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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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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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