In her latest diary instalment, Holly Yates from Derby shares the successes and challenges of the past six months running her buy-to-let portfolio of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).

Completing property number three

"The refurbishment of our third property was relatively straightforward and finished in October. This time around, I advertised the rooms early and conducted viewings before the kitchen had even been fitted and with the builders still on site.

This didn't seem to matter much though and four of the rooms were reserved before the refurbishment was complete. They moved in three days after the builders moved out, which did mean I had a lot of running around to do to get the bedrooms furnished and ready for the tenants.

Within three weeks, the house was full, and I can honestly say that this has been the best tenanting experience so far. We'd purposely planned to have the property ready to rent by November because we'd learnt that this was a good time for new employment contracts in the area. Our planning paid off!"


Tenant changeovers

"We've also had a couple of tenants move on in the last six months. One needed to terminate his contract early due to a change in personal circumstances but his room was reserved before he moved out.

At the beginning of the year, we also had our longest serving tenant move out after 15 months from our very first HMO. He'd relocated to Derby for work and by living in our house he was able to save money and has now moved into his own house, which is great news."

Planning permission for a 7th bedroom

"A slight challenge at the moment is deciding whether or not to apply for planning permission on our second HMO for a 7th bedroom. Everything is ready - largely thanks to James on the PPP planning team, because I had no idea what I was doing - but I'm yet to click the submit button.

Recently, an anonymous neighbour left a rude note on one of the tenant's cars. We know it's not from next door, because they are lovely and always send Christmas and Easter cards, but someone seems to think we are operating illegally. Of course we're not, and we're accredited and the council knows it's an HMO, but we are going to hang fire to see if we get any communication.

I'm also concerned about unsettling the house. Currently, the six tenants that live in the property are a very close knit group. They even sent me a picture of them all having Christmas dinner in the kitchen after bringing the big table in from outside. They've always known that we might rent the seventh room, which is currently being used for storage, but I'm not sure I want to rock the boat just yet. I might wait for one of them to move on, but then I'd also be very sad if any of them did!"

Preparing for quarterly inspections

"So it's that time of year again when I need to do the rounds and as always, I've told all the tenants I'll be doing quarterly inspections next week and asked them to let me know if they need anything.

Most of the time, I get no reply, but this time, I had a few requests. One house would like a garlic press, a few more baking trays and a griddle pan and another house wants a hose so they can all clean their cars. So I've been to the shops this morning actually.

Some landlords might think these things should be purchased by the tenants but I don't mind paying for little things that, at the end of the day, make my tenants happier and my life easier because they will stay longer."

Cleaning issues

"Since the summer, I've also had to take on the weekly cleaning because we had an issue with our cleaner. Basically, she was rude to tenants and just ran the hoover round for 20 minutes!

However, one of my tenants manages a local cleaning business and I'm going to use her company to clean two of the houses which are further away. I don't actually mind doing the cleaning, but it does amaze me how much red wine and tomato sauce gets splashed down cupboard doors."

Looking for our next HMO project

"I started looking for property number four after Christmas. I've found one that will work really well. It's a good location and it's a relatively new-build but I'm not sure if there are any restrictive covenants. We can't seem to find anything at the moment and the vendor has looked too because he's keen for a sale. I've approached the council but they haven't come back to me.

It would only be a five-bedroom HMO but it is three storeys so would need a licence under current HMO licensing requirements. The rooms are massive so even though it's fewer bedrooms, we'd achieve higher rents per room. But my stepdad Nick is keen to look for a bigger property or perhaps a commercial property, so we're yet to come to a happy compromise!"