Lessons from a Learner Landlord

I am new to being a landlord, but it’s been a steep learning curve.

I’ve rented before, admittedly as a student, in a fairly grotty 3 bed house where the 4th housemate (me) slept in the ‘converted’ dining room, with a front door in my bedroom. Students are not hot on the housework front, and clearly our landlord had little expectations of his role, except to take the rent and run.

So, although I was aiming at a slightly higher quality of tenant – ones who knew what housework was, for example – I did expect something similar. I provide a good quality house, freshly painted, professional cleaned, soft new carpets and, if needed, hygienic new kitchens. They provide rent. Job done.

Oh, how wrong I was. So – here are some things I have learned in the last 6 months.

1. Your tenant asks if they can have a dog. 

There you are, fondly picturing some loving family hound that fits in perfectly with a single mum, 3 children (1 a toddler that is barely walking) in a small 3 bed terrace with an adequate but slim, partly fenced garden, just like your own, small, Beagle. Your tenant assures you it’s a sweet puppy that’s already toilet trained.

What moves in is a giant Husky-Rottweiler cross that stands taller than the toddler and is able to leap child gates and garden gates in a single bound. This 18 month old, untrained, over excited, superstrong bundle of energy has a personality like the Terminator, unreasoning, unstoppable and obedient to only one master. If only we could find that one!

2. Your tenant asks if they can change the cooker.

Being responsible landlords, you obviously need to ensure a good contract is in place that specified the items in the house you are responsible for. The cooker isn’t your problem. So, if they want to replace it, why not. It’s the tenants cash, after all. Right? How hard could it be? Right?

So, off you go to an all day briefing with a client. What you get is relentless calls throughout the day asking you what to do with the old cooker, complaints the new one won’t fit into the gap (because measuring the size of the gap before ordering is something only qualified landlords can do, apparently) and finally a call querying how to connect a gas cooker to an electric only point.

Seriously! That happened.

3. Your tenant calls to warn you that the neighbours might complain. 

Now the law on this is sparse. As a neighbour you should not make a nuisance of yourself, act in a way that is anti-social or cause unreasonable noise with music, musical instruments etc.

What the law does not cover is angry neighbours being woken up at 7am, having just turned in after their night shift, because The Terminator got loose and ran across their back garden, chased by a screeching and swearing tenant, a hollering and whopping 10 year old, a shouting and leaping 8 year old, a screaming toddler and a partridge in a pear tree.

While you listen to your tenants explanation of their general innocence, the unreasonable behaviour of the neighbour and how children will make noise, you are also reading lengthy texts from the entire neighbourhood about your tenants relentless foul language. No one complains about the kids!

In this situation you may wonder why, exactly, this is your problem. When did ‘landlord’ become synonymous with ‘parent’ or ‘behaviour monitor’. The only recourse for a landlord is to evict the tenant. Fire a warning shot first though – maybe things will improve.

4. Your tenant asks if they can have 2 dogs.

Stop laughing.

Pick yourself up off the floor.

Try and get through the lengthy explanation of how reasonable it is without hysterics – something along the lines of The Terminator wouldn’t calm down, so was re-homed to keep peace with the neighbour, although the later version as told to your husband is that The Terminator was uncontrollable and bit the toddler. (does she think we don’t compare notes?) Serendipitously a replacement dog was found. A rescue Staffie. Who needs company.

Denied.

Followed by the news that the Staffie has been returned to sender, while she rescued another dog that was, somehow in the long story, originally hers. And in moves – a Rottweiler crossed with a Bull Mastiff. Bigger than The Terminator even, the Hulk is able to eat a shire horse in one bite, and if it lay on you for a cuddle, the fat would just squeeze right on down to your ankles.

Ban all animals from any other house you have to let.

5 Your husband suggests you get another property to let. 

You have two choices here.

Firstly, you can laugh, cry or discuss divorce.

Or, you can tot up all the hours you have spent dealing with the first house, add on expenses, consider mileage, wear and tear on your eardrums, decide on a reasonable hourly rate.

Double it.

Invoice him and set up your own property management firm.

 

I hate to say it, but I don’t think my landlord lessons are going to end here. So – duck and cover, ready for the next onslaught!

 

angry neighbours

 

 

 

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