Room to let. Cheap Rent. All Bills included.
If you’re running an HMO, or even if you’ve divided a single large building into flats, it often makes sense to include utilities in the rent.
Sure, you’re now lumbered with paying the gas and electricity bills for eight separate dwellings, but it has to be better than having gas and electricity meters installed for each and every one of them.
Plus, it improves the property’s lettability as tenants can move in straight away without having to worry about hooking themselves up with new providers.
In short, it’s a great idea. Right?
Look at it this way… Have you ever spent an entire evening luxuriating in a scalding hot bath with a bottle of wine?
We have – and it was glorious. Every time the water cooled to a little below our liking, we pulled the plug out out of the RentWorks communal bath tub, let it drain a little, and then filled it up with freshly heated water once more. Over and over again.
We did that exactly once, because as it turns out, spending all evening in the bath is super bad for your health.
No, we’re not talking about the extreme prunification issues, we talking about the heart attack that comes when you open your quarterly gas bill, and the concussion that arises when you hit your head while fainting against the wall.
That’s also why we tend not to run sunbeds on the premises. It’s not because we don’t need to top up our glorious Mediterranean tans during the frosty British winter, it’s because sunbeds suck more electricity than a magnemite pokemon during a lightning storm.
That’s what keeps a cap on our extravagant utility usage – money. And that’s why including all bills with the rent can be a poor decision if you don’t take basic precautions. Your tenants aren’t picking up the tab, so why should they care?
But there are a few things you can do to make sure that the bills stay merely stratospheric, rather than astronomical.
Talk to your tenants
This is fairly common sense, but we feel the need to spell it out anyway. Tenants are people too, and usually, they’re going to be quite reasonable if you ask them nicely not to abuse their privilege. It doesn’t need to be confrontational – just make sure you do it before they move in.
Just a friendly word will go a long way towards helping them understand that yes, the electricity is free to them, but not to you.
If they’re the kind of people to ignore your warning and play their 10,000 watt stereo 24 hours per day, the chances are that you’ll fall out over something else long before power becomes an issue.
Go old school
Combi boilers are fantastic and offer instant hot water without notice. You can keep it going 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and this wonder of technology will never get tired, and never stop doing what you ask for it.
Don’t install them.
Old fashioned immersion heaters will help keep your tenants’ gas usage down, without denying them access to hot water.
Generally, they hold enough hot water to fill two baths, before requiring around an hour to refill and reheat. It’s not putting your tenants through any great hardship – but it will make them think before they use it.
Make your property energy efficient
Again – this should be common sense, but one of the keys to ensuring your tenants don’t max out the power bills is making sure they don’t need to.
Energy saving CFT light bulbs cost buttons to run and have been around for decades now – there is no possible excuse for you not having them installed.
Good insulation will prevent the heating bills from skyrocketing, and there are great options available for loft, interior, and exterior.
Get a suitable Tariff
Even with the best, most conservative tenants, an HMO is still going to be drawing a vast amount of power and using huge reservoirs of gas. You need to accept this and plan accordingly. When shopping around for the best energy deals, don’t go for the ones that reward frugality, look for the ones that offer discounts for volume. Try and imagine the worst case scenario for how much gas and electricity your tenants will use, and then double it.
Photo credit: Freaktography