Making Money from Rental Property

As you may remember, I have a flat in Fulham that I have tenants in. Right now, while I work towards a masters in Architectural Conservation, it’s also my only reliable source of income and back in May I had to make the difficult decision to evict the tenant that moved in at the end of January. On paper it all looked completely fine, the tenant was an older woman in a wheelchair who was moving to London to be closer to her family. My flat is modern and complies with all the regulations for disabled users, so no problems there, no wild parties. One careful lady user. Or so I thought. All the negotiations between the estate agents and myself were done with her son and everything went smoothly – but with every tenancy there are teething problems, little niggly complaints and questions because the manuals for various appliances have been misplaced. There was none of that. He also asked to have a key safe fitted to the front of the building so that her carers could let themselves in. I knew she needed help so this seemed a reasonable request, but I should have known this was a bad sign!

I emailed several times to ask if his mum was settling in ok and then thought I really should meet her and ask her myself. So in May I arranged to visit and was met by a carer who presented me with a list of problems and things she wanted me to sort out. Then I was handed a pile of post that hadn’t been forwarded – and then I spotted the dining chairs, you can see one of them above. Three of them, collapsed in pieces on the floor. The post was the council taking me to court for non payment of council tax! By this point I was barely able to breathe.

She had lived there for three months.

Luckily the dates of the tenancy agreement proved that I was not responsible for the payment of the council tax. The son – who by the way, is a barrister – was most apologetic, but pleaded ignorance over the dining chairs. What he did explain though, was that his mother had five carers a day: the first helped her out of bed and gave her breakfast, the second gave her lunch, the third (the only one they had a constant relationship with) spent the afternoon with her, the fourth gave her dinner and the fifth put her to bed. Oh and she also suffers from vascular dementia. My tenant wasn’t capable of toileting herself or of opening the front door, so to sort out the ‘repairs’ I had been told about, we had a complicated arrangement between myself, the contractor, the third carer and the son (it’s starting to sound a bit like a film title…) because the contractor refused to go into the flat alone – no surprise there. How could he take responsibility for the welfare of a disabled woman he had never met and be on site alone with her? He could be accused of anything!

He did have a good look round though and told me that my ‘careful lady user’ had taken the kitchen cabinet doors off the hinges and ruined the carpet in one of the bedrooms! And here’s the crunch, she wasn’t causing the damage because she was confined to a wheelchair. All the damage was being caused by her rotation of carers, who clearly sat down on chairs so hard that they collapsed and slammed doors so hard that they came off their hinges. And here’s the next crunch, they had no obligation to me as their contract was with the person they cared for.

So, I evicted a granny in a wheelchair.

The check out inventory showed damage that included needing to replace the mattress, the carpet and the kitchen sink. What? They’d broken a pendant light fitting and of course, the three dining chairs. They also removed four pillows and an ironing board and for some unknown reason, put a passcode on the tv which now needs to be reset by the manufacturer at the cost of £179. AND didn’t use the shower for six months – my tenant was given a bed bath every day (hence the new mattress) – so the valve had seized and that too needs replacing.

We won’t go into the decorative order…

To date – so more than two months on – I have had no response from the barrister son. No acknowledgement of the the check out report – or the request for retention of the deposit – and bonus, a bill for non payment of the utilities bills (which I can luckily prove are not my responsibility.) Yesterday I found out that to raise a dispute on the deposit I have less than one month to apply. The estate agents have contacted him on my behalf and get a very charming response about how busy he is. Clearly the legally binding tenancy agreement isn’t worth the paper its written on when you’re a barrister.

Clearly he is swatting at me as if I’m a fly.

Clearly I am taking advice from a solicitor.

And clearly this guy can fly off.

I will report back.