Tag Archives: tenants

Stupid Conversations

Any job dealing with the general public puts you in the firing line of negative communication – unfortunately, 90% of it is beyond daft and probably 10% has any validity which you can work with.

Here are some recent gems:

1. Prospective Tenant

Me:  Why do you want to live in a room?

Tenant: I’m working for Easyjet and buying them 80 planes this month and the Government owes me £1m when I invoice them.  I’m also going to buy 1000 Continue reading

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Implementing the Immigration Bill

The phone rings late one night last week.  It’s Erica, sobbing hysterically down the phone in broken English that her new husband, Harry, had been taken into custody and she didn’t know what to do.

Harry and Erica married last month; she’s Polish in her late thirties and he’s Indian in his mid twenties.  She swears to me it’s mad, impulsive, passionate love and he just smiles and nods in agreement.  They’re hard working, quiet, pleasant and an asset to the house and, quite frankly, anyone who can put up with binge drinking Tom and not moan to me about it, becomes a star tenant.

The story goes that Harry and two friends had been walking down the street that night. On spotting a police car, they pulled their hoodies over their heads and dashed into Ladbrokes.  The police watched as the men wandered 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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Yet Another Wake Up Call

Do you remember me telling you in past posts to REFERENCE CHECK YOUR TENANTS by whatever means possible?  I don’t waste the money on credit checks as most of my charges would fail miserably, so usually turn to past landlords, work or family members (if they’ve never rented or worked).  I’ve even checked them out with their probation officer, housing support worker and the agent at the Job Centre – then considered their interview, checked their answers matched the ones on the phone (liars always forget their first answer) and consulted my gut.

If you’ve read my book, you’ll see there’s a Tenant Information Form in there purposefully laid out on one side so the tenant can’t “forget” to complete the information on the reverse.  If they want the room, this is the first piece of paper they MUST complete before the referencing can commence.

99% of the time I practice what I preach.  However, as you read in my last post, I had one more room to sell after two weeks of 14 tenants moving or leaving and I was riding high on the success rate.  One more room sold meant I could ignore unknown numbers, avoid telephone interviewing whilst watching the kids at swim club, and not have to slow the car down long enough to throw them into the house before going off to conduct a viewing.

The Wake Up Call

Paul was quite posh, involved in setting up his father-in-law’s call centre, he needed a room temporarily.  His girlfriend seemed nice, he didn’t pounce desperately on the room and appeared to consider its pros and cons, came up with the deposit and rent, shook my hand and acquainted himself with the other lads.  After all, no one with anything to hide would live in a house with CCTV, right?

The first warning was two days later when Anthony called to say Paul had woken everyone up at 4am, crashed around the kitchen then went upstairs to throw up all over the bathroom floor before going to bed.  An odd way to ingratiate himself into the household, but hoped it was a one off.  A day later Simon called to say the police had woken him up at 3.45am by shining their torches through his bedroom window (it’s downstairs, they’re not the Flying Squad) looking for Paul.  I contacted him to ask for an explanation to which he coolly replied that the alarms had gone off at work and he was the only keyholder (my God, he’s good!).  The next day (Friday) another two officers appeared and tried to arrest poor Serghei as he came out of the bathroom and only let him go once he’d found some ID and apparently screamed like a girl.  Sitting at another kids club (those without children, consider yourself lucky that you get to go to the pub at 7pm on a Friday night) Anthony called to say he really didn’t like the new guy and why does he wear a hoody with the hood up when wandering round the house?  I said I’d talk to him when I visited the following day.

Went home, finally got the longed for wine and the phone goes again at 10.30pm.  This time five officers, looking for an excuse to the kick the door down, turned up intent on catching their prey.  After they left empty handed, I called my friendly copper who obligingly collected the keys from me to hand to the Night Custody Sergeant thereby avoiding any need for the Boys In Blue to flex their muscles on the new front door.

The following morning, I found a note from Paul to apologise his rent wasn’t there, he’d lost his phone, but he’d been called away and he’d pay me next week, but perhaps I’d like to email him?  At that moment, another two officers arrived (if I was a girl into uniformed men I would have been in heaven by this point!).  It turned out he was wanted on a recall to prison but they couldn’t tell me what for (good old data protection) despite clutching no less than four pages of criminal activity reports (he’s only 26!) and they strongly advised me to have someone else with me when I met him.

They left, promising to return, and I surveyed his scarce possessions and nine empty wine bottles.  I emailed him and said that as we both know this has got bugger all to do with keyholder duties, could he let me know what was going on?  He replied that he was up on a charge of rape, had gone into hiding and received an email from the police checking he was OK and could he present himself at a police station to ensure his safety as he had been found at a well known suicide spot.  Unfortunately for the police, he wasn’t falling for it and resolutely stayed under their radar.

Tom, to his dismay, had been absent during all of this as he’s been in his new job for three weeks and we’re very proud.  He asked why I’d chosen Paul because “I didn’t like the look of ‘im from the moment I met ‘im.  I ‘ave a sixth sense about these things and I’ve never been wrong, ‘ave I darlin’?”, I replied that he had been too sensible for too long and thought Paul could be a bit of sport for him.   We decided to look at the CCTV recordings to check if he really did wear a hoody to go to the loo.  When the builder saw him he said “I know him!  I saw him dragging my neighbour’s daughter down the street by her hair last year”.  You see, he may have been wearing a hoody, but he forgot to put on a face mask – not that bright after all.

His details have now been uploaded to the excellent Landlord Referencing Service website which lifestyle references tenants and reveals details no credit report ever could.  It’s simple to use, reasonably priced and the more landlords who upload tenant details, the less chance we have of unwittingly becoming the next victim.  (You can also upload your good tenants too). Please note that I have no financial interest in this company, but support its aim.

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HMO Landlady Returns

And…. I’m back! Apologies for the lack of writing but I’ve been waylaid by a family bereavement and, suffice to say, I make a better Landlady than I do a personal carer or nurse.

So what happened to my tenants during these last few months? Well, nothing. It could be down to the brilliant, systemised approach I’ve set up or the years of training to turn them into responsible, independent tenants. According to them, however, they appreciated that their issues paled into insignificance when they found out that I was reinventing myself as Florence Nightingale.

I properly went back to work this week to find that five tenants handed in their notice due to moving jobs, returning to ex wives and an altercation with a fellow Pole who refuses to learn enough English to swear at the other tenants coherently.

The one I shall miss the most is Greg. His girlfriend is pregnant which means he’ll have three different children by three different women. The latest one has been physically and mentally abusing him, daring him to hit back so she can report him (again) to the police for domestic abuse – all because he refuses to move in with her. In our phone call today he’s decided to relocate with his job and get a vasectomy. To be honest, he’s so good looking I’d probably let him make ME pregnant!

One HMO is rapidly turning into a convalescent home: one tenant has had a cancerous mole removed, another is suffering from the side effects of her post cancer drugs and another is losing so much weight he’s finally yielded to our nagging and having urgent tests done to find a diagnosis.

With no late night calls, lock outs or absence of rent payments I was starting to think I’d become surplus to my own business.  Even the people answering advertisements have jobs, can sell themselves over the phone and understand the concept of a deposit without a single sob story up their sleeve.  All became normal when Tom said I’d better watch out for the new guy, Chris, who’s a well known local alcoholic and I shouldn’t be housing him. Which is ironic really, as he’d been recommended to me by his housing mate from the Council who had withheld any information other than “he’s a nice guy”. He’s a lovely guy, but at least it explains why his face has been covered in scratches and bruises for the last three weeks.

A Polish lady came for a room viewing today which was great until the only English words she recognised were “Hello” and “Internet”. In desperation we turned to Google Translate which worked brilliantly from English to Polish but not the other way round due to the English keyboard. Suffice to say it was a one way conversation and I still don’t know if she wants the room.

So, what’s for the future? Well, I’m about to start a project to turn a three storey house into a flat and four bedsits and wondering which child I shall have to sell to fund the work; I had a narrow escape from BBC1’s  “Meet The Landlords” where I ended up on the cutting room floor in favour of HMO Daddy and I’ve also received an exciting opportunity to write for another website.

Before I go, I had a lovely question from someone asking what software I used to keep track of rents. I had to reply that I use the simple record keeping of “if it ain’t there, they ain’t paid”. Perhaps one day I’ll have enough time to adopt a systemised technological approach beyond my faithful carbon receipt book.

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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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A Week In HMO Land

Too many events have taken place over the last few weeks to concentrate on just one for this post, so I’ll give you the headliners on what’s been happening in HMO Land.

It started with Adam going AWOL (Absent Without Leave) on me so I ended having to contact his mum to check on his safety.  His Facebook updates told me he was still alive and having fun but, for some reason, he neglected to read my notes, texts and listen to my calls.  Mum obviously got hold of him and he was gracious enough to do a midnight flit leaving his keys on the bed along with a couple of odd smelly socks and discarded packaging of a new phone and number – the lengths some tenants go to in order to avoid me!

Abandoned In The Cold

Then Gareth called in tears – he’d been woken that morning to give his girlfriend a lift into town from her house.  Dressed only in his boxers and T shirt, he grabbed his keys and she ordered him to drive to his houseshare and threw him out of the car with the parting words “You’re dumped!”.   Shivering on a snowy pavement, his bottom lip quivering with the effects of such unforeseen rejection, he called to ask me to collect his belongings from her house.  Not sure it’s in the Landlord’s Guide Book, but I sympathised, laughed and went to get them.  Mainly because his bank cards were in his bags and at least I had an outside charge of being paid his rent arrears.

Gareth then wanted to share his glee in getting a job interview but didn’t possess anything smart enough.  My partner kindly lent him a pair of trousers and I gave him a food package all in the hope that he can start earning some money.  In the meantime, he’s been adopted by a stray cat who is refusing to leave.

It’s Girls!!

Finally, we’ve got some girls!  Nice, working and pretty – the boys have been instructed to be on best behaviour and not to attempt any kind of drunken shenanigans.  Gareth called shortly after “Man, you’re killing me!  I’m heartbroken, desperate for a cuddle and you’ve put these two girls in the house with instructions that I’m not allowed near them.  That’s just unfair.” No, I think it’s a fair risk assessment.

Refuge for the Abused?

I’ve had a small single room vacant for a while as the house is a sensitive one and extremely quiet so only the most well behaved person would do.  Along comes Mark, a gas heating engineer (handy!).  When I asked why he had a huge gash across his forehead he said his girlfriend had hit him a couple of days ago.  “Blimey, she must have thrown you a good punch” I said.  “Oh no”, he replied “She picked up a bit of wood and whacked me with it”.  “Oh, what did you do to deserve that?”  “I don’t know, which is why I want to move before she does something else.”  Perhaps he needs to read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”.

Wild Card

And, lastly, my wild card.  I met Stan this afternoon who was upfront about his needing to claim LHA and his Nan had kindly offered the deposit and rent in advance (it’s great when someone loves them enough to help out).  He’s been sofa surfing and staying at the Downs “The Downs? I’ve never heard of that organisation.” I said.  “No” he replied “The D-O-W-N-S.  Those hills with grass on them.” “Oh, the South Downs! Bet that’s cold.”

So, off he’s gone to fill out the Tenant Information Form, get the proof from BHT (Brighton Housing Trust) that he’s been homeless so it can accompany his claim form and I’ll receive direct payment of his LHA (without having to beg for it)

Narrowly Missed

A policeman has  been referred to me who wants a room but  hasn’t returned my calls.

When I asked Tom what he thought of Stan he said “Hey, I ain’t judging no one.” So when I asked if he’d prefer to have a copper in the house he laughed “Well, I ain’t got nothing to hide but I bet the others wouldn’t be happy.”  Hmmm, a new method of voluntary eviction perhaps?!!

Interview for Property Tribes at The Landlord Law Conference

Last Friday Tessa held a Landlord Law Conference, part of Easy Law Training.  It was an informative and hands on day for landlords and agents.  She has kindly invited me to talk at an HMO course which she’s putting together on 23rd May 2013.  In the meantime, if you want to hear more about running HMOs here’s a short interview by Vanessa Warwick of Property Tribes.

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