Finding Tenants for an HMO

Finding Tenants for an HMO

17:38 PM, 1st October 2012, About 11 years ago 4

Text Size

Following last week’s article on setting up an HMO from scratch I’m reporting on the last week’s activities which were pretty much devoted to finding tenants. As promised I have also included pictures of the HMO post refurbishment at the bottom of this article.

A second ad in the local paper has elicited some interesting people – advertising rooms demonstrates what an eclectic world we live in.

The carpets went down in the rooms, furniture pushed into place which had been bought from the auction and a charity shop, spent a fortune on household items such as bins, airers, ironing board, etc., hung curtains and cleaned, cleaned, cleaned……

Then: the shower stopped working, the boiler went on the blink, we couldn’t match the toilet seat so had to replace the entire unit and, to top it all, the water stopped. It turned out the flat below (which we don’t own) had noticed a drip from the stopcock so they turned it off not realising it fed the whole property. The landlord has tasked me with phoning the water company this week to get two separate feeds into the flat and our maisonette above.

The best way to illustrate the ad responders is to divide them into “Please come in” and “Absolutely no way”

Tenant Category one – “Please Come In”

  • Heather: Senegalese, working in a local hotel, delightfully chirpy
  • Rod: friend of another tenant, works in a factory
  • Ted: Works on the ships, moved to be nearer his daughter
  • Robert: Couldn’t work him out at first, slightly slow on the uptake, bought me a coffee and, despite his enormous size, I felt he could be vulnerable. Turns out he’d been sacked from his care job due to overdosing a patient but “It’s OK, no one died”. My builder used to go to school with him and said he was always being picked on as a youngster so I’ve put him into one of my rooms instead.
  • Clara and Ricardo: Just arrived from Italy, living with his boss at £220 a week including breakfast and evening meal, being paid £40 a day as a labourer and she’s just started working in a restaurant for below minimum wage. The boss has told her that, as she doesn’t have a contract, she’s working illegally and if the police catch her she’ll have to pay a fine and be deported. She has a valid National Insurance Number and is terrified.

Tenant Category two “Absolutely No Way”

  • Stuart: Couldn’t look me in the eye for the entire interview, was a refuse collector until he’d been sacked an hour before and had trouble remembering where he’d been for the last 20 years.
  • Cynthia: In her 50s and didn’t like the look of the washing machine
  • Mark: Beautifully dressed, works in a factory, said all the right things until he bumped into the decorator. Turns out Mark is well known in the drug world, hangs around with unsavoury characters and tells every landlord the same story

Tenant Category three “The one that got away”

  • Natalie: The type of tenant I can only dream of – she’d just split from her boyfriend, had a well paid office job and seemed enthusiastic to the point of promising me she’d scan her Tenant Information Form and get it back to me that afternoon. I never heard from her again, but perhaps the thought of sharing a house with strangers pushed her back into the arms of her boyfriend.

There were others who phoned but I didn’t meet and I know there are many, many more out there. As the saying goes “Strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet” or, in my case “Strangers are still strangers until they’ve filled in the form, been referenced checked by the decorator and signed the tenancy agreement”.

HMO BathroomHMO KitchenHMO bed2






HMO bed3HMO Bed4HMO Bed5







Share This Article


13:21 PM, 3rd October 2012, About 11 years ago

You might find you get a different range of results if you change your source of advertising. A recent SpareRoom survey of non-resident landlords showed that only 8% still use local newspaper ads to find tenants. And 86% of those landlords said that SpareRoom was the best source of quality tenants, including other online resources.Over 80% of SpareRoom roomseekers are employed or self employed, the rest mostly students. Why not try it and report the results here for comparison?

12:03 PM, 6th October 2012, About 11 years ago

Interesting, I've just renovated an HMO & am advertising for tenants. I usually have students and had timed it for students however the renovation has taken much longer than usual & I've missed the student window. I've put ads in Spare Room & the other rent a room websites but to be honest it hadn't even occurred to me to use a local paper. Years ago I used to use Loot. I'll try it & let you know how I get on!

Devon Landlord

2:57 AM, 7th October 2012, About 11 years ago

If you are advertising in the South West the Devon-Let website is proving to be very popular and growing in importance by the day.


10:26 AM, 15th October 2012, About 11 years ago

Hi All. Thanks for your advice. Spare Room: I tried it a couple of times but found I was attracting people out of the area who couldn't view the room for a few days, etc. I think it comes down to knowing one's market place - my market is transient, low skilled workers (if I'm lucky) and housing benefit. If I didn't ask them to fill in a reference form, it would be drug dealers, alcoholics and fair weather homeless. Our town is small, house prices relatively cheap for the South East and there isn't any industry so I would be surprised to find a professional young person earning in excess of £12k a year wanting a room. After this salary level, they would be sharing a flat with a friend or be building on their career in a city or large town.

And it's not just me; fellow HMO landlords here dream of the "This Life" type tenants (it was a TV series in the '90s about young solicitors in a house share) but we're all ending up with the same profile. That is why (and I stress this in my book) it's important to know your market. Use the Spare Room portal to see what other landlords are advertising, go to landlord meetings and talk to fellow HMO landlords, etc. The unfortunate reality is: if a single person has their life together, a good job, great friends, doesn't drink or take drugs to excess and is mentally sorted then they are more likely to want their own front door and will strive to this end.

I can see professionally tenanted HMOs being popular in cities such as London where rental prices are extortionate, but I have to take what I can get. And today, I am welcoming a 51 year old carpenter into an HMO as he lost most of what he owned in his first divorce and then lived rent free for years with his partner who has now thrown him out. He's chosen a life of unreliable self employment and frequent trips to Holland but swears he's not drug running. We'll see.

Leave Comments

In order to post comments you will need to Sign In or Sign Up for a FREE Membership


Don't have an account? Sign Up

Landlord Tax Planning Book Now