Regular visitors to my blog will know I normally write about Internet Marketing, blogging, and starting an online business. So if that's what you're looking for – GOOD. There's plenty of that on the site-map.
Today is a Little Different
Normally I'm placid and easy-going, but every so often something just “gets to me” and I have a rant. Today's one of those days – and it's been building up over a few weeks now.
I'm not really sure I should have published this article – because it's not related to Internet Marketing. In fact it started out as something else, but my fingers just went their own way.
I'm angry and I'm upset. Because I've been…
Taken For A Mug Again
The only link to the Internet that I can really think of is “hacker”, loosely defined as someone who isn't supposed to be somewhere and wreaks havoc. So forgive me the digression please.
No, I haven't had a website hacked, but a part of my off-line business has been “hacked” and ruined and it's going to cost £10,000 to put right. So I am cross and I am upset and I really didn't need this.
Believe me, it's not just online that softies like me are mugged off.
Being a Landlord in the UK
The background to my rant is that one of my off-line income streams is property rental. Not in a big way by any means. I have a flat I own jointly with my sister and we rent it out.
We didn't put our savings into a conventional pension. We decided instead to use them to get a rental property to bring us a monthly income, and on the whole it works well – although it's not the piece of cake that people imagine.
Yes, there are some terrible landlords out there, and I guess that's why the UK laws are so heavily weighted in the favor of protecting tenants at the expense of the landlords.
Believe me it's gone too far the wrong way now.
Three years ago we completely re-decorated and re-carpeted our flat and let it out.
Big mistake – and it was my fault for taking pity on someone in distress – we took on a tenant whose credit rating didn't check out. But she told us a sob-story about being a single parent, husband left her, and she needed somewhere to live. At the time she had a job and the figures said she could afford the rent on the salary she was earning.
Let's call her CP – not her initials, but my sister has a “name” for her that I won't repeat here.
Rent Arrears Mounting
So far so good and CP paid her rent on time for a couple of years. Then she lost her job and got into arrears. Some rent came in occasionally but over time it was less frequently and less money. At the end of her tenancy we asked her to leave, because this is the pension income we have worked hard to provide for ourselves and OUR standard of living was starting to suffer.
In the UK we have a system whereby people struggling to pay their rent get “Housing Benefit” from the government. CP told us her housing benefit was “delayed” and when it came through she would settle up with us. Whether she got it or not I don't know, but we weren't seeing it.
We're not talking abject poverty here. One the few occasions when she granted us access to the flat there were half-opened bottles of wine, flat-screen TV, “music gadgets” – and emails were sent to us from an iPhone. Her car also seemed to need such regular repairs that she couldn't pay us.
The Vanishing Housing Benefit
Once upon a time Housing Benefit was sent directly to the landlord to ensure rent was paid and the money was used for the purpose intended. All that changed some time ago, so that the person struggling could “learn to manage their money”. HAH. She managed it OK.
We also started to be concerned about the state of the flat and asked the agent to get her to clean it up. He assured us she had and then she stopped letting him or us in. In English law, I am told the flat is “her home” not “our property”.
The debts grew and there were excuses and sob-stories and lies. Like an idiot I gave her the benefit of the doubt and we didn't start court proceedings to get her out. About six months ago she told us she had a new job and would start paying again. To be honest, having seen the deterioration of the flat, we felt that if she was content to live there and pay rent it would delay the big renovation costs that we could see coming.
End of Tenancy
Anyway, to cut a long story short she didn't go, she didn't clean up the flat, she didn't pay rent. Finally we flipped and prepared court papers, telling her we would start proceedings if she didn't go right away. Of course we ended up giving her another month to find a friend who would take her in and someone who would “move” her.
Her moving out was a farce and she left us with a stack of furniture she no longer has room for that we have to pay to have removed. (Sofa, two cupboards, a bed, broken freezer – just to mention what comes to mind!)
But worse than that the flat is totally trashed.
See that mark on the floor on the left, by the yellow handle? That's not a shadow. That's the difference between the carpet that was covered by her furniture and the carpet exposed. That carpet was brand new three years ago, and it was of reasonable domestic quality. It is beyond cleaning and has to be ripped out from every room.
A door is damaged (see above), a new cooker that we put in is totally ruined, burned and will have to be replaced. Our new curtains have been torn. Two wall sockets are smashed as is the central heating thermostat. Two ceiling light fittings broken – I mean what do you do to break TWO ceiling light fittings? The kitchen units are so filthy and battered that we're ripping them out.
Yes, she lost her deposit, but that won't go anywhere near clearing up the devastation she has left. And she also owes us a third of a year's rent.
So now we start the mega-clear-out and the estimated costs are of the order of £10,000. Not to mention the fact that the flat will be uninhabitable for at least two months – probably three until a tenant can be shown round and move in. And to add insult to injury the local government insist that we pay council tax while the property is empty.
Yes, we could have taken her to court earlier, but that costs money and takes a couple of months during which time the rent arrears would have mounted. And it's no use suing her for money she hasn't got! We just wanted her to go as fast as possible.
My rant is not about the rent arrears. She lost her job. Could happen to anyone – although she seems to have totally abused the UK's very generous rescue system….. and got away with it.
What is angering and upsetting me in equal measure is that she could totally ruin our property and turn it from a freshly decorated and newly carpeted flat in a pleasant area of NW London, into a filthy hovel.
If I don't make a lot of progress on my Internet Marketing business for the next few weeks you know what I'll be doing instead 🙁 Getting quotes and supervising the rebuild of our “hacked” flat.
Sorry for the major digression. I had initially intended to write about the “lack of focus” I have been suffering from over the last few weeks, but it's hard to focus when all this is swilling round in your head.