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Wednesday, July 28

The (Lack Of) Rent (Continued)

As I said, the past few rent cheques have all bounced, save for the one that I prevented by transferring my own money into the household account for a few days. The main (OK, the only) reason behind this is that a number of my housemates have failed to pay the rent on time.

Not only that, but they have failed to pay the rent full stop. At one point, there were at least 3 of them that owed in excess of 700 to the account. Bearing in mind that each person's individual rent per month is 370, you can see how much in arrears they were.

This is exactly why we got an overdraft: in theory, even if a couple of people are late paying their money in, we can still pay the rent to our landlord without any major hassle.

However, when it gets to the stage of a total of 3000 being owed to the household account, the rent cheque is going to bounce sky-high, time and time again. Which is what happened in June and July.

Our landlord was on holiday for a few weeks, so I've been dealing with his son. I've fielded Christ-knows how many calls from him recently, telling me that our cheque had bounced, and asking when he would get his money. I managed to fob him off with a couple of excuses for about 10 days, which got us through to somewhere around the 25th of June (remember: our rent is due on the 13th of each month).

I then gave him a cheque for the June's rent, which I thought would clear because a couple of my housemates had promised me their money by the Monday. I gave him the rent cheque on a Friday evening, which meant that he wouldn't be able to deposit it until the Monday, giving me a couple more days to badger my housemates into giving me the money owed.

I should note here that I have had to constantly ask for rent money from before we even moved into the house. I spent my breaks at work last summer ringing all of my prospective housemates at home, chasing up their deposit and first month's rent. It's been the same ever since, in what seems like a never-ending saga of my constant badgering and their inevitable excuses / promises to pay...

Of course, on this occasion the money that I was promised by Monday failed to materialise (was I expecting anything different?!), and by Thursday the second rent cheque for June had bounced. I found out about it online, which left me ahead of the game with regards to my landlord, since he didn't know about it until Monday's post arrived at his office (handily at the bottom of our stairs).

He rang me immediately (the actual landlord, that is, having returned from his holiday) and woke me up. It was one of the rare occasions when I'd left my phone on overnight, so he was pretty lucky to get hold of me. I went down to see him, knowing full well what was going to happen.

We were pretty damn close to him being legally entitled to throw us out of the house. I haven't done property law, but I think a landlord is entitled to turf out his tenants if they fail to pay 2 months' rent by the agreed date. It was getting near to the due day for July's rent, which we would also have been unable to pay.

He basically asked what the fuck was going on (without the swearing, but still damn well threatening), and where his money was. All I could do was apologise, and say that it wasn't hugely my problem, since my money was in the account, and had been every single month. It was my other housemates who were the problem.

He then asked who they were, and whilst I felt a little bad about dropping them in it to some extent, it was their own stupid fault. Yes, I know that I'm in a slightly different position to a couple of them, in that my parents pay my rent, I still know that I cannot afford to do certain things.

I live well within my means, and I've very rarely had to borrow money from my parents just to get by on. I feel very wrong asking people for money, knowing full well that I've spanked my own up the wall on things and events that I didn't really need to have or do. A few of my housemates don't seem to realise that they have a finite supply of money, and therefore need to be a little more frugal with it.

Yes, we all need to have a good time, a social life, and to enjoy our time at university, but we quite simply cannot afford to go out drinking three times a week, every week! I struggle to afford it once a week, maybe even once a fortnight.

One contributing factor is that they smoke. If I smoked, I would not be able to afford to do or buy anything. It's as simple as that. I would hate to tot up at the end of a year how much they spend on fags, because I've no doubt the figure would be astounding.

A few of them are very close to being chain-smokers, barely stopping for breath between each cigarette. I would much rather spend my money on something visceral, something which I can see and hold, rather than an increased chance of lung cancer (and God-knows what else) and a few moments of relaxation.

Hence, I have a quite large DVD collection at the moment, whereas they have yellow fingers, yellow teeth and stinking clothes. Oh, and my clothes stink too, due to being in the living room with them, surrounded by plumes of smoke from 5 or 6 of them lighting up at the same time. Such is life.

But this isn't a tirade against smokers (oh how I would love to write one, perhaps soon), nor a bitching about my housemates in general. I've done that enough times here already. This is about the rent issue.

Let us now return to the scene of me sitting in my landlord's office, still half-asleep and with bloodshot eyes. Not, not hungover, just very tired.

He asked me how much money was in the account exactly, so I checked the account online at his computer, to find that there was distinctly not enough to pay June's rent still. He then asked me when I would be getting the money from my other housemates, which I was once again unable to answer with any authority. I simply had no idea if and when they would give me any money.

He brought out into the open the issue of our guarantors. Basically, each of our parents signed a form before we moved into the house, saying that they would be liable to pay the rent for us if we failed to do so ourselves. A safety net, as it were.

He threatened to write to each guarantor, informing them that their son hadn't produced his rent for June, and asking them for it. I was dismayed and a little peeved at this, since my parents had done absolutely nothing wrong, and I didn't want them receiving a fairly threatening letter from my landlord's solicitors.

He half-agreed to send them only to the guarantors whose sons hadn't paid, but he gave me a few days' grace to try one more time to wangle the money from my housemates.

That would be the fucking day.

I tried, I really did, and somehow managed to get enough money in the account to clear (at the third attempt) June's rent cheque. This wasn't all down to my housemates getting me some money, no. My parents had paid in my part of July's rent, which enabled June's cheque to clear... The account was still owed a hell of a lot of money.

I sat down one afternoon, and worked out exactly who owed what, and ended up with a figure of just over 3000 being owed between 7 of us. This included me being completely clear, remember. An average of 500 each for my 6 housemates, not bad going...

I was thus able to give my landlord a good cheque for June's rent, which cleared on the 12th of July, exactly a day before July's rent was due. I went down to his office again on the 14th, to explain that July's rent was once again quite simply not there.

This time he asked me to write on a piece of paper a short letter explaining that 4 of my housemates had failed to pay their rent, and authorising (I can't think of a more appropriate word. "agreeing", perhaps?) him to write to their guarantors. He gave me a photocopy, which I put in the living room before returning to bed, it being only 9am, after all.

I woke up sometime around 11, heard a bit of noise from the living room, and was able to pick out snippets of the conversation through the paper-thin wall that divides my bedroom and the living room. From what I gathered, a couple of them weren't too happy about the letter.

When I eventually hauled my ass out of bed, I was questioned whether I'd given that note to our landlord already. Yes, that was a photocopy was my reply, which caused more furrowing of brows and consternation. One of my housemates immediately went to see our landlord, and I gather that he was told that I'd had enough of cajoling the rest of my household into paying their rent, and that the letters to guarantors was a last resort.

My housemate then asked me for the piece of paper which had the list of monies owed on it, and told me that he was going to chase everybody up and get an exact date for having all the money in by. I seem to remember that date being the 27th of July, but it is now the 28th, and only one from four has paid to date.

Old habits...

I had told the landlord when I saw him on the 14th not to pay in our rent cheque, since it was a dead certainty to bounce, and thus incur charges, both to him and us. It costs us 50 every time a cheque bounces, 30 at our end, and 20 at his which we have to reimburse him for.

I was thus quite exasperated to discover whilst checking the accounts a couple of days ago that he'd paid the cheque in, and that it had indeed bounced sky-high. If memory serves, it took our account to somewhere around 3150 in debit, which is just a smidgen more than our 1250 overdraft will allow. Basically, he could have used that cheque to knock satellites out of orbit.

I even received a phone call from him whilst I was back at my parents' last week. Yet again, it woke me up (why does he insist on ringing at 9am?!), but this time I was very short and cutting with him. Could I pop down to his office to see him? Nope, because I was over 100 miles away. Did I know what was happening with the rent? Nope, not my problem any more. Here's my housemate's number, goodbye.

I wasn't in the mood for him...

And now, sitting here on the 28th of July, more than 2 weeks after July's rent was due, and 1 day after the promised date for all of the money to be paid by my housemates, are we any closer to getting the rent paid?

Are we fuck. As I said, old habits die hard, leopards never change their spots, and my housemates are inept financially.


honestly. a law student like you ought to have a better idea of joint and several liability. i reckon your landlord is being more than reasonable with you blokes. if the seven of you are on a standard assured shorthold tenancy agreement, then any one of you is liable for the whole of the rent, not just 1/7th of it. so your landlord can ring whoever he likes at whatever time he likes (note: in the real world it is perfectly acceptable to make telephone calls on or after 9am, even on a monday) and demand the cash. obviously, the person he is going to call is going to be the one who most often actually takes his call and gets things sorted out - and it sounds like that's you.

this kind of thing is all about learning to live independently and take responsibility for one's actions. you are able to do this but your flatmates are not. the lesson to learn for the future is: don't live with a bunch of blokes who are unreliable when it comes to paying the rent.

my advice to you at this stage would be to dig a copy of the tenancy agreement out and check what is says about paying the rent. look out for mention of joint and several liability - this means that the landlord could sue just you for the total amount of the rent even if you've already paid your share - and also look out for the terms regarding eviction in the case of non-payment.

then sit down and have another house meeting as soon as possible to sort it all out. emphasise what will happen to you all if the rent is not paid by each individual housemate. those of you that are up to date with the rent should push the others to pay their share - it's in your interests to do so, even if that makes you unpopular.

if i were in your shoes, i'd probably be shitting myself. i certainly wouldn't bleat on about getting calls at 9am though - believe me, there are worse things a landlord can do.

he'll start losing patience with you lads soon if you keep defaulting. and even though you've paid your share it's still your problem because your name is on the agreement.


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