“I need to use grass cutting machine” said my Polish tenant when he called me one Saturday afternoon. You mean a lawnmower I said, don’t you have one?
“My friend say that you must provide” he replied.
Was he right? I’d let the house unfurnished, surely he should buy his own lawnmower? None of my other tenants with gardens had ever asked me to buy them a lawnmower. What a cheek I thought. I told him I’d look into it and to be honest I forgot.
A few months later I drove past the house. I knocked on the door but he wasn’t in. You can guess why I knocked on the door can’t you? Yep, the garden was a jungle. The lady from next door recognised me from the time she’d seen me at the show home picking out the kitchen. She wasn’t impressed either. Your tenants are de-valuing my home she said, I hate you bloody landlords, there’s six people renting the house next door and they are party animals. I paid good money for my house ………….. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH ……….. the rant went on for some time.
This was my first experience of anti landlord behaviour and to be fair, she had a point. What I’d not taken into account is that one of the areas I’d bought into had become an “investment ghetto”. I’d chosen to invest there on the basis that a mobile phone repair company had moved to the area and was taking on hundreds of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants. They didn’t mind house sharing at all and by letting to them individually I could make good returns. The trouble was, I wasn’t the only property investor to have come to this conclusion and all the Polish and Lithuanian people wanted to live together and form a community, who could blame them for that?
About the lawnmower requirement
Anyhow, I took advice (it was a long time ago so I don’t recall whether it was from a landlords association or a solicitor) and I was advised that I was obliged to get the lawns cut or provide said “grass cutting machine” if I wanted the tenants to do it. UPDATE – (Friday 13th July 2012 – typical!) that’s not the final word on this matter – please see the readers comments below. So off I trot to Homebase and buy 11 lawnmowers (one for each property with a garden), not thinking how I might get them all in the car. I was pretty chuffed though, just think of all those Nectar points
I hired a van and the problem was sorted, or so I thought!
Being such a nice chap I even offered to cut the grass and tidy up the garden to placate the angry lady next door. What a crap idea that was, it was back breaking work (remember I spend most of my day at a desk or in the car) and despite chocolates and flowers for the angry lady I’m still no better off. I should have hired a gardener!
I really don’t know what happened to the lady next door but I did hear about a lot of repossessions in that area. Parking became a major issue for a long time too. I didn’t buy those repossessions, perhaps I should have done, but to be honest I felt guilty.
Lesson learned – avoid property investment ghettos
What I had learned about providing tenants with a lawnmower paled into insignificance really. I was very quickly going off the idea of buying new build properties and I wanted to change the demographic of my tenants. I started to think about 25 years down the line when the mortgages came to an end and my generation would all want to sell up their property investments and retire. Who would buy them, who would rent them? It was this experience which persuaded me to change my strategy, suburban bungalows were the way to go. Older people would rent them, they would stay longer, they are of a generation that takes care of things, other landlords were not targeting their demographic. I also realised that they all had pets and landlords don’t like pet owners do they? I’d found my little niche for the future