Many landlords with mortgages will find their tax bills rising this year due to the loss of mortgage interest tax relief and it’s by no means guaranteed they’ll be able to push up their rents to cover the extra cost.
In fact, rents in some areas are falling, which means landlords will have to look at other ways to increase their income.
If you have a large property with three or more bedrooms you could consider letting rooms individually, as this will sometimes bring in more rent than letting it as a single unit, but HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) require closer management.
One of the biggest problems is that you will most likely have several tenants with individual tenancy agreements, and it’s unlikely any of them will take overall responsibility for looking after the property and reporting maintenance issues, plus they might not all get along. You can offer one shared agreement, known as a joint and several liability contract, but this can still bring the same issues.
I’ve had irate phone calls from tenants complaining about their housemates hosting all-night parties, emails asking me to remind certain slovenly tenants to do the washing up, and I usually find that the cleanliness of the shared areas including the kitchen and bathrooms disintegrates as no-one wants to clean up after everyone else.
Another problem I’ve found is that tenants will often have very frequent overnight visitors, to the annoyance of their flatmates who, understandably, get sick of sharing the kitchen and bathroom with a steady stream of strangers. I’ve also had some tenants who have permanently moved their boyfriend or girlfriend into their rooms in the hope that no-one will notice and, if they do, that they won’t mind.
To reduce these problems (and to avoid being forced to referee a verbal punch up between your tenants), it’s important to issue every one of them a detailed room rental tenancy agreement, which should specify what they can and can’t do.
To avoid tenants having too many guests who stay for too long, I include a clause in the tenancy agreement limiting them to no more than one guest at a time and for no more than three consecutive nights. I also state that no tenant can have a guest for more than six nights a month as I’ve found that’s the most that other housemates are prepared to tolerate. After finding guests sleeping in the living room, I also now insist that guests must sleep in bedrooms, never in shared areas.
If anyone is caught breaking the rules, they are charged £30 per visitor per night. That usually makes them stick to the rules.
To try to prevent a shared house from disintegrating into a pigsty, I’ve found it helps to email every new tenant a list of house rules, which includes washing up after every meal, not leaving dishes in the sink, and cleaning toilets, sinks and baths after every use. It sounds a bit bossy, I know, but if it helps to keep the place neat and tidy, tenants are ultimately happier and stay longer.
A common problem with shared houses is that maintenance issues might get overlooked as every tenant will leave it to someone else to alert the landlord to a problem, so you’ll need to make regular inspections. However, if you set up a WhatsApp group for each rental it will make it easier to communicate quickly with all your tenants at the same time, and you can encourage them to use it to report any problems.
If you’ve got any other ideas on how to make it easier to manage a multi-let property, give us a shout!