Back in 2017 when we departed the UK for our extended working adventure we packed up our house and put it on the rental market.
It was a mammoth job decluttering and the local charity shops did very well out of us. Even so we still seemed to have a massive amount to put into the lock up.
It was weird emptying the room and making the property ready for someone else; yet not having sold. But we knew that it was the best thing to do. We didn’t want to leave it empty for several years when it could deteriorate with no one living in it.
It took a few months and a rent reduction but we managed to get tenants in and all was well. The agent did annual inspections and the rent was paid on time. We were not worried at all about the house (which was a relief)
Time marched on and in 2019 the tenant moved on and in a short space of time a new one was found. Again all was well in the landed of rented property.
Then again in 2020 this family moved on and another family moved in. This time a single father of 5 children. It is a 5 bedroom property so ideal for them. Near their school and relatives. All was good.
But as with most things in this life, all good things must come to an end. In the summer of 2022 both Oliver and Hanifa got married and Kevin returned to the UK. Inigo got a job in Ecuador and I had signed on for another school year. Travel in and out of China was precarious so we decided that Kevin would return and open up the house. Do any jobs and make it ready for my return.
So we gave the tenant the 3 months notice that we were required to. Kevin flew home and stayed with my mother to attend the weddings. Then on the 30th June when he was preparing to get the keys the following day he was informed that the tenant would not be moving out because he had nowhere to go!
Now I do feel sorry for the guy, being a single father of 5 cannot be easy but even so, it is not his house. We worked many years to pay for it. It’s ours. And we wanted it back. We were always going to return at some point and need the house back. We were not career landlords who buy up property to rent out. It’s our home.
Kevin had to go to court. This took time and money and a hearing date was set for 1st September. All this time he had to stay living out of his suitcase at my mother’s place. Fortunately she was able to accommodate him otherwise we would have had extremely large hotel bills!
At the hearing the judge awarded in our favor and said that there was no legal reason why we couldn’t have the house back. Phew! That was one hurdle overcome. But the tenant was given the maximum amount of time to vacate (because of the children); 42 days. Kevin still stayed with my mother which was not at all part of the original plan.
Six weeks later and the tenant STILL had not vacated the premises. He wanted social housing and needed to be at the top of the waiting list. For that to happen the council needed bailiffs paperwork. So back to the court Kevin went. More time to process more paperwork but at least the council paid the legal fees. All this time we have also been paying storage fees when we shouldn’t have.
Eventually on 8th November, over 4 months after he should have moved back in, Kevin finally got the keys. It was such a relief. But what did he find inside…?
Given how difficult the guy had been we weren’t sure what to expect. You hear tales of tenants trashing places or stripping all the fittings. Our house has some original Victorian features which are irreplaceable and wouldn’t be covered by any deposit.
In actual fact the place had not been deliberately damaged, thankfully. But we have found a lot of water damage. The walls are extremely wet and there is damp in the ceilings and internal walls. It looks as though the heating system has been leaking. This is a big and expensive problem. Who knows, if we got the house back in July could we have saved some of the damage? We may still need to replace the heating system.
In addition to that the basement floor needs to be replaced, as do some of the utility room units. The decking outside is rotten and the Ivy at the front had had a growth spurt and is damaging the brickwork.
Having an ‘old’ house was always going to be expensive but this is more than we had anticipated. So, I have signed on for another year to help defray the costs!
I understand that there have been abusive landlords in the past who have taken advantage of their tenants and since we left the UK the law has changed to be more in favor of the tenant. As a result fewer people are putting properties on the rental market and some renters have used the Stamp Duty holiday to sell their properties. In addition many expats are returning home after covid and like us, wanting their property back. So this has resulted in few homes available to rent.
We were unfortunate with our experience but we will definitely not be renting our property again.