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 around the shop looking lost and so they drove their police car down the road.  Sensing the all clear, the men left Ladbrokes, carried on walking, spotted the car again and slipped into a newsagent.  At this point, the police felt they just had to stop them for a friendly chat and find out why their acting skills as insomniac gamblers nipping out for a newspaper had failed them so badly.

All three were wanted on immigration charges and one had eluded the authorities for over 13 years.  Harry was released early as his papers were with his solicitor following the marriage and, as the story could be corroborated by his panic stricken wife, they saw no sense in providing a B&B service at the Custody Centre……the other two were kept overnight.

The following day, the very same copper who had arrested them happened to be booked to clean the carpets in all the houses (his second job and he’s very good at it).  Poor Harry came out of his room, found his arresting policeman on the stairs and ran back into his room, terrified.  I was at the house at the time and calmed him down long enough to make him understand that policemen work hard too – and can have other jobs.

£3,000 Fine

“If this had happened after February 2016, would you be demanding a £3,000 fine from me for giving a tenancy to an illegal immigrant?” I asked Simon, the policeman/carpet cleaner.  “Eh?  Why?”  he replied.

“Because from February 2016 landlords will have to check the immigration status of tenants to see if they have a right to rent.”  I said

“Don’t know about that. All I know is we have to document and photograph them and tell them to make their own way to the Immigration Centre in Croydon, before showing them the door. The Centre can process them IF they turn up.”

So, here’s my question:  if the police aren’t going to fine me under this new Immigration Bill/ Right To Rent, do they report us landlords to the Home Office and we await a fine (presuming the landlord is authority-fearing like me and has given legitimate contact details) or do they pop a Post It note in the illegal’s top pocket with the landlord’s name to be found when they reach the Immigration Centre?

Lining Them Up

In the meantime, I’ve found out what dominatrix Linda gets up to in her spare time when she’s not torturing consenting men.  She’s been corresponding with prisoners in the US and whilst she’s been out of town, her post has been piling up.  When she gets home she can look forward to letters from gentlemen residing at places such as:

Oregon Department of Corrections

Fort Federation Correction Institute

Airway Heights Correction Centre

Gatesville, Texas Correct Centre

Let’s hope they don’t all turn up on the doorstep after February 2016 otherwise I’m going to be facing a crippling penalty fine!

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Insuring Your HMO (And Other Precious Items!)

The end of the year heralds house insurance renewal. Every year I promise to apply myself, compare quotes and wallow for the next year in the knowledge that I’ve secured the most competitive deal.

The reality is, when the broker calls I groan with resignation and tell him just to get on with it. As he flicked through his computer information on my claim history, he came out with “Oooo, aren’t you a good client? You haven’t made any claims in the last 4 years so it’ll be easy to get you a good quote”.

“Excellent!” said I “And if I HAD claimed in the last 4 years I presume my quote would have risen to affect the amount paid out?”


“Well, yes, that can be a problem” he replied.

Me: “And that’s why I don’t claim. Find me a quote, don’t bore me with the details and just let me know the telephone number for when a house burns down”.

However, how many houses do actually burn down? With HMOs, we are rightly governed by so many fire risk assessments and regulations that, according to my recent chat with a man in uniform, “you can stand in the hallway for 30 minutes without a fire affecting you”. Great, so I’ve informed all tenants that, should a candle set light to the curtains or a cigarette get lost under the duvet cover, come out of the room calmly, stand in the hallway and enjoy the safety the firedoors, smokestrips and fire retardant plasterboard I give you.

Later, whilst chatting to a friend, she asked that, if I’ve never made a claim, why bother with insurance? I explained that with HMOs there is ALWAYS the possibility of a fire.  Especially when the tenants take it upon themselves to put sellotape over the fire alarms or, to my eternal amazement, ignore the backup low battery signal which emits every 30 seconds.

So, it doesn’t matter how well maintained the house is, how many fire precautions are in place or how many baths you replace with showers to prevent flooding, are you willing to risk your cash on the odds of an unforeseen event happening which costs more than the insurance premiums?

So this year I’m leaving a well known insurance broker due to lack of customer service and unacceptably high levels of marketing emails and switching to The Home Insurer.  They understand the nature of HMOs and, from my research, seem to pretty much insure anything else.  I’m also giving their number to my tenants for quotes as it turns out quite a few of them do actually insure their room contents!  (They’re also human beings, very experienced insurers and don’t give in if the computer says “No”).  Click the link or give them a call on 0800 612 5764 and let me know how you get on.

On another note of insurance, the police turned up to take a statement following the case of Simon, his friend, a night out and a broken window. After checking that I hadn’t given permission for the friend to chuck a flowerpot through the window in October, he gave me the crime number for “insurance purposes”. I laughed and said – “Unlikely, Officer!” We’ve settled for a community order whereby, should the police find the young man involved he’s under instruction to pay me the cost of the repair. When I told Simon he replied, “Sod that, I’ve already told his girlfriend I’m going to kick his head in when I next see him”.

There’s nothing like a bit of civil justice, eh?

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Benefit Tenants – The Reality of When It Goes Wrong

You may remember a few months ago I told you the story of Joe who turned up on the doorstep, courtesy of a friend, with pennies in his pocket and a cat called Bill.

His accommodation story has now ended; after being awarded the local housing allowance of £67 a week and various promises of being able to afford the £33 a week top up, Joe received his benefit and managed to spend the lot. Various texts, telephone conversations and letters ensued to which he replied with protestations that he’d been to the bank and paid up. He progressed to a raft of excuses relating to poorly relatives and his own mental health issues, ending up at the “nobody likes me any more, I have nothing to live for” attitude. Eventually, he admitted he’d spent the lot.

But what on? He didn’t look like he was into drugs, drink or gambling but consistently never had any money. Eventually, even the cat got fed up of him and left the house last week and hasn’t been seen since. His housing worker and friend finally persuaded him to give up the room, leave the telly I’d bought and the keys and take up a work offer abroad before I submitted court papers under a Section 8 notice.

On clearing out the room I found out what he’d been spending his money on – SHOES! Pairs and pairs of shoes but none worth having despite us having the same foot size.

Eviction Looming

The current case we’re working on is that of 3 friends all claiming LHA who moved into a 3 bed house. Within a month they’d fallen out with each other (having been friends for over 20 years) and one of them left after the fixed period; they couldn’t find a replacement because they weren’t talking to each other and can’t leave because no other landlord wants the remaining two. They now have their Possession Order dated for next week and their benefit payments have been stopped.

I recently watched an interesting interview with Vanessa from Property Tribes and Kent landlord, Fergus Wilson. He said in one of the videos (you may need to watch both) that he doesn’t believe it’s up to the PRS to house the poor and needy (or in my case, mentally needy). At first I was shocked but after listening to his reasoning and based on my own experience, I’m actually starting to agree that the majority of the PRS landlords are simply not geared up to handle the social issues which accompany those tenants who don’t have a support network and are not mentally or mobility impaired enough to qualify for Supported Housing.

Those landlords like me who are happy to take a chance on someone claiming Housing Benefit are left out in the cold. When Joe’s rent was eight weeks’ in arrears I followed procedure and applied to the council for his benefit to be paid directly to me. At the same time, I emailed the council to find out whether they would act to home the 2 sitting tenants upon receipt of the Possession Order, the expiry date on the Order or when the bailiffs turn up to evict them. To date I have received absolutely no response. (But I’d rather say “Sweet F.A.”.

So, what will bring the plight of those not bright or able enough to hold down a tenancy in the PRS to the attention of the Government? The councils are fully aware of the scarcity of housing and prioritise need based on a banding system but even those people at the top of the waiting list spend their days with their fingers cross to find a secure base to call home. We’re based in Eastbourne and are lucky to have numerous promenade shelters and benches overlooking the sea . Perhaps when these are full and the octogenarian tourists from Up North, on their morning constitution, trip over the unfortunates and their empty cans of Special Brew, someone may raise a cautious hand in protest.

Keeping The Faith

Will I take a chance on a housing benefit tenant again? Of course I will. I like diversity in the HMOs and someone needs to be at home to put out the bins, let the plumber in and give a damn about the house. In fact, I’ve just offered a tenancy to a lovely 28 year old girl with a muscular disease who is currently sofa surfing which exacerbates her condition. She used to work in an office, shared a flat with a friend and was then struck down with this ongoing illness. Suddenly no one wanted to offer her a tenancy after her friend sold the flat. She’s ill enough to qualify for a PIP (Personal Independent Payment) and ESA (Employment Support Allowance) but not ill enough for Supported Housing. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place – that goes for both of us.


Filed under Management of an HMO, Tenant Stories

Confessions of a Tenant

One great upside to this landlord business is how it puts you in touch with people you’d probably never encounter.  I’ve met tenants with a variety of hobbies from body building and fishing to alcohol and drug abuse and a bit blackmailing on the side.  Never, ever, though have I come across Linda’s hobby in either a social or professional capacity.

Linda is 55 years old and a Dominatrix – she doesn’t get paid otherwise this would be classed as prostitution.  The confession came about yesterday after she asked for a bigger room to accommodate her newly acquired wooden Cross.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “What, a crucifix?  Are you very religious?  There’s a church over the road with loads of them”

Linda: “No, it’s a special cross to put people on but I only want to store it here, not use it” Continue reading

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This Student Needs Help

As you may know I’m not much of a fan of students, having witnessed first hand their inability to change a lightbulb or ensure their guarantor completes the correct forms BEFORE collecting the keys.  But today a very nice young lady called Aliya contacted me through the blog asking for help from HMO Landlords.  She’s finishing her dissertation on energy providers for HMOs which needs to be completed by Friday 14th August and she has had little response to the numerous emails she’s sent out.  Hey, could it be the subject matter that has failed to arouse the email recipients?!

She’s not selling anything, just trying to get some answers so please back her and lets get her the data she needs to put together something factual and convincing to pass.  The survey will take no more than a minute, if you’re quick, and can be found here:

Your responses will hopefully absolve me of all the disparaging comments I’ve ever made about students especially in this post I wrote last year and, on behalf of Aliya, I thank you.

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Free To A Good Home: One (Almost) House Trained Tenant

Arrgh!  I first began this blog as a form of therapy to offload some of the ridiculousness of human nature which us landlords come across on a daily basis.  Thankfully over the last couple of years I’ve either become a better judge of character or God threw me some decent, independent, rent paying tenants just to give me a break.

Throughout the blog posts, Tom has appeared on a regular basis as either the cause of some unacceptable behaviour or as an inspiration with his unique quotes.  On average, every 6 months he goes off the rails, gets blind drunk and throws his not inconsiderable weight around the house and is completely oblivious the next day of anything which occurred 12 hours earlier.  I have a rant at him, produce the evidence and issue yet another Section 21.

He’s been a tenant for 8 years and I’m now convinced he suffers from a learning difficulty and is unable to interpret people, emotions or social situations.  He’s nearly 50 and conditions such as dyspraxia, autism, ADHD, etc. weren’t acknowledged or diagnosed when he was young to the extent they are today.  I’m also convinced that is why he drinks – it’s never at home, always in a pub and he’s always the first to buy someone else a drink.  He has a “friend” who can mend a phone, operate a lawnmower, do a deal on a laptop  or window cleaning but these “friends” never visit, never have a name and are nowhere to be seen on Christmas Day.  When he has only loose change in his pocket, he always makes sure there’s food in the fridge and his sheets and clothes are pressed, the house is spotless and he loves to help out other housemates. This can go on for weeks on end and he has never, ever once been late with his rent top up.

Then, he obtains some cash from somewhere, goes to the pub, comes home with or without a police escort and without provocation becomes so angry the other housemates are scared as he bashes his way round the hall and upstairs to bed.  They’re lucky if he doesn’t p**s himself along the way.  They all say the same thing – what a wonderful, kind man sober, but an incontrollable nightmare when drunk.

According to Tom, he’s been in the Army, worked in the scaffolding and security businesses and run warehouses but I’ve glimpsed his CV and he’s been unable to hold down a job for more than a few months since school.  As someone once said “Run a warehouse?  He can hardly run a bath”.

At the beginning of the year I was at the end of my tether as to what to do with him after he set off the fire alarm thinking it was the light switch.  I contacted social services for advice as I deem him on the verge of vulnerable if evicted as he was previously homeless before he came to me.  I didn’t get a response.  I know the council are under far too much pressure finding housing for those people for whom they have a legal responsibility and as a single man with no dependants, he won’t be entitled to any sheltered housing.

I have no idea what will happen to him or how this particular situation will end but I do know that I’m sorely tempted to wrap Tom up in a blanket one night, place him in a moses basket with a bottle of whisky and a note with his name and NI number and leave him on the doorstep of the council’s housing department to be discovered the next morning.

Have you booked your place on Easy Law Training’s courses yet?  We’re running an Essential Legal Points for Landlords workshop on Thursday 24th September 2015 in Winchester, Hampshire and HMO Law and Practice workshop on Thursday 8th October 2015 in Maidstone, Kent.  Click the links to book.


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No Home Comforts for Those on Housing Benefits

I’m reluctant to publish guest posts, but this excellent article written for me by Alex Murray of Safesite Facilities neatly encapsulates my experience on the front line of accommodating housing benefit tenants. There’s an additional, heart warming story at the end to prove landlords aren’t all inflexible, greedy sods.

No Home Comforts for Those on Housing Benefits

When “non-smokers only” started appearing in property-to-let listings in the UK, it was widely acknowledged as positive action which directly reflected the attitudes of British society and its wish to be free from the stench and alleged ill-effects of smoking.

Fast forward to 2014.  Although “non-smokers only” still appears, another two words, which first crept in during 2008, have begun to take prevalence.  Again, two little words which are accommodation-ad specific, but once more seem to represent the attitudes of a society  seeking to free itself from something seen as negative, pervasive and pernicious:

“no benefits.”

Sadly though, this advertisement addendum is far from a positive reflection on 2014’s British landlords and society.

How did it come to this?

Since the coalition came to power, the days of government and public benevolence or relative even-handedness towards those claiming benefits have been numbered.  Along with the government, much of the British media have stood in line to condemn benefit seekers as “lazy” or “scroungers” whilst fly-on-the-wall documentaries such as Benefits Street seek to demonstrate to the remaining public who display a live-and-let-live attitude towards others that they might be misguided in not jumping on the judgement band-waggon; after all, an alternative programme title might have reflected the difficult cycles some vulnerable families find themselves trapped in, but no, Channel 4 chose Benefits Street.

After the frosty reception which greeted their plans for the Bedroom Tax and the on-going disability benefits and ATOS Work Capability Assessments (as in don’t give ATOS) debacle, the government then rolled out its Universal Credit scheme nationally in October 2013.  This scheme replaces, amongst others, the long-standing housing benefit and involves making single monthly payments directly to claimants.  From this, claimants are expected to make their own rent payments direct to their landlords.

Government Assurances – for the Landlords

Although the government is adamant that Universal Credit gives landlords greater protection from tenants who fail to pay – review of payments kicks in after just one month of arrears – this hasn’t been enough for landlords.

A recent survey, conducted by, revealed that landlords have lacked confidence in the government’s systems for handling benefits, largely since the introduction of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) within the housing benefit system, in 2008.  This change, which also allowed payments to go direct to tenants, was identified by 88% of landlords as having a negative impact on their businesses, through late payments and damage to their property.

With their confidence, revenue and portfolios already shaken from LHA, 6 out of 10 landlords (57%) state that they now refuse to accept tenants on benefits.  Of those landlords still willing to take housing benefit claimants as tenants, over half plan to will stop when Universal Credits become fully functional (around 2016) and several large property investors, including Kent property tycoon Fergus Wilson, have already served eviction notices on current benefit-claiming tenants, as reported by the BBC.

Assurances for the benefit claimants?  Anybody?

With low levels of social housing stock, eviction notices in hand, the “no benefits” banner across the rental sector and the benefit shakeup generally causing unknowns for those finding themselves claiming benefits (including reliable, responsible, hard-working families and pensioners), what hope is there for those relying both on benefits to make ends meet and the rental sector for a roof over their heads?

In truth, not much.

Whilst the landlords can gain the same (if not more) money by letting their properties on the open market, housing benefit claimants have no alternatives, just further belt-tightening.  This is inevitable as any landlords still willing to rent to them increase rents to match their own increased “risk” and to pass on their additional buy-to-let mortgage and insurance costs, which have risen considerably for landlords renting to the benefits sector, as many buy-to-let lenders also coin in extra cash from others’ misery.

As Matt Hutchinson, the director of reflects: “the rollout of universal credit is set to make the situation even worse.   With rents rising and the welfare budget suffering from further government cuts, the outlook for tenants reliant on housing benefit is getting bleaker.”  Not only that, but thanks to the divisive “no benefits” mentality pervading the rental sector, the outlook for our prospects as a cohesive, empathetic society looks pretty bleak too.

Thank you, Alex.

55p and a Cat Called Bill

A couple of weeks ago, John contacted me through a friend.  An eloquent, skilled barber who had numerous men’s grooming awards under his belt but, following a breakdown, had been forced into sofa surfing whilst trying to get to grips with his own recovery.  How easy is it to recover your self esteem when you’re sleeping on a lumpy sofa in someone’s living room, with no privacy or hot water?  His only stable, trusting relationship was with Bill, a nonchalant black and white cat who clearly has no idea he holds his master’s wellbeing in the pads of his paw.  All John had to offer was 55p in his pocket and a promise that Bill wouldn’t pee in Jim’s newly planted containers.  All I have to do is to help him fill in the forms, wait around 5 weeks for the claim to be processed and I will hopefully have 2 very happy, contented, mentally stable tenants for a long, long time (and I get to stroke one of them).


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