My Tenants Have Done A Midnight Flit – Landlords Log 13

by Mark Alexander

8:45 AM, 24th October 2011
About 9 years ago

My Tenants Have Done A Midnight Flit – Landlords Log 13

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My Tenants Have Done A Midnight Flit – Landlords Log 13

I would very much appreciate your feedback on this video blog and my confessions article below it.

I spent my Sunday afternoon visiting a property where my tenants had moved out without giving notice. They had never been good payers but I had been working to help them get their finances in order. At one point they were two months in arrears but managed to get their rent arrears back down to just one month.

I have a little motto, “I might tolerate slow pay but can’t or wont pay = no way!”

I guess their financial pressures got to be too much for them and they moved out last week without giving notice or a forwarding address. To their credit, they did send a short note explaining they had moved out and enclosed the keys. This has saved me thousands in terms of rental voids and legal costs that would otherwise have been associated with the legal process to recover possession if they had not surrendered the property by handing back the keys with a note.

In these circumstances tenants tend to move out late at night to avoid the shame of the neighbours. I suspect this is what happened here. This is what’s called a midnight flit, the legal terminology is abandonment.

The natural human reaction to things that don’t go to plan is: 1) Surprise, 2) Panic, 3) Blame.

Whenever I’m in a situation like this I try not to get caught up in these negative emotions. I prefer to re-frame them as life experiences and ask myself “what can I do to minimise the chances of this happening again”.

I’m not going to beat myself up too much, however, I already knew the answers as this is not a first. I should have taken a guarantor but I chose not to as these tenants couldn’t find one. At the time I let the property the rental market wasn’t as strong as it is now so I wasn’t spoiled for choice with good tenant applicants. I also felt a bit sorry for these guys so heart won over head. To make it worse I’d not followed my strategy of meeting the tenants in their former home. Had I done so I might have seen that cleanliness was not one of their virtues.

I suppose I can be a bit philosophical about this because I have not spent a single penny of my £70 a month maintenance and refurbishment budget on this property since they moved in two years ago. It could be argued that I shouldn’t need to spend anywhere near as much as I will now if my tenants had respected the property a bit more and reported little problems as they occurred. The flip side of that of course is that I should have been a bit more proactive before the tenancy commenced and during it. Perhaps I should have taken the trouble to visit them when they got into arrears? I can of course make excuses, the property is about an hours drive from my home and the tenants were in arrears so I might have been treading a fine line in terms of harassment if I’d have insisted on meeting them at their home to discuss rent arrears as well as inspecting the property. The bottom line though is that excuses might get you off the hook but they don’t necessarily get results. Lessons learned!

The one remaining question is “will I be able to get the property back to lettable condition and cover the cost of the rental void within my budget of £1,680.”

Only time will tell on that score. I will of course post further updates in the coming weeks.

Mark Alexander
Mark and his family have been investing in property since 1989, initially in the Norwich area but more recently across the length and breadth of England. Mark created as a social network for landlords with a vision of becoming the UK’s largest online property investor directory.
Mark’s experiences and strategies as a landlord are shared here

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13:49 PM, 24th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Hi Mark

Thank you for sharing the video and for being both honest and open about the realities of being a Landlord. It is good to read your lessons learned.

I am not sure I totally agree with you about treading a fine line in relation to harassment - for the following two reasons:

1. Right to Inspect Property - Landlords should have it written into their tenancy agreements (hopefully) the right to inspect the property. Thus, I think you would have been within your rights to carry out a home visit. However, I recognise that carrying out property inspections on a regular and consistent basis is often neglected by quite a few landlords - me included!! However, it is a good reminder from your video that regular inspections are important.

2. Arrears Management - it is unlikely that you would be faulted for wanting to meet with your tenants personally to discuss the arrears situation. Thus, I think a tenant would be hard pushed to try and suggest this was harassment.

If you have their NI numbers and you find the costs of repairs goes beyond fair wear and tear and the lack of Notice period does put you out-of-pocket, it may well be worth considering pursuing them especially if they are working.

Finally, a word of caution, you should avoid giving out the exact address of the property over the internet as advertising a void property can be risky!

Mark Alexander

13:54 PM, 24th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Thanks for your comments Elizabeth. I fully concur that giving out addresses of vacant properties could attract squatters. However, my contractors will now be in that property night and day until it is re-let so the security risk is very low. I do appreciate your sentiments though.

Given that there has been no malicious damage, the fact that my tenants did try to do the right thing by writing to me and returning the keys and that the repairs should come in below budget I have decided not to persue them. I'm a big softie at heart. Besides, they have no money 😉

10:38 AM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Is that filming whilst talking and driving thing legal?!

Mark Alexander

10:55 AM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Yes, Svetlana did the filming and it's perfectly legal for me to talk whilst driving. I obviously had to stay below 70 mph though as she was worried about falling off the bonet if I went any faster 😉

11:02 AM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

HA! I almost don't think you're joking! I can see it now down the Acle straight! :))

Mary Latham

23:16 PM, 25th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Hahahahahahahahahahaha That really hit my funny bone! hahahahahahahaha

7:15 AM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

I wish my tenants would leave the property with so little damage, I think you have been let off lightly, I usually have hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of damage, & my properties are professionally managed.

The deposit scheme is a total waste of time, tenants either get it all back, after I have waited 6 months, or fail to pay the last couple of months rent.

Mark Alexander

7:20 AM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Hi Gary

It's worse than you seem to think.

All wood is going to need rubbing down, filling and repainting as well as the walls, replacement of cushion flooring and re-tiling of the bathroom. I'm not a hands on landlord so I'm looking at £2,000 of work upwards.

8:43 AM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

I had a couple of issues like that within a space of 6 months in two separate properties a couple of years ago. The first was DSS tenants who despite several face to face meetings and leaning over backwards to help them manage they payments eventually just flitted - leaving the place in a far worse state than yours. That's when I found out how helpful the local council housing department (who placed the tenants with us) are - worse than useless! No point pursing those tenants they had no assets and no job!

The second happened a few months later. I was distracted by the death both my parents within a few months of each other and when I got back into every day life found that tenants had left a property 2 months prior. A young couple had split up and both walked out of the house with out any notice or forwarding address. When we gained access (after the obligatory written notice) I found that at some stage there had been a water leak damaging both bathroom & kitchen. Again that required a major refurb. but that was covered by insurance.

I did manage to get hold of each of them via a mobile phone and any slight sympathy I might have had for their situation immediately vanished when I was confront by a major bad attitude and "I know my rights - you can't touch me". I used a tracing agent initially to track them down and got a court order for the rent arrears. Mind you after two years I have only received a fraction of the money and in fact this morning I need to contact the court again as the last instalment has failed to turn up!

And people think that being a landlord is a licence to print money LOL!

I like the tip about getting a National Insurance number - I will do that in future.

Fortunately I now have all my properties filled with good long term tenants.

Keith Rowe

10:40 AM, 26th October 2011
About 9 years ago

Aged 43, landlord 19 years in November. I always capture NI number, also another neat trick is a "next of kin" emergency contact family member such as mother, father, their address and landlines etc. At start of tenancy is easy to get this info when everything is rosy. When and if they do 'flit' often this next of kin info comes into its own. Ive managed to even had arrears/damage paid in full by an embarrassed parent or similar especially when photos are produced how their beloved relatives live! (its rare but odd time you get lucky) Ive found same when contacting their respective employer and sending in photos and wanting to get details in order to pursue court action and/or attachment of earnings order (by court). Flipside is that if tenants are LHA (DSS) then complete waste of time. The real clever ones know exactly what to do, even regards the LHA payments (if not pd direct) in how to benefit themselves before their sneaky movements abandoning property. I know their tricks but not going to write them here for obvious reasons on the ones who dont know and who may be reading this!
You can issue Section 21 at anytime, I know of some letting agents who issue them with AST docs even on day 1!! I date mine as per the NLA and legal sites advisories by making sure its says "after the XX th day of XXmonthXX". Usual rules stand that minimum of 2 months notice to tenant; 1 month tenant to landlord (yeah right!). I convert more and more properties over to student residences although have an annual 'refresh' its usually lot less pain than LHA. I do have some very decent long term LHA tenants but they are in the minority - as else why is there always a UK song and dance about LHA all the time. Tenants can have dodgy landlords too of course but I'm biased being on the receiving end on annual basis! Least with students you know they are pretty good as a majority and will move on at some point. I inform Council as soon as I know people have left and get written acknowledgment as proof. This usually avoids the 'overpayment' of LHA cr@p that always happens.
Anyway, just my 2p worth people.... 🙂

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