KEEPING THINGS LEGAL
If one of your hobbies is scrolling through the government's website for changes in legislation regarding rental property, you are unlike anyone we know.
It's a time-consuming task and a rolling responsibility that many landlords fall foul of: you need only to look at the eye-watering number of landlords who lose disputes. If you get anything wrong in the legal process, the law will likely find in favour of your tenant.
But while landlord and lettings legislation is certainly a minefield, it’s not one you need to walk through. Managing agents are charged with knowing all there is to know and taking the appropriate action. It’s not something on top of our job: it is our job, and it’s made far more workable by having all day, every day to do it.
As soon as a new piece of legislation becomes law, we ensure that every single property we manage is brought in line and on time: our landlords rarely need to do a thing. Imagine if they all had to clear their individual days to find out precisely the same information as each other - how many wasted hours of life is that?
Have you ever been in a conversation about the difficulties in finding reliable companies to repair something at your home? Or where a contractor came in, charged the earth and made the matter worse? Almost everyone has experienced some version of that.
It’s one thing waiting in for a plumber at your own home, but when it comes to meeting them miles away – and with a three-hour arrival window in the middle of winter – it’s really not the same. And if they don’t turn up at all, or you need to revisit when the works aren’t done correctly, it’s more hours out of your life and a less than happy tenant.
It’s taken us years – and plenty of tears – to develop a circle of trusted tradespeople. We’ve met disastrous contractors along the way, but our list of long-standing connections can deal with almost every kind of emergency and problem you can imagine. There’s rarely something that comes up that we haven’t dealt with before.
Our strong relationships mean that we often get priority treatment, with repairs attended to quickly, properly and at a reasonable cost: a win-win situation for everyone.
Where do you keep your receipts? If you’re anything like most people it’s a combination of inside your wallet or purse; generously sprinkled across numerous pockets; and the occasional triumph involving the box file marked ‘receipts’ (a purchase made with perfectly good intentions, but rarely enjoying its intended role).
And when it comes to completing a tax return, we can add checking a year of credit card and bank statements, and trawling back through emails for online orders and purchases. The unappealing nature of the task means it’s generally left to the very last – and somewhat stressful – hours before the deadline, so unless your perfect drinking partner is the self-assessment website, it’s hardly an ideal evening for enjoying a bottle of Pinot Noir.
Now, just for a moment, imagine receiving a statement of all your income and expenditure for your rental property without a single piece of paper to lose. If all the information you needed was there to cut and paste directly into the self-assessment website, how much time, energy and brain space would that free up?
Some of our landlords tell us it’s worth the management fee alone.
Whether you’re an intentional or an accidental landlord, one of the main attractions of buy-to-let is the thought of passive income. But a truly passive income means doing nothing at all, and the act of owning a rental property doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.
Most landlords are responsible people, and part of being a responsible landlord is visiting your tenants at regular intervals; not only to identify and discuss any maintenance or enjoyment issues, but also to nurture a healthy relationship. You’d certainly save time if you never inspected your property, but your message of disinterest might well be returned by your tenants.
It’s the same with your own home: when you actively keep an eye on things, you spot potential problems fast and prevent them becoming more complicated and costly. A fresh pair of eyes almost always highlights something that’s been missed or unreported, so inspections are an invaluable part of a tenancy.
But there’s no escaping that they are work, and they take time. Your time.
The odd malfunction or minor repair is one thing, but when problems come one after another – or where your tenant experiences a change in circumstances, or becomes a nuisance – the relationship and communication can become strained.
You've probably had the experience where it feels like things keep going wrong at home: first the boiler; then the washing machine; then an extractor fan; then a tap. On their own they're tiny issues and often a matter of wear and tear, but the difference is that your extractor fan is not interrupting someone else's life. You might be a bit miffed when it stops working, but no-one is getting angry with you.
Now let's consider a tenant whose finances take a turn for the worse, or someone who causes problems among your neighbours, whether deliberately or accidentally. Thankfully these occasions are scarce, but there is rarely any warning and they can have major implications for you as the landlord, which might affect your ability to keep your cool.
Having a third party, and one of authority, to step in on your behalf can help alleviate situations fast, without them ever getting personal or overheated.
So how does that sound?
Are all of the duties of a self-managing landlord adding value to your life, or can you see the benefits in having them handled for you?
Think of a managing agent as a scientifically impossible preventative ibuprofen: you might not be able to plan for a physical headache, but you can reduce the risk of your rental property becoming a pain in the neck.
For us, emergency repairs, regular maintenance, changes in the law and unexpected events are not inconvenient interruptions: they’re exactly what we’re waiting for. We certainly don’t spend our days doing nothing, but we do spend them ensuring that you have nothing to do.