthly by standing order (excuse me whilst I pick myself up off the floor!) but then we’d miss doing what we do best – having a weekly gossip and catch up.  P.S.  I shall concede defeat and provide proper rent books in case any readers are planning to report me to………………….?

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