Why I Don’t Do Student Lets

InbetweenersIt’s that time of year when students are waking up to the reality of more studying and getting excited about all the possibilities university has to offer.
In the meantime, landlords of student houses have removed the six month old fish fingers from the oven, (hopefully) painted over the coffee stains on the wall, disposed of the empty booze bottles and taken off the plastic from the new mattresses.
I’m not a fan of student lets. Yes, I know the money is great at up to £110 per week plus bills, but my partner is a letting agent and has taken on the mighty task of turning around 12 student houses in the space of 2 weeks as the landlord insists on 12 month contracts. He’s washed unidentified stains out of curtains, sourced chairs, mended broken furniture and is now best friends with a mattress retailer, a decorator and the carpet cleaning man.
At the end of every summer holidays I see the same student landlords racing around town, paint brush in one hand, screwdriver in the other desperately hoping this intake won’t break the bannisters or pull the kitchen cupboards off the wall. They think I’m mad Continue reading

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Call Me a Cynic, But…….

A fehomeless-man2w weeks ago I visited a wealthy market town and came across a man sitting forlornly in a passageway wearing dirty clothes.  On the floor in front of him was a sign on which he’d scratched the words “Homeless” and an old tobacco tin with a few coppers in it.

I watched with interest as the police chatted to him, well-to-do ladies threw in a pound or two whilst smiling sympathetically having relinquished their guilt and a bohemian dressed girl from the organic, wholefood restaurant across the road gave him some food and a reassuring hug.

All this took place within about half an hour and he hadn’t hurled abuse at anyone so I decided it was my turn to pitch in: he said that a rehoming charity were trying to help him and he’d come to be near his son and wanted to visit him.  I asked if he wanted me to help him find accommodation Continue reading

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Implementing the Immigration Bill by HMO Landlords/ladies

I’ve been reading with great interest details of the Immigration Act which was announced on 14th May 2014 as, once implemented, this will affect all landlords but primarily HMO Landlords.  One of the highlights of the Act is:

“Requiring private landlords to check immigration status of tenants, preventing those with no right to live in the UK from accessing private housing”

Immigration minister, Mark Harper, diplomatically goes on to say “There is no doubt that immigrants have helped make Britain a richer and stronger society, but we must take firm action to address illegal immigration. Continue reading

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Who Says Being A Landlord Isn’t Sexy?

Being an HMO Landlord/Landlady can hardly be ranked as one of the sexiest professions in the world.  Between managing tenant conflict, dealing with cleaning issues and mending unidentifiable leaks, not to mention fielding desperate phone calls, daft questions and all the admin goes with it, there are some lighter sides.  Take just some of these texts sent to me over the last year.

No response required!

Text 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Randy Plumber?!

Text 1a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text 1b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Continue reading

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Keeping Your HMO Looking Lovely Part 2

As someone interested in HMOs and property, are you being bombarded with emails about property dreams and success?  Amongst all the talk of yields and hot spot analysis, creative deals and finance, notice that day to day running costs are often evaded.  Oh, they’ll tell you to factor in agents’ fees, insurance and refurbishment expenses, but HMOs’  maintenance costs go one step further eating into your bottom line.

Once tenants have moved into a flat or house as a single let, your job is pretty much done save for collecting the rent and dealing with any repairs.  Once tenants have moved into an HMO, the babysitting duties begin.  Take, for example, yesterday: on the usual rent collecting round I found teetering piles of dirty dishes on the worktop which is a big no no (House Rule#3 Always Wash Your Dishes).  As the tenants are often too scared of petty conflict to confront the perpetrator, I sent the normal text round asking the owner to wash up within 24 hours.  Kenza texted back to admit it was hers but she couldn’t wash up “because the kitchen light, it has fallen off”. 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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British Gas Engineer Escapes Unhurt

Before Christmas I received a friendly letter from British Gas asking me to contact them to arrange an electricity meter change at James Street as it had come to the “end of its life”.  It lingered at the bottom of my in-tray until I was ready to spend a quiet afternoon on the phone listening to elevator music.  However, the call went surprisingly quickly and we made an appointment for a few weeks later.

At the next rent collection/coffee/gossip stop at the house I asked if anyone was going to be around for the four hour window to wait in for the engineer.  Sarah  said she’d only let him in if it was a straight swap i.e. standard dumb meter for dumb meter as opposed to the installation of a smart meter.  The word “smart” hadn’t been mentioned during the call or in the letter so I assumed it would be the dumb one.  A few days before the meter change, an email was sent to me saying that BG were looking forward to making my life a million times better with the forthcoming Smart Meter installation.

I went back to Sarah who, quite frankly, went berserk.  To be fair, she was active at the anti-fracking protests and I have a feeling I saw a mild version of her pro-environmental passion.  I called BG again to ask why this was the first I’d heard of it when the call handler said it was for gas AND electricity AND at a completely different address!  Well, by now, I had the distinct feeling that something fishy was going on so said I hadn’t received any communication about the other house.  “Oh well” she said “whilst you’re on the phone, I’ll book smart meter installations there too”.

“Er, no you won’t” I replied.  “If I’m being offered something so brilliant that it’ll change my life and it’s free, I want to know more”.  During all this, Sarah risked her life accessing the wi-fi to print off information about smart meters and, whether it’s true or not, here is a summary of why many people don’t want them in their homes:

  • Smart meters monitor, measure and communicate private electricity, gas and water usage data to utility providers
  • They transmit intense bursts of microwave radiation (known as RF EMF) 24 hours a day – the same kind as emitted by mobile phone masts
  • More than 5000 studies show RF EMF radiation is harmful to humans, plants and animals
  • Utilities will become available to energy companies and any potential hackers at a moment’s notice even allowing the providers to disconnect their services without entry to the property
  • UK Government has said Smart meters will cost tax payers £11bn for estimated savings of just £25 per home/year – and that saving only possible if customers change their behaviour and have TWO Smart Meters

(Information provided by www.stopsmartmeters.org.uk)

By the time the engineer turned up, Sarah had cancelled her dentist appointment to be there, put up three “Do Not Install Smart Meter” signs on the front door, meter box and hallway and was ready and waiting to not only inspect the equipment he was installing but checking he hadn’t sneakily attached any smart devices.  To my knowledge, he was eventually allowed to leave peacefully…… and in one piece.

On The Other Hand

As you know, I like to give a balanced article so in contradiction to our belief that the meter company (acting under the British Gas banner) is trying its damnedest to dish out cancer and other nasties, the lovely call handlers this morning saved me from a long, drawn out heart attack.

I’m involved in a new project which involves moving the gas and electricity meters a few feet to an external wall.  So imagine our surprise when we opened the shiny new gas meter box only to find no bl**dy meter! In past experience, the engineers simply moved the meter and hooked the supply back up again.  Apparently, that simple, clever system stopped ages ago and you now have to contact your supplier to disconnect the meter, book another company to relocate it, another to dig up the road if need be and your supplier to come back to reconnect the supply.  Experienced pros will know to book all these on the same day and preferably in the right order.  For some reason, I didn’t receive or read that bit of advice so this morning had a plumber with no gas supply and a builder about to lose his electricity supply as the “digging gang” had turned up to look for electrical wires in the middle of a busy street.

Two hours and eight phone calls later, Yarin from British Gas took me under his wing, played “Greensleeves” to calm me down whilst he put me on hold and assured me in his silky tones that all was in hand and an engineer would turn up in the morning to disconnect the meter, actually engage in some kind of meaningful conversation with the “installation gang” from the other company then set a time to come back and ensure a wonderful fast, capacious and efficient phase 3 electrical supply.

This house is round the corner from Sarah’s so let’s hope the engineer doesn’t find a spare smart meter in his van just to get me back.

However, This IS Smart!

If you haven’t discovered it yet, I recommend the British Gas mobile app which allows you to enter meter readings on site.  I used to write all the meter reads down on the back of an envelope and try to decipher which house the numbers belonged to.

British Gas app

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