A buy-to-let landlord’s lot is not an easy one. The word “landlord” itself evokes ideas of stern but benevolent gentlefolk, riding through their lands wearing a top hat, distributing food to their poor tenants, and occasionally diving into murky ponds à la Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy. As a wealthy landowner, one of course needs do no actual work, merely survey one’s lands and attend the next social occasion demanding one’s presence.
The only social occasion that regularly demands my presence is a playgroup I take the kids to. Sometimes I even manage half a conversation with another grown up. And to be very honest, nobody actually demands my presence there.
Instead, in the last six months, here is the tedious list of problems I have had to deal with at the various properties:
- Broken shower
- Leak in kitchen
- Broken fridge freezer
- Broken washing machine
- The same broken washing machine
- Wrongly delivered new washing machine
- Broken new washing machine
- Broken boiler, requiring new boiler
- Broken boiler, requiring fixing
- The same broken boiler, requiring fixing
- Yet again the same broken boiler, requiring fixing
- Cracked water cylinder, requiring replacing
- Broken post box
- The same post box broken again
- The leaseholder’s management company trying to fine us literally thousands of pounds for late payment of a bill we hadn’t received
- A contractor who wouldn’t return keys to our properties
- A massive flood from the flat above which still hasn’t been properly resolved, six weeks on (sub tasks: liaising with insurance company, loss adjuster, trying to get compensation for the tenants, liaising with the drying company, repairs company, new burglar alarm)
- Small electrical fire requiring complete rewiring of a property which had previously been certified safe
This is on top of the expected, everyday tasks, such as making sure gas inspections are carried out, changes of tenancy, chasers for rent, remortgaging when deals expire, referencing tenants, liaising with the lettings agency and so on. Also minor maintenance such as re-grouting, minor redecoration and so on. Oh, and looking after two small children and keeping our own house running.
Just before Christmas, it became far too stressful for me to manage successfully by myself. So we have made a decision; for the first time we are going to try to get the lettings agent to manage the properties for us. In my mind, this means nobody will ever call me or email me with problems again, and the lettings agent will wave some sort of magic tenancy wand and everything will be fine.
Of course I’m worried that handing over the reins to someone else will either mean a) whenever something goes wrong, they just phone me and ask me what I want to do, thus just adding an extra layer of administration and cost to the mix or b) fail to manage contractors costs/reliability/tenants’ expectations successfully, causing us additional stress.
We have decided to give it a go for a few months, and if it works well, potentially until both YoungestGirl and EldestGirl are at school full time, which will then hopefully free me up to actually look after the business.