For anyone looking to take their first HMO steps and considering running the property themselves, it is important to be aware of the various areas of managing them. So for anyone uncertain of what it all entails, here is a brief A-Z of HMO property management!
A – Adverts & Arrears – Advertising your rooms is a key part of running an HMO. In a competitive market, you need to know you can reach potential tenants through the platforms you have chosen.
Unfortunately, arrears is a part of any rental venture. Communication and following the law precisely though, will help, should you have to pursue any.
B – Bills – One of the biggest conveniences for tenants, of living in a shared house, is that the bills are already included in the rental price and managed by the landlord. However, some landlords put a cap on usage and then anything over that is paid for by the tenants. It is also possible to put in meters for a tumble dryer to help keep the costs in check.
C – Cleaners – In an HMO, believe it or not, it is not the responsibility of the tenants to clean the shared areas of the house. This is something that falls to the landlord. You can encourage tenants to clean up after themsleves, but employing regular cleaners is something you should look into if you’re going to be running an HMO.
D – Deposits – It is vital that a tenant’s deposit is put into a secure deposit scheme in order for it to be protected throughout their tenancy. You only have so many days in which to do this, so it’s importnant to do it as soon as possible.
E – Evictions – At some point, whilst dealing with rent arrears or other issues, you may well have to go down the eviction route to ensure a tenant leaves your property. Right from the moment a tenant moves in, you need to ensure you have completed all the relevant aspects covering the tenancy or your case won’t even be considered.
F – Fire Safety – As with many areas of HMOs, there are regulations when it comes to fire safety for your tenants – and rightfully so. Doors should be fire doors and there should be fire alarms in each room, with windows being considered when planning fire escape routes.
G – Gas Safety – Having a valid gas safety certificate is a must and should be made available to tenants before they move into the property.
H – Heating & Hot Water – Particularly in the winter months, ensuring heating and hot water issues are dealt with swiftly requires having a good team that can be called on should there be a report from a tenant regarding these, or indeed anything. Regular checks on the property can pick any potential issues up, like a drop in pressure, an error on the boiler, radiators not heating as they should.
I – Internet – Tenants have a high demand for reliable broadband within a shared house. They may be using their phones, tablets and Smart TVs, downloading photos/videos, streaming programmes and accessing social media. All of this means that the usage is high and the placement of the router is to be taken into consideration, making sure there are no black spots for signal, or that boosters are installed in order to counteract this.
J – Joblessness – Inevitably, there may be a tenant that loses their job or their payment schedule is altered by their employer. This obviously has a knock-on effect with their ability to pay rent and it is always important to keep lines of communication open in these situations.
K – Keys – Keeping track of keys can be quite the challenge! In addition to this, tenants can sometimes lock themselves out or lose their key, meaning a spare needs to be cut. Having a masterkey system for your HMO can be more expensive, but makes the management of keys a lot easier, with only one key for a tenant to be responsible for, as well as you, as the landlord, only needing one key, no matter how many properties you end up managing.
L – Laws & Licensing – There are many laws regarding HMOs and it is very important to make sure you are being compliant with them all, from minimum room sizes, to ensuring you have served tenants with the correct documents. If your HMO is 5 rooms or more, over 3 or more floors, in most areas you will require a licence. You will need to apply to the council for this.
M – Maintenance – This is another area which is the landlord’s responsibility. Regular property checks are a good idea in order to keep an eye on aspects of the house, as well as addressing anything you find during these visits. Tenants must have 24 hours notice of anyone entering their rooms, but it is important to give tenants a way to report issues to you as well, as who knows when there may be a problem with a shower for example!
N – Neighbours – Having good relationships with the neighbours of your HMO can prove useful, so build them early and make sure they know how to contact you.
O – Online Banking – Many tenants have internet banking via apps on their phones now, so reducing the need to go and physically collect rent by encouraging them to set up standing orders, can make life easier for all concerned.
P – Phone Service & Photographs – Providing a 24 hour phone service for tenants is both reassuring for tenants and landlords. It means that even in the middle of the night, tenants know they can call, text or leave a message, rather than having to wait until the morning. This could be particularly useful for tenants working shifts.
The photographs you use for advertising purposes need to show your room in the best possible light – literally and metaphorically! Consider different angles and how you dress the room.
Q – Queries – Being able to deal with queries and enquiries quickly, is a key part of renting out your rooms and this means having someone available to do so. Sometimes tenants are looking at, and enquiring about, several rooms at once and you want to be able to respond as soon as possible.
R – References & Right to Rent – Carrying out checks on tenants and gathering the relevant documents and references is another vital aspect of managing a HMO. You must also ensure that tenants have access to the government’s How to Rent Checklist.
S – Systems – To keep track of everything a landlord needs to do, particularly if you are looking to buy more than one property, investing time into establishing systems is highly advisable.
T – Team – Having a good team around you is extremely helpful when managing a HMO. Viewings, check-ins, check-outs and all of the above, take a lot of time and organisation!
U – Up To Date – With ever-changing regulations and HMO legislation, you need to keep yourself up to date with new laws. There is the risk of a high financial penalty if you aren’t.
V – Viewings & Voids – First impressions of a room or house are what usually matters, so being able to inform viewers of everything they need to know during a viewing and answer their questions, is essential. It is also important that the room is ready for viewing and is dressed to impress!
Voids are an inevitable part of renting out any property, but having a strategy for advertising, should a room be available for longer than normal, is advisable.
W – Websites – Most tenants seem to search for rooms online and so investing in the best websites is vital for ensuring you attract the largest number of enquiries.
X – Exits – When a tenant leaves their room at the end of their tenancy, you should ask them to leave the room as they found it, which should be clean and tidy, having removed all their belongings from their room, as well as the kitchen, or any other communal areas. Going in to clean or remove items once a tenant has left, will cost you time and money.
Y – Your Involvement – Perhaps consider how much you want to be involved in the running of your HMO. There’s a lot to consider and manage! If you’re up for the task, then go for it, but if you’re realising that maybe it’s better to hand it over to the experts, then you’ll be getting your time back to do more things that you enjoy!
Z – Zero Fees – The Tenant Fees Act 2019 came in to force on 1st June 2019. The ban means that no letting agent fees can be charged to tenants and there is also a cap on tenancy deposits. So if you choose to use a letting agent, be sure to confirm these with them.