I had 3 properties which were Houses with Multiple Occupation, also known as an HMO or a Bedsit.
Theses were houses with 5 bedrooms, in each property. The tenants shared, one kitchen and one bathroom. The toilet and bath were combined. If someone was having a bath, and another person wanted to use the toilet, then this could be a problem and not very convenient.
All the tenants shared the same lounge.
As a landlord, I was responsible for the common area’s and the tenants was responsible for there own bedrooms.
Initially, I used to let the entire house to one family, they would pay the council tax and the utility bills. I very rarely needed to visit the properties, unless there was an issue with repairs.
One day I decided I would let the property which had come vacant to multiple tenants. At the time, it seemed a good idea.
After about 3 weeks, I had successfully let the entire house. All 5 bedrooms were let. 3 single rooms with one tenant in them. 2 double bedrooms with couples in them. 7 people in the property in total.
This was financially rewarding, however, the perils of letting a property as bedsits is no fun.
I never knew what it would entail letting a property as bedsits. Now I was going to learn.
A few months in managing the bedsits, I realised, it felt, if I was a social worker and a mother, to these tenants of mine. I never imagined, how mentally draining, running a bedsit could be.
I went to each property, almost every other day, for one issue or another. One of the things, I had to contend with was tenants food going missing. My tenants shared a kitchen, they had their own cupboards. They had there own food. At least most of them did. A few decided, they would use some of the other tenant’s food, when they were not around.
This is one of the frequent problems, I was called to sort out. How do you police a food bandit?
Eventually, with a heavy heart, I decided we would have locks on each kitchen cupboard. So each tenant could lock their food cupboard. Didn’t look nice, what alternative was there?
As I paid the gas and electric bills because the property was a bedsit. The electricity and gas bills were included in the rent, the tenants paid. I expected the tenants to be reasonable when using the heating. They could switch it on, or off when they wanted.
The problem I had, the heating was left on by the tenants 24/7, and some of the tenants would open the windows, if it was too hot, instead of them, turning the heating off, or down.
To deal with this abuse, I had to set the timer on the heating and lock the timer.
In the property, for the tenant’s convenience, I had a telephone they could use. It was a BT small payphone, they would have to put money in to use it. This was back in the day, not everyone had a mobile phone.
When I got the phone bill and looked at the money, that was in the phone, it did not add up. The phone bill was just over £1,0000, and the phone had £30 in it. Something was wrong. Upon further investigation, I noticed from the bill that numerous calls had been made to Morocco. How was this possible, it transpired, one tenant would unplug the payphone, from the socket and plug his own phone in. I had one tenant who was from Morocco, who was the prime suspect. However, he denied all wrongdoing.
Upon speaking with BT how to prevent this fraud, they suggested that the telephone line should be incoming calls only. I thought fantastic, a solution to the problem.
So it was, I got rid of the payphone, I had a standard telephone, and no one could make calls out, they could receive calls from family and friends.
My next bill from BT arrived on the doormat. I expected it to be a standard fixed fee for the phone line, as the package I now had you could not make any calls out. How wrong I and BT were.
The telephone bill was £1,821 with utter bemusement. I immediately rang BT again. The bottom line was the bill had numerous calls yet again relating to Morocco. You would be right in thinking, ts not possible. No one can make outgoing calls, so how did I end up with this huge bill. Simples – the rogue tenant of mine from Morocco came up with another bright idea. He asked his family to ring him and them to ask the operator to chargeback. Meaning the phone account, he didn’t own would accept chargeback!
I will say no more on the above saga.
I had lovely neighbours, they were an Indian couple, a doctor and his wife, who worked at the local hospital. One day as I was walking past there house, to my property the HMO. The doctor, called me to come into his home, as he wanted to speak to me,
It was evident, he was struggling and gathering his thoughts, on how to tell me. He eventually proceeded. He said he and his wife have breakfast each morning in the dining room overlooking their beautiful garden. They can see my garden too.
The doctor told me, one of my tenants, a few times, at times they are enjoying their breakfast. One of my tenants, usually in the morning, was rushing and going to the back of my garage. This tenant would sit and proceed to point his bum towards there house and have a shit. This was on my strawberry patch. Of course, the tenant was oblivious to the spectators as his head was looking away from them.
Now I had the task, to tell my tenant not to shit on my strawberries, for that matter, not to shit anywhere but use the WC. My friends commented how exceptionally sweet my strawberries were. The strawberries were offered to my friends before I knew my tenant’s visit, to my strawberry patch. I often wonder if the extra nutrients my tenant, planted all those crisp mornings, was a contributing factor to the taste, organic indeed.
My tenants had many arguments, with other tenants in the house. I would often be called in, usually by one of the females who would be unhappy, because, one of the male tenants was not cleaning after him. The arguments were generally about the bathroom and or the kitchen, left in a mess.
Eventually, we put a cleaning rota together to avoid arguments. This worked, and the house was clean and welcoming.
There are many tales to tell in my time running a bedsit, what I would say it is a difficult job, the financial benefit was not worth hassle.
With the 3 HMO’s I had in total 21 tenants. The frequency of new tenants coming in was high, that’s the nature of an HMO. Some of the tenants were good, bad, ugly and pretty. It’s the pretty part that got me in trouble.
Yes, I know, I have heard it said so many times, keep your landlords professional. In one point in my life, this lady, a tenant of mine, took a shine to me.
Cutting out some bits, the crux of the story is, we started dating. We got married. We got divorced, I got fleeced for hundreds of thousands. Now eventually, I have learnt to keep it firmly zipped, no I am not talking about my mouth.
In my opinion, with my experience, running an HMO with bedsits is not easy, and not worth the hassle.
Source: British Landlords Association Member
Author: Tony Shaw (Member)
7th of March 2020
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