Saturday, 30 October 2010

Keeping up appearances

Any property that is lived in will suffer general wear and tear, this has to be accepted. But to what amount is acceptable if you are renting out property?

For landlords, an inventory is recommended to provide a "baseline". You can do this yourself (and I'm sure there are guides found on the internet) or it can be done professionally. The easiest would be to ask your letting agent to arrange it for you, although this may not be the cheapest option.

Realistically though, what are we going to turn a blind eye to?

I am renting a flat at the moment and my 22 month old daughter has discovered scribbling on the walls with a biro is a lot of fun. That's terrible! But is it? Her graffiti is just an addition to the already marked walls (from previous artistic toddlers I bet). She is also potty training and she has managed to pee in every room so far. I also found a raisin in the bathroom the other day - or so I thought, actually it was a pebble of dried poo. Nice.

However, when we moved into the flat, it was really quite grimey - there was chocolate stuck to the carpet and the curtains were filthy. I bought a carpet cleaner and gave all the floors a good scrub. I also changed the curtains for wooden blinds.

In the flat that I rent out, my previous tenant's rabbit chewed a hole in the carpet. Oh no! She also made a black stain on the wall from a burning candle.

Well, my tenant managed to rectify things - the hole was covered up with some creative carpentry and the stain was painted over. She also put up a blind on a window and some handy coat hangers.

What else? Lots more, more than I could mention. Where do you draw the line? My personal opinion is that there is a lot of give and take. Obviously I am not talking about rogue tenants that turn a place into a tip, that is a completely different situation. Tenants may add to the wear and tear of your property but they also improve things to make it more habitable/homely (sometimes for free).

In my own experience, having good communications with your tenant is essential in maintaining your property. Knowing when things go wrong and fixing them as necessary can prevent a bad situation from deteriorating into something worse. Otherwise not only will you have to spend more resolving a larger problem but you will also lose more money if it stops someone else from moving into the property.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

So, what kind of landlord are you?

Or it could be read "what kind of landlord do you have?"

As individuals, we all have our boundaries and limits - how much information about ourselves we are willing to divulge to complete strangers (some a lot more than others, just read facebook, myspace, twitter, etc), how much money we want to spend on things, how much time we want to spend with our friends, and so on. It all makes us who we are. The same goes for being a landlord - when reading blogs written about landlords by tenants, we may seem all the same money-grabbing irresponsible beings, but the truth is we're not.

Most landlords will have rented a home at some point in their life, I can't imagine that it is that common to have just inherited property or enough money to buy property to become a landlord without first being on the other side and working up to it. So we'll all have our stories and the "ah, yes, that one".

Here are some that I've come across, maybe you'll have too, or maybe you are one of these.

The Handyman Landlord
Actually, this wasn't one of my landlords but an ex-colleague. He was always in her flat doing something, fixing something. She got a scare one time having woke up from a nap to find her landlord there doing some DIY. This type can be a double-edged sword, on the one hand the property will be well maintained, but then you can't walk out of your bathroom with hair dripping wet and just loosely covered by an old towel (unless you don't mind, as we all have a different level of comfort zone).
A word of advice to landlords who are in the habit of just popping in, legally you are required to give reasonable notice (usually 24 hours), otherwise if the tenant feels insecure or threatened in their own home (and it is theirs, not yours) you can be arrested for harassment.

The Over-Familiar Landlord
I had one of these once. It wasn't bad, but it did somettimes get a bit much. Some landlords forget that your relationship is purely a business one - the only reason why you know them is because you are paying to live in their property. It isn't because you like them and you want to be their friend - maybe they want to be your friend because you have such a great personality but it isn't the same for you.
My landlord wanted to be my mother - she would tell me that she told her friends I was like her adopted daughter (except I wasn't) and she would introduce me to her family. There were perks, sometimes she would bake me biscuits or bring me apples from her garden, but then sometimes I got told I was too messy.If I wanted to be told off for being messing I can get that for free - live at home with my parents.

The 2-D Landlord
Also masquerades as the "only-on-paper-but-not-in-person" landlord. I think we've all had one of these - they are the ones that fuel the urban myths about landlords. They never do anything, you can never get hold them, their property could be swallowed up by quick sand and they wouldn't seem to care as long as your cheques don't bounce. These are a nightmare as you are usually tied in to some sort of contract which prevents you from leaving the property for some time (usually 60 days) and so you'll be living with compromises until then. Boo hoo.
My experience with one of these was when I rented a property where I paid the rent to someone else, all calls and problems were dealt with by someone else (and they weren't the managing agent). Then one day I received a court notice through the letter box regarding a year of mortgage arrears - it seemed the landlord wasn't in person to pay that either. I promptly moved out and the landlord wasn't in person to get the last month's rent off me.

Slightly one up from the "only-on-paper" is the "only-on-telephone". You hear from these but you never get to lay eyes on them.

The Over-Anxious Landlord
I think if you're going to let out your property and have a told stranger live there, you have to be a bit relaxed about the fact that things are going to get damaged a bit - walls are going to get marked, stuff is going to break or not work and things will go wrong time to time. Some people just can't detach themselves, they take the inventory too seriously and they think they have ghosts for tenants. Or maybe these types are just putting it on and it's a ploy to keep their tenant's deposit.

The Thief
I haven't called these "landlords" because I don't think they deserve the label, calling them so just gives all other landlords a bad name. They are hated by all, other landlords, the letting agents, tenants and especially their own ones.
My husband recently came across a family of these - like a family of vampires. They suck your blood and leave you dry. This particular "coven" let and manage their own properties, they never maintain their properties, they expect their tenants to live in filth, they don't respond to their tenants' calls and if they do it's usually to tell the tenant to keep quiet or face legal action. Then at the end of it all, they keep the tenant's deposit. Why do people rent properties from them? Well, a lot of the times people don't, they pull out after reading the negative press about them (very popular forum thread) but then you get the ones who don't know and fall for the empty promises that properties will be cleaned or repaired.
People who own property and use it to con other's money should be seen for what they are, thieves, they are not landlords as they do not take on any of the responsibilities of a landlord. They are greedy and are just like any other hustler except they use property as part of their scam. How do you spot them? It's hard, but like most scams, there is always that element of "it's too good to be true" to suck you in.

That's pretty much my fair share of landlords. I am one myself now and I hope I am a fair one - there when I'm needed and undetectable when I'm not. It's like being a fairy godmother, and that is a whole different article in itself.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Rent out your property without venturing down the high street

I was doing some research today - how I could rent out my property without going down to a high street estate agent.

Well, there are some options for those who want to keep it an exclusively off-street affair. This list goes down according to effort (top is most and bottom is least).
  1. You could painstakingly upload your property to all the property portals like rightmove, findaproperty, zoopla, etc. Then you can take all the enquiries and then conduct all the viewings yourself. There are online services that help you produce all the right documents should you find a tenant. You'd save a lot of money (an estate agent's fee) but then it's a lot of work - you might even have to give up your work just to do this, hmmm...
  2. There are some online agents that you give them a small (compared to what you'd give a high street agent) and they take all your property details and upload it to the portals for you. They even arrange the viewings for you - I don't think they conduct them, not for that price anyway. Still, it sounds like a lot of work for me. I think the hard work lies in the viewings, running around doing them is exhausting. Only slightly less effort than option 1.
  3. Sign up with Property Leaders UK - they will call you and take the details you would give to an estate agent. They will find the agents for you. The agents will call you to confirm the details and the instruction. You don't have to visit the branch to sign contracts if they find you a tenant, they can post or email it all to you and you can post it back. So you didn't save yourself any money compared to the online agent way, but you saved yourself a lot of effort and you didn't pay more.
One thing I don't think people realise is that high street agents can be quite accommodating if they want your business and are happy to go out of their way to close the deal. The last time I rented my flat out I got the estate agent to move a sofa bed up 2 floors because it was needed to complete the deal. I also had estate agents offer to pick up keys from wherever I am so they can do viewings, offer to bring me the contract so I can sign it. After all, they do make a reasonable sum on commission.

In combination with Property Leaders UK, you pretty much don't have to leave your front door to let your property out, and you don't have to pay more than what you would if you went trawling down the high street. Actually, it could be less as we also negotiate lower rates of commission for you.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Doing the least to get my property rented out

Hi, this is my first blog. I am a landlady and when I have to find a new tenant for my property the pressure that I am under really stresses me out. It's not that I don't think I'll ever get someone into my property, I know I will because I have quite a nice flat - it's the amount of uncertainty surrounding the whole process that gets to me.

First I stress about going to find an estate agent. I live in an area where there are at least 10 on the high street, so which one do I go into. What makes one better than the other? They all offer different things and the prices vary. I don't really have the time to individually assess them all - and do I need to? I just want to find a tenant at the end of the day, so whoever finds one first gets my business.The estate agent that finds me the tenant isn't always my preferred choice, but happens to be the one who finds me a decent tenant first.

In the past, I have generally registered with two estate agents but I think the more the higher my chances of getting my flat rented out sooner. The only problem is it's time consuming to register with 4 estate agents. I can't think of a time when I could fit in 4 visits to estate agents - even if I could it would be really tedious.

I hate moaning, but it is a chore.

Ping! Property Leaders UK. Save me the effort of running round to all the estate agents. I'm not lazy, I'm just busy (mother of two and full time job).