Friday, 5 August 2016

When tenants don't pay rent - a cautionary tale.

We never intended to become landlords.  When we decided to move from Clackmannanshire in Scotland down to middle England so that we could be closer to family as our children grew up, we thought that we'd just sell the house, buy another one and move.  To make the overlap easier to manage, and to allow us to get C started at school at the beginning of the school year, we decided to rent for six months.

As it happened, the house sale never materialised.  We're not sure why, as it's a fantastic home in a lovely location, and people who have viewed have generally loved it - it just never translated into a sale.  At first the market was stagnant, then it was winter and "sales always slow down at this time of year", then it was the run up to the Scottish Referendum and nobody was buying, then it was winter again.  The first estate agents were not impressive, but we are confident the second lot we used were working hard for us... but still no sale. 

As the second winter approached and the house started to take on that empty house smell, and we were also paying 200% Council Tax for the privilege of having an empty house, we decided to try renting it out.  If it went well, then we'd look at getting a second mortgage to buy down in Herefordshire.  If it went very well, maybe the tenants would love the house so much they would want to buy it (I've seen this happen to two other houses in the village already!).  

In the meantime, we were (and still are) renting in Herefordshire.  The house is fine, but it's not in the location we wanted, and because it was always meant to be a short-term rental, we have never made it home.

We were delighted to get tenants moving into our house in February.  Even better, they seemed ideal, a young family with children the same ages as our own who attended the local primary school.  And as they had pets, their options for renting would have been fairly limited.  Ideal - they would love the house and would be anticipating staying.
Sadly, that's not how it has worked out.  For the first couple of months things were great.  They called the agency a few times as there were a couple of niggly issues from the house having been empty (dishwasher not working etc), which we promptly had fixed, and they paid the rent.  The last time that happened was back in March.  They even phoned and asked for permission to film "Couples Come Dine with Me" in the house (which we granted, not sure when it's on, sometime soon I think).  But then they  stopped paying rent.  We have had two communications since then.  The first one they came up with some story about the bank freezing their account but they'd pay next week - this didn't happen.  The second was when the agency wrote to tell them that we'd be terminating the rental at the end of the six month tenancy - they phoned to ask if we'd reconsider.  Hubby was incredulous - "but you haven't paid your rent!?".  Nothing has been heard from them since.  NO RENT - NOTHING.  The agency has phoned and written to them, but they don't respond.  The agency has carried out an inspection, but there was nobody home except the dog.  I hear that they've had a holiday in Venice since March, and I understand they keep horses - so they must have money from somewhere, but clearly paying their rent is not a priority.

So far I've kept this private.  I didn't want to spread their financial issues on social media - but as the time comes nearer for the end of their tenancy, Hubby and I are getting more and more anxious and angry that we have been so taken advantage of.  We entered into this rental in good faith and have done everything possible to look after our tenants.  They have not extended us the same courtesy and owe us nearly four thousand pounds. 

We are just hopeful now that they leave the house without any difficulty, and that they leave it in the same lovely condition that it was in when they  moved in.  Then we'll put it back on the market and hope against hope that this time somebody comes along, falls in love with it and snaps it up so they can love living there as much as we have done.

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