Diary of a HMO Landlord: Noise, Leaks, Squeaks & Rubbish

After my initial Diary of a HMO Landlord post all was calm and foolishly thought to myself I’m not going to have much to write about this week, but how things change!

So what’s been happening?

I have had the electricians in at one house rewiring each room so they are on their own circuit and meters fitted so I comply with The Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and this also ensures tenants are accountable for their usage in their own rooms, all went well until a phone call the next morning about the central heating making a “gurgling” noise. Turns out one of the water pipes had fractured when the wires were being pulled through, which resulted in a lovely water feature in one of the down stairs rooms. On a positive note double boarded ceilings are still intact so it was just mopping up water, drying out carpets and getting the plumber around to solder the damaged pipe.

New tenants moved into a property, former residents of the Salvation Army homeless hostel who are very happy to have a clean and safe environment to live in and have put up with living on the streets but couldn’t put up with the squeaky fire hinges on their new door, so I treated them to a squirt of WD40.

As mentioned the new tenants love the free broadband access, but in other houses it can prove to be a pain in the arse. We all know broadband is a must especially for students and professional working tenants, but there is only so much a landlord can do as I DO NOT provide the service. One house has had intermittent service due to engineering works being carried out by the ISP but still tenants moan on at me and it came to a head when I get calls at 10PM moaning about the service Virgin Media supplies, as you can imagine I wasn’t best pleased especially when my phone ringing woke our baby!

Had the usual calls from Cardiff Council Housing Options Team enquiring what property I have available this week, also chasing “top up” from tenants that have Overpayment Recovery taken from their Housing Benefit Award, the latest tenant having a deduction of £6.50 per week from their Housing Benefit award to pay back about £5000 in overpayments.

At the other end of the spectrum, chasing professional tenants for their rent, the ones who never set up a standing order so the usual text each month to remind them to pay their rent on time and set up the standing order for next month, which they never do.

Rubbish is always a common theme encountered by HMO Landlords up and down the country, tenants don’t seem to like recycling and if they do manage to put rubbish in large black wheelie bins provided by Cardiff Council they don’t like to wheel them out onto the pavement for fortnightly collection so we soon get a build-up of black bags, I don’t know what is going to happen when Cardiff Council half the size of their black bins, be rubbish everywhere!

Finally my favourite aspect of being a HMO Landlord the legalities of the Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement and tenants serving “Notice to Quit” when they are on a Statutory Periodic Tenancy (SPT), affectionately known as a “month rolling”, or not serving as the case may be. All tenants love it when their fixed term comes to an end and they have the flexibility of a SPT but none of them seem to like the fact that the tenancy runs from one rent day to the next and they have to serve their “Notice to Quit” in writing, giving at least one months’ notice and ending on a rent day. This important point is highlighted when the tenant first signs the AST, also it is on the notice board and once again pointed out once their tenancy moves from a fixed term to a SPT, do they play by the rules, no way!

The latest one believes it is ok to text me on Saturday evening of a Bank Holiday weekend asking if they serve notice this evening, will they still have to pay their next rent payment, then continue to barrage me with text messages and emails up until 7AM today saying they are not paying rent whatever happens because they have found a new place. A phone call this morning has cleared up the situation.

And finally this afternoon I receive a call from the next door neighbour of a property I own. There seems to be an issue with noise, the neighbours words were “it sounds as if they are kicking a football against the party wall all night long”. Next on my “To Do List” find out what or who is creating the continual thudding! I will let you know how I get on.

Feel free to ask any questions via my blog or complete the form below if there are any specific HMO topics you would like me to discuss.

House Sharing A Tenants Guide

House Sharing is becoming more popular across all demographics of the UK population, from fresh graduates who have just planted their foot on the first rung of the career ladder, under 35’s who are being forced to house share due to changes to housing benefits or more mature members of society who are no longer able to afford to live on their own.  Demand for house sharing is only going to increase as our islands population continues to grow and place an extra strain on our limited housing stock.

House Sharing main benefits are it is a great way to meet people if you are new to an area. House sharing offers a social life as well as place to live (we recommend multi let properties with a communal area) and financially it makes sense as bills are either included in the monthly rent (easier to budget each month) or split between all tenants.

Where to find a House Share

There a huge number of online mediums to find a house to share, sites include:

www.spareroom.co.uk

www.uk.easyroommate.com

www.gumtree.com

www.housepals.co.uk

www.roombuddies.com

www.kangaroom.co.uk

There are also sites geared toward specific geographic locations in the UK, such as:

www.intolondon.com

www.housesharewales.co.uk

As well as sites offering specific ethnic, gender and other preferences:

www.indianroommates.in

www.gayflatshare.net

So whatever you’re chosen location there will be a site and house share to suit your specific needs.

House Sharing: Arranging a Viewing

It is very important to view the property before committing to enter into a house sharing agreement.  When viewing a property it is now law that you are shown a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).  An EPC contains information about a property’s energy use and energy costs and provides recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money.  An EPC provides an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).

Even if bills are included in the monthly rent and EPC will provide a snap shot at the overall condition of the property as often a more energy efficient house will have a modern boiler and double glazed windows which will be of benefit in the winter.

Other certificates to look out for are a Gas Safety certificate (renewed annually) and Electric Certificate (Valid for 10 years) and HMO License (mandatory if the property is 3 or more storey and houses 5 or more people) any House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) you visit should have a notice board containing the landlords contact details, house rules and certificates on display.  This is a good indication the Landlord understands and takes their responsibility to tenants seriously.

 What is the ideal number of Housemate

When embarking on your house sharing journey it is important to meet your potential housemate and decide upon which house share best suits your needs. Although there is no absolute “best” number of housemate when house sharing it is good to avoid two or three together as two housemates can create an intensely inwardly-focused and dependent situation, and falling out or pairing off in other relationships often happens.

Three same sex housemates can lead to accusations of favouritism or ‘ganging up’ against one housemate.  House sharing with four, five and even six mixed-sex housemates often promotes an environment that is high on flexibility and offers non-intense rapport that helps avoid dangerous arguments and fallings-out.

Obviously when house sharing with five or six housemates amenities need to be taken into account and I would recommend looking for a house share with more than one shower room and a separate WC or a house share that offers ensuite facilities.

Questions to ask potential housemates

What time do you get up in the morning?

What time do you go to bed?

Do you smoke?

How often and how would you clean a toilet?

What is the price of a large sliced loaf/jar of coffee?

What experience have you had of working in a team?

 House Sharing Legals

You’ve found the perfect house share; you spoken with the landlord and housemates, now the fun begins.  As previously mentioned you should have already seen a copy of the EPC during your viewing as well as the Gas safety Certificate.  Other factors to consider are a bond.  If the landlord or agent offers an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) and requires a bond legally they are required to protect your bond within one of the following tenancy deposit protection (TDP) schemes:

Your bond must be protected in one of the above within 30 days of receiving the bond payment and  the landlord or agent must provide you with a Prescribed Information Certificate containing the Terms and Conditions of the chosen TDP scheme.

More information about TDP Scheme can be found on the Government Gov.uk site:

https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection/overview

AST or License

If you are house sharing with a live in landlord chances are you will be provided in a License rather than an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) as a form of housing contract.  Please be aware a housing license offers less protection from eviction than an AST.

If your chosen house share doesn’t have a live in landlord and you do not have a main UK residence other than your new house share the landlord or agent has no option other than provide you with an AST whether it be a written or verbal contract.

The charity shelter provides a wealth of information relating to AST and Licenses her:

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/renting_and_leasehold/renting_agreements

Rooms in Cardiff in a specialist provider of HMO and multi let services to landlords and property investors in Cardiff and throughout South Wales.

We are also a source of information for those interested in house sharing and a great place to come if you are looking for a housemate or Rooms to Rent in Cardiff  and across South Wales.