Tag Archives: rents

Keeping Track of Rents and a Hot Tip from HMO Landlady

How do YOU track your rent payments?  If you have a few properties, the due dates and tenant names are probably buried in your subconscious to be flagged up on or around the day the payment is due.  However, if you’ve grown your portfolio – be it single lets or multi lets – your poor brain can only cope with so much data as daily To Do lists vie for your attention.

With 34 rooms on the go I don’t need a rent alert – I have an inbuilt one when I enter a room and the rent isn’t there. I have two rent collecting days: Saturday and Monday and for eight years most tenants have become institutionalised enough to know where to leave their rent on which day.  I pick it up, leave a receipt, a copy of which stays in the rent book.  Hardly cutting edge, but the philosophy of “if it ain’t there, you ain’t paid” has served me pretty well and I can make a chase up call within a few seconds.

With the popularity of internet banking, this means more enlightened tenants can set up a standing order to pay weekly, four weekly or monthly and I just spend a few minutes checking them off – but into what?  There’s no point writing a receipt as the proof of payment is on the bank statement so I use an Excel spreadsheet to record payments ready for calculation at the end of the tax year.

Again, this works to a point.  The danger is when a tenant decides to combine the two and pay the rent in cash over the bank counter and, in this instance, my bank won’t allow a reference from the payee.  Anyone unable to set up a standing order or declines the cash collection option, normally has a sporadic approach to paying their rent i.e. they do it when they’ve got enough money and happen to be passing my bank on the way to the pub.  It’s easy to track one or two over the counter cash transactions but any more than that and, to be honest anyone could’ve paid, and I spend time tracking down the tenant and the date the rent was really due – it’s easy to sneak in a free week or two with this method.

The Future?

My partner recently won a contract to let and manage twelve student lets which converts to 64 tenants in addition to all his other single lets.  After a summer of madly getting all the buildings fit for purpose, it became clear that an Excel spreadsheet and monitoring online payments just wasn’t going to cut it – mainly due to the students referencing their payments as “RENT” – no source name and no property reference.  We’ve had evenings of tearing our hair out with frustration, especially as the students were in no hurry to complete any paperwork or make payments until 5 minutes before Fresher’s Week started.

I’d been playing around with the idea of building a database for a while as I’m sure I’d been on an Access course about 25 years ago which is probably when it was first invented.  After f**ting around at the design stage, we conceded to Rent Pro who seemed to have done most of the work that I was trying to achieve already.  It’s not particularly sophisticated in it’s overall look and design but it does the job at £78 a month which is cheaper than getting someone to build a database or dealing with my stress levels.

It’ll throw up overdue rents, rent review dates, AST end dates, landlord reports, property reports and so much more!  However, like anything in life, the information it chucks out is only as good as the data you’ve chucked carefully entered in.  I’m still playing around with its capabilities but each day enlightens me a little more and I can see that I will eventually be able to press a button and it will spew out a property’s latest rent report, making me look fabulously efficient.

Hot Tip

Lastly, I would like to thank The Property Podcast for featuring HMO Landlady on their first Property Investment tips and advice podcast which was broadcast on 2nd October http://thepropertyhub.net/tpp080-property-investment-tips-advice/.  I love podcasts and have been a listener of the Property Podcast since they launched eighteen months ago. I’ve picked up some interesting property nuggets whilst walking the dog or watching the kids at swimming.  These types of podcasts prove that routine tasks can be turned into important information gathering sessions and I like the way Rob Dix and Rob Bence bounce off each other, don’t try to sell unrealistic dreams and sift through all the geeky stuff on the internet to recommend tried and tested resources to their listeners.  Rob Dix is a self confessed geek, is a journalist and landlord by trade – all professions he can do whilst appreciating the beach from any global destination.  Rob Bence, by comparison, is voluntarily tied to the desk of his successful UK based RMP Property and together they are bringing sensible property investment to the ears of the masses such as you and me.

The Property Podcast lasts around 30 minutes and is released on a Thursday

Property Investment Tips  lasts around 15 minutes and is released on a Friday. http://thepropertyhub.net/?powerpress_embed=4814-podcast&powerpress_player=default

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Another Gambling Addict

With half term finally over (which school managed to stretch to a 10 day break) and the children back to learning how to be decent, upstanding citizens, I’ve turned my attention back to HMOs.  My tenants aren’t so well behaved that they stopped locking themselves out of rooms or remembered to pay on time and I’d let my passable organisational skills slip over the holiday, but I’ve bounced back with a whip in one hand and a To Do list in the other.

Andrew

First to screw up his new tenancy is Andrew.  He was the tenant that I predicted to bite me on the bum after being recommended by his work colleague as a suitable tenant for my emotionally rejected but testosterone fuelled lads’ (actually middle aged men) house.  Youngest of them all he soon played the foster child card as an excuse for not knowing how to wash up, flush the loo or realising that revealing your boxer shorts whilst your trousers are tied precariously under your bottom cheeks isn’t a great look when going for a job interview.

Last week he said he’d left his rent for me to collect but my son decided to have a massive tantrum during the rent collection round which meant I was distracted and was so busy dragging him out of the house that I forgot to go into Andrew’s room.  By the time I went back a couple of days’ later it had been spent.  Taking some blame for my folly,  I agreed for him to leave 2 weeks the following Saturday (£180).  Then I forgot again that I was away (took the Sleeper train to Scotland – great trip) and collected all rents a couple of days later by which time there was, of course, no money.  To his credit, he called me into his room, looked up at me with his big, brown eyes, quivering lip and a little tear to add to the effect and confessed to having  gambled away £400 on fruit machines the previous week.

Where To Go From Here?

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve come across this addiction so was able to restrain myself from “Do you know how many shoes/supermarket shops/meals for starving children that money could have bought?” and sternly reminded him that his future was in his hands – go into arrears and get legally evicted or pull yourself together, stop thinking I’m a soft touch and be grateful you actually have a job (albeit a somewhat dodgy one).  Followed by a therapy session, which normally makes grown men cry, he promised to contact Gamblers Anonymous and pay £250 this Saturday.  In the meantime, there is little I can do but have a little faith in him as he’s still in his fixed term period and give him a good talking to which he takes with dignity.  He then went off to pawn his iPad after telling me he didn’t want to end up like his two brothers who’d spent most of their young lives in and out of prison.

Now, I’m not being unsympathetic about the boy/man’s plight (he’s 22 but looks 17) but just because I’m a woman tenants who have developed chaotic lifestyles following their disruptive upbringings always seem to play the “woe is me, nobody has ever loved me” card.  It’s probably true which is how they’ve learnt to say what they think I want to hear in the hope that I’ll feel sorry for them.  I used to cave in but now remind them and myself it’s a tough world out there and with a bit of support it’s possible to survive.

To Conclude

Talking of survival, I have serious doubts over this tenant’s chance in the natural world:

Marco (Polish sommelier for a 5* hotel) “Can you look at my light.  It come, it go, I think it very dangerous”.   Dispatched the builder who made the mistake of hanging around for too long while I took the call and he reported back “It’s the bl**dy bulb!  Couldn’t you have done it?”.  Nope, I’m too busy unlocking rooms and providing free therapy sessions.

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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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