How to manage your HMO property

Property Forum’s HMO series covers everything you need to know about HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) property. As well as being jam-packed with helpful links, facts, and guidance, our articles also contain professional tips from Property Forum’s CEO Nicholas Wallwork, as he draws on his 20+ years as a multi-millionaire HMO investor and developer.

If you are considering managing your HMO property yourself, (rather than paying a managing agent to take care of it for you) you should consider how to look after the property itself and be up-to-speed on how to deal with problem tenants quickly.

Managing your HMO yourself certainly helps to keep costs down while you find your feet. In the future (particularly if you choose to expand your HMO portfolio), you may want to bring in a managing agent or hire someone to take over these tasks for you.

Looking after the property itself

Anytime you’re using a property more intensively (for example, by having more people living there), it will require more attention in terms of maintenance and general upkeep. This means it’s more important than ever to keep on top of maintenance and check the property regularly. Keeping the property in good condition is also vital if you want to find and retain quality tenants.

If you’re a live-in landlord, it’ll be obvious when something needs fixing. But what about when you don’t live in the property? Here are some tips for keeping the property in good shape:

• Be proactive and inspect the property regularly (providing you give at least 24 hours’ notice that you’ll be entering the property). Monthly inspections work well for an HMO – every three months at a minimum.
• Encourage your tenants to get in touch with you as soon as any maintenance issues crop up. A small niggle can become a big problem in no time. Make sure all tenants know how to contact you (or your managing agent).
• Compile your own ‘dream team’ of experts to call upon when you need them. Having a great plumber on speed dial is much better than scrabbling around trying to find one when you’re ankle-deep in water!
• Hire a cleaner to give all the common areas (kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, lounge) a weekly or fortnightly clean, and roll the cost of this into your tenants’ rent. The cleaner is also an extra pair of eyes who can let you know if something needs fixing.

Managing your tenants

You should see your tenants as customers and yourself (the landlord) as a service provider. This means you should always aim to provide an excellent level of customer service and cultivate a pleasant working relationship with your tenants (all the more important if you’re living in the property). Not only does this make life better for your tenants (meaning they’re more likely to stay put for longer), it also makes them more likely to recommend your property when vacancies crop up in future.

That said, even the most attentive, diligent landlord will experience the odd problem with tenants. The most common problems tend to be noise complaints (from fellow tenants or neighbours) and people not paying the rent on time – although even these should be pretty rare for vetted, professional tenants.

Pro tip: If a problem arises with a tenant, it’s vital you take action quickly, particularly if it’s something that affects other tenants (like loud music). One bad apple in an HMO can drive existing tenants away and make the property less attractive to prospective tenants. So if you do nothing, and hope your tenants will sort it out amongst themselves, it could cost you dearly.

By far the best way to tackle problem tenants is to have an open, frank conversation about the issue, and try to reach an amicable agreement on the best way forward. Just letting someone know that, if the problem continues, you won’t renew their tenancy or give them a good reference for future properties is usually enough to nip a problem in the bud. Keep a paper trail of warnings and requests in case you need evidence in future.

If the issue persists, you’ll have to think carefully about whether you want that person to continue living in the property. If you don’t, you have two main options:

• You can issue a Section 21 notice if you want the tenant to leave at the end of their tenancy agreement.
• Or you can issue a Section 8 notice if you want to end the tenancy early on the basis that the tenant has broken the terms of their tenancy agreement.

You can read more about eviction notices, and the various restrictions here. However, eviction notices need to be word-perfect if they’re to stand up in court (incase the tenant challenges the notice), so it’s worth enlisting professional legal help with this.

Please use the catagory search menu at the top right of the page to see all other HMO articles in this series. You can also download our free HMO ebook (written by our CEO Nicholas Wallwork) and ask any questions in the HMO forum.

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