Tag Archives: tenants

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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