Sunday, 9 February 2014


‘Mummy, when I grow up I want to be a landlord.’

‘Well, study hard my child and maybe, just maybe, one day you might just get there.’

Nobody. Ever.

I have mentioned many times before that being a rentier is seldom a vocation. I doubt the scenario above has ever actually happened. A career as a rentier is, I suspect never mentioned by careers advisors, and does not appear in those bizarre job suitability or aptitude tests. The same is true for letting and estate agents, neither of which feature in feverish dreams of potential success, even if the latter usually requires a degree.

63% of private landlords admit having no prior experience of the industry. 94% are not in a professional letting body. In short – they’re amateurs, not even well-meaning ones.

These figures are truly appalling, but utterly unsurprising. The unmourned, mercifully now defunct ‘Inside Track’ seminars, which promoted deluded profiteering acquisition was the closest thing to training, but that’s long since discredited. The dominance of the terminally unskilled can mean that rentiers remain ill-informed about rules, regulations, customs, laws and bye-laws related to letting out homes. Just buy a house. Then rent it out. Erm… that’s it. Hooray!

Consequently, some newbies mistake bricks and mortar for a filigree crystal castle, constantly worried it will shatter, or that rough-hewn tenants will break it. They will be unaware of rules about deposits, licensing etc. They will do all the really bad things, such as turning up unannounced for too-frequent inspections, to the extent they let themselves in, or issuing notice to quit by power of thought alone and then wondering the tenant is still there. Etc. Etc…

Oddly perhaps, the opposite can be true. I wonder of owners could be too tolerant, on occasions fail ever to inspect, and then realise all too late that the dreaded cannabis farm is present. Or tenants have knocked the down dividing the lounge from the kitchen, like on the telly.

But what sort of education should career rentiers seek out? I suppose, a degree in business might be useful. Experience in customer relation is desirable, for those tempted to be rude or obstructive - basic money-saving home maintenance, too.

This matters because buy-to-let seems on the rise once more. I would not wish fresh faced dilettetantes and, well-meaning dabblers turned into wizened, world-weary cynics. I simply think they’d benefit from awareness of the pitfalls, responsibilities and problems.

For a home to be fit for letting out to paying tenants, it would be helpful for a mortarboard wearing tyrant to mark ‘pass or fail’ when presented with, for example, bathrooms fitted with tiles ready to harbour mould before tumbling down, or other faults which destroy the security, safety and happiness of occupants in the ‘investment.’

Which it isn’t. Nor are occupants ever really ‘customers.’ We’re tenants. It’s our home. Becoming a rentier should be a considered decision, more like a vocation than an inadvertent career. Because done badly by the ill-informed, it will ruin the lives of tenants and owners alike.


Anonymous said...

Another blog post as a kind of open question to which the answers probably are no yes yes .

I never grew up thinking I would be a landlord and although I class myself as a professional landlord I don't need to be a member of any body to make me a better landlord as it's a constant learning process and as with every job you pick up new or better ideas as you go along which I will continue always to do .

Being brought up in the building trade I learned a lot and picked up subliminally things that have benefited me although thinking back I was being exposed to this by parental design rather than luck.
I watched from a very early age how people we did contract work for managed property flats etc as private landlords and learned a hell of a lot some things good some things I thought could be done better.

Two of the landlords I learned most from probably around 120 properties between them are now in their early 70's and to an extent have been left behind certainly with technology within the letting industry and to a certain extent legislation, not that they don't comply but work without a computer so all tenancy ags etc are templates filled in by hand etc etc .

My children have done viewings with us listened to contracts and inventories being signed and done hand overs at the end of the tenancy since they were knee high to a grasshopper ,my girl who is barely in high school could now do this standing on her head however if you ask her what she wants to do she will not say landlord ,she says artist . People tend to follow on from their parents loosely around a common theme,my daughter may become an interior designer a farmers son may become a vet the thing we need to tackle is a child's experience of life leading to a theme based on sitting on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle

Simon the dark lord at PLD

Hey, Kate said...

Had so many of those experiences, RG, LLs unlocking front door and just walking in, those that did so when I was not there and went through my things, those that refused to do repairs, or had unlicensed friends or family members 'stop by' and tinker around the edges of actual repairs.... and on and on.

I would like to move, preferably to the country in a quiet setting, so looking for another home to rent is an exercise in vigilance. I no longer trust letting agencies, they want too much money, too much information and too much 'space' in my privacy, and all at my expense. Currently, I am looking everywhere elsewhere for possibilities.

Recently, looking at a public notice board, reading the rental ads, I came across this little gem:

Unfurnished house to let, 2 bed, good neighbourhood, close to bus stop. Recently decorated, suit mature working single or couple, no children no pets. Seeking tidy tenant -house proud would be ideal!

That was it. No rental amount or lease term, no details about heating, bath or shower, garden, insulation, glazing, soundproofing.
My thoughts were that this was a selfish LL looking for someone to sit quietly on a shelf and never touch or use anything when they were not actually at work. They are not overly concerned about the tenant's comfort level or needs, simply the reliability of the monthly mortgage payment and a property that never ages and is never used. I wondered, where in all of that is there a place for me actually being able to live my life? I actually retrieved my pen from my bag and wrote in the bottom corner, "Good luck with that."

I am thinking of making up a 'viewing form' to fill in whilst looking at properties. It would have categories such as structural condition, insulation, soundproofing, cleanliness, space requirements, ease of accessibility, room size, fittings, number of electric points and kitchen units, etc. Each item would be graded on a scale of 10 to minus 10, with 0 being average. All minus points would be tallied and for every -1 a set amount of monthly rent would be deducted from the advertised rent. It would be this rental amount that I would offer for the property and no more.

It is terrible that so much substandard housing is offered for rent at the maximum rent the market will bear and tenants are pretty much powerless and have little leverage to set standards themselves or to set limits on just how much they will be taken advantage of. A bit of creativity and refusal to accept less than what is decent and reasonable for market rates might shift some leverage back to tenants.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks for your brilliant comment. I was planning a post on this in the future. I have wondered about what tenants could ask for. FYI - the owners/agents will say they'll repair. But after you've moved in, they'll change their mind. My favourite ever ad involved a spare room in a house with single parent who didn't want to see, hear of be aware in any way of her tenant. Proscriptive kitchen/bathroom use. Oh - but she would have LOVED that there rent!

Anonymous said...

Kate said...
I am thinking of making up a 'viewing form' to fill in whilst looking at properties etc. It would be this rental amount that I would offer for the property and no more.

"Good luck with that."

Anonymous said...

Kate said...
Each item would be graded on a scale of 10 to minus 10, with 0 being average. All minus points would be tallied and for every -1 a set amount of monthly rent would be deducted from the advertised rent.

So for every +1, would a set amount be added to the advertised rent?

Or doesn't it work like that.

RenterGirl said...

Deleted SEo comment. 'I may not have said "mummy I want to be a landlord". However, at 15 I got my first foot on the property ladder. I hope to own at least 10 properties by my 21st birthday.' Wow. You must have been given a lot of pocket money. With guarantors for mortgages. And an inheritance.