Pity the Downtrodden Landlord
Landlord's Diary - Began 17th December
It always happens just when the weather gets considerably colder, boilers pack up and gas men are as hard to find as reliable tenants. Today the old back boiler at my rental property in Royal Street has just been condemned by the CORGI gas man. I knew it had probably seen better days when I first purchased the house but it did pass all the required gas safety checks last year.
"Dirty great hole in your boiler love; all corroded, not safe at all - could have blown your tenants sky high," says Terry the gas man.
Well, that's one way of getting rid of them I suppose. I don't particularly like them and I don't think they like me. They never ask me to sit down when I call and not once have they offered me a cup of tea. It's like I'm just an imposition. On the one occasion, on a hot summer's day, when I requested a drink of water it was offered to me in a mug with no handle. Maybe they're just plain ignorant. I liked them to begin with, but that's how it goes, the situation gradually deteriorates every time you call in the hope of collecting some rent.
"I'll put in a brand new combination boiler" Terry continues, "but it won't be until after Christmas and you'll have to have a new fire in the dining room too because the existing fire only works with the boiler." A few days later he rings to tell me the price: "Two thousand quid plus VAT... that OK?"
Do I have a choice? I'm definitely not in the Christmas spirit now.
My tenants won't be happy either with a cold snap forecast for Christmas - but why should I care? After all, they aren't paying me the twenty pounds a week top-up rent. Let them freeze, decrees my mean streak as I start singing: "In The Bleak Mid-Winter," to myself on the way home, but my altruistic side wins in the end and I detour to Focus DIY to buy two plug-in convector heaters. The tenants still have the immersion for the hot water, plus a living flame fire in the lounge (which did pass the gas inspection) so with the help of the portable heaters, they'll still have some quality of life over the holiday period.
They are a dreadful pair, these tenants of mine, Kelly and Stewart, although they seemed a presentable young couple when I first met them. They were eager to set up home together and I was willing to give them that chance. Now they've become the bane of my life. Stewart has a perpetual glazed look in his eyes whenever I call. He is claiming disability but looks able-bodied enough to me and Kelly seems to think the whole world owes her a living. The couple actually wants me to evict them for non-payment of rent so they can get a council place. It's quite obvious to me now that they are mere parasites feeding off the welfare state. Whenever I call they are sitting on the sofa surrounded by beer cans and shrouded in a haze of cigarette smoke. Oh yes, they can easily budget for twenty pounds a week for fags and booze but they don't attempt to pay me any rent.
At least I get sixty-five pounds from the council but this barely covers the mortgage and the life insurance not to mention a boiler replacement. People who think landlords are wealthy - think again! We have to pay the building society at the end of the month come what may and if the tenant won't pay or can't pay for whatever reason, tough luck it has to come out of our own pockets.
This house is a complete tip now when it was practically a show home six months ago and the tenants have even managed to bung up the drains. Well, it can't be with sanitary towels as Kelly is pregnant... good bit of observation there. Everyone has a right to have children, but you begin to wonder when you meet up with people like this who clearly cannot take care of themselves financially and otherwise.
I phone the council shortly before Christmas and am told it costs sixty-six pounds plus VAT to unblock the sewage system so that's literally a whole week's rent down the drain! I refer to the tenancy agreement and apparently it is my responsibility to maintain them. But it's their shit! I protest, realising the unfairness of the situation. It's not fair at all, being a landlord; in fact, you get everyone's shit and have to pay a fair price for it too. New legislation due to be enforced in the next year or so could even mean that a landlord could be taken to task if his tenant is found guilty of anti-social behaviour. Great! That means if my tenant has a bust up with his neighbour, I'm to blame?! What a crazy world we live in.
I give a few paying-in slips to my tenants at Royal Street in the vain hope that they might pay twenty pounds per week, seeing as eighty pounds all at once is proving all too much for them, but I doubt they'll bother to shift their backsides from the sofa and walk to the bank even if they do feel inclined to pay the rent. I wish them a Happy Christmas anyway. They are expecting their first baby at Easter.
Christmas is spent at home with me running around after my own family as usual, plus finding workmen to do certain jobs at another house I've just bought. My estranged husband who is a lecturer promises to get things up and running over the holidays before a tenant is found. But as luck would have it he is taken badly with the flu, as are the rest of my family and I am left holding the fort... or forts in my case. I'm doing my Florence Nightingale bit and estranged hubby spends all day in bed, only putting in an appearance for dinner, but at least there are no arguments with him out of the way and my most badly behaved child crashes out on the sofa, coughing and spluttering away for the duration of the holiday.
What a family! Not quite as bad as my tenants at Royal Street who have been surprisingly quiet. It's probably the calm before the storm. As I've guessed no payments have been paid into my bank.
New Year's Eve
Tonight Is marginally better than Christmas and I spend it with love of my life, Allan. We stay up to see Big Ben and the fireworks and then see a movie as he stops overnight (hubby is conveniently nowhere to be seen, but I Imagine he has found suitable company too).
New Year comes and goes and no news from either my tenants or the gas man. Is it naive of me to assume the installation has been done? I phone Terry to find out "Sorry love, I was going to phone but wrote your number down on a fag packet and lost it... I've got your new boiler and can install it the 11th." He says he'll phone my tenants and let them know when he's coming. I think I'd better phone them too but when I do a voice says "The person you have called has hung up." Bet they've done a runner. Now there's trouble at another house too which I'd only just purchased at the end of November. Wasn't it clever of the vendor to stick a whopping great wardrobe in front of a dirty great crack in the upstairs back bedroom wall? My surveyor never noticed and neither did I until the day I'd actually completed on the property once all the furniture had been removed. Now I have to delve deep into the past sifting through years of mining reports to hopefully claim compensation from the Coal Authority.
At least things at my other two properties are running along just fine. I have four now. But no more Buy-To-Lets I've decided. There's too much hassle and not enough rent to cover expenses. The next house I'm buying is going to be a renovation project. What with trouble from tenants and everyday conflict in my life from husband and kids it eventually takes its toll and you begin to wonder if it's all worth the effort. I only started my property company so I could afford to live on my own eventually but the way things are going that's not going to happen at all.
Be Careful Who You Give The Keys To!
I've had to do a big shop, pay all the mortgages, get the boys' hair cut, buy my youngest a new pair of shoes and collect his new glasses ready for school tomorrow... so I'm still busy. I took the decorations down yesterday too. The estranged husband is hardly ever here so it's me keeping hearth and home together as usual. I'm virtually a single parent as he's no use at all whether he's around or not.
I get a phone call at 9.45 am, guessing straight away who the caller is. It's Terry the gas man "I think your tenants have gone!" he says. He now has to drive fifteen miles over to my place to collect my spare set of keys so he can carry out the installation.
I arrange to have the locks changed on the rental property and phone the council as the drains are still blocked -and there's yet more trouble to come. Before I can get the locks changed the tenants return the night before and steal the new gas fire (still in its box) that Terry has not yet been able to install.
Be Prepared For Costly Repairs!
Things in the kitchen at Royal Street look somewhat odd. Why have the tenants painted the units with cheap white emulsion and a halfhearted attempt at that? Everything is too dirty and smutty for a kitchen that was only decorated in June. I decide to have a chat with the lady next door when I leave her a set of new keys.
"They had the Fire Brigade out you know," she tells me in a matter-of-fact manner.
It all falls into place now, the missing knobs on the cooker and the tenants' feeble attempt at decorating was just to cover the smoke damage. I spend ages on the phone to the fire station and talk to the fire chief who says he attended the scene. "They were frying sausages," he says "but the fire was out before we arrived so we didn't need to use any water."
My insurance company will not be pleased with two leaks, a subsidence claim and a fire in the space of a year. And then there's the theft of various items on the inventory...
Some of the tenant's items are still in the house and I don't want them- mainly a three-piece-suite, washer dryer (condition broken) and also a fridge freezer (condition dangerous) and an assortment of televisions.
The good stuff that was there at the beginning of the tenancy has all gone. My missing items are some bunk beds, a mirror above the dining room fireplace. All blinds and curtains which were in place at the start of the tenancy are now incomplete or stolen. The tenants have even run off with the two plug-in heaters I loaned them to keep warm while the boiler was being replaced... so much for altruism.
As a landlord, you can only react to situations. You can see things going downhill and you realise people are messing you around but there is little you can do to prevent things if the people you have entrusted your property to are not going to co-operate.
The police tracked my tenants down, but would not tell me where they had gone - Data Protection and all that. And they ask how can I prove the heaters and the gas fire they stole were my mine? I had receipts but by now I was just relieved to get the house back.
The tenants have left the house in a dreadfully untidy state, but I suppose I have to be glad it's still standing, what with the blocked drains, junk and empty beer cans in every room, plus the garden containing the proverbial worn out sofa or two which I will now have to pay to be taken away. Everything is a complete eyesore. Although there was no serious damage done as a result of the fire, the cooker now has to be replaced on the advice of the fireman who attended the scene. The UPVC frame to the kitchen window has also been burnt and is melted away in places.
Wooden radiator covers have been broken and the house now is grimy and dingy throughout. I let it in a clean and tidy state but these people, who I can only describe as scum did nothing to maintain the property and it gradually deteriorated over the six months they were in residence. They paid none of their utility bills, tried to sell some of the items on the inventory at a car boot sale, and caused me no end of bother. But the U.K. government is sending these people milk tokens while they are just blatantly milking the system.
I assumed all my tenants will be reasonable with me if I was reasonable with them but not so with this lot and I won't be so trusting in future. It seems I haven't been dealing with normal people here. When clearing the house I discovered evidence of substance abuse too... which explains the glazed look I mentioned earlier. God help their baby when it arrives, that's all I can say!
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© 2017 Stella Kaye