My Love / Hate Relationship with Property

My Love / Hate Relationship with Property

After twenty years doing the same job, the yearning for change sometimes gets overwhelming. Especially after a bad day, that’s when you want to say: I quit.

So, I’ve been down this path before, and I soon learned a key fact many seasoned buy-to-let investors know: property is addictive. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out.

The returns from property investment, despite continued government interference, are hard to match in many other asset classes. Of course, many people will wax about crypto, NFTs and a host of other stuff I don’t understand, and so I don’t buy. I get the gumpf about index trackers so I’ll invest in those, but, property, well… it’s still my favourite child I love to hate.

So, let’s get to why I hate it:

  • It’s not passive
  • It goes wrong
  • There’s ever growing regulation

For context, my Vanguard index tracker has NEVER called me to complain about anything. It just sits there quietly like a cat next to a fireplace.

Cats next to fireplaces are all very well. They are relaxing and sedate and you want to curl up next to them.

But then there comes a point in the day when you want to get up and go for a walk. You want to get some fresh air, get some blood bouncing, and the cat, well, it wants to stay by the fireplace.

And that’s the thing (if you’re following my analogy), property gets your juices going. It fires you up for solutions to the multitude of problems it throws at you.

I’ve sold two properties in the last couple of weeks and I was talking with a fellow landlord friend about what I was going to do with the money. As I outlined my ambitious renovation of a property I’ve owned for the last fourteen years, he turned to me and said:

‘What a funny love/hate relationship you have with your portfolio. On the one hand you’re selling because you don’t want the hassle, and on the other, you’re creating even more hassle with these big projects.’

I didn’t know how to reply so I just said:

‘Oh!’

He continued:

Your eyes are shining, and I can see how passionate you are. And it’s funny because you’ve told me how you can’t wait to sell a different property next month and yet you’ve just signed off for this major refurb and are planning more!’

Well, dear reader, I felt a bit stumped. I’d gone out for a drink, not a therapy session. But my friend was right: I have a funny love/hate relationship with property.

I’ve thought about it more over the last few days and I’ve come to realise how much I really enjoy doing what I do. I’ve loved creating plans, seeing the new fire doors that are available on the market(!), learning more about insulation (one of my favourite topics), moaning about the price of everything and the lack of supply, and all those things you do when you plan a major refurbishment.

Because in my little world, this is fun.

And I came to realise, as a landlord you can get bogged down in the paperwork paraphernalia, the tick boxing of smoke alarms, the lodging of deposits, the this and the that of every bloody piece of regulation, that you forget the fun part. The part where you get to decide what a property looks like. The bit where you can take control and say: what can I do next? How can I exceed the market? How can I stand out?

And that to me is the joy of property.

I’m really excited with where I’m taking my business. I’m delighted to be selling and I’m delighted to be renovating. And I know there will continue to be bad days when you wonder why you do what you do, but now I’m putting more of the bits of the job I love back, I can achieve more of a balance.

And I plan to have more fun, good days – and I can’t wait!

What Role Should A Landlord Have In A Tenant’s Life?

What Role Should A Landlord Have In A Tenant’s Life?

Ghosts
Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

I saw a reader’s comment that a landlord’s role should be ethereal.

The idea made me question:

a) what is ethereal?

b) what is the role of a landlord?

The first part is pretty easy to answer (thank you online dictionary!), ethereal means ‘extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world.’

The second is, perhaps, harder: what is the role of a landlord?

The idea made me reflect on my two decades of being a landlord.

In that time, I’ve changed a lot.

Twenty years passing makes you a different person – not just personally, but also professionally.

Also, notwithstanding, the world has changed. Tenant desires have broadened, but perhaps my idea of what it means to be a landlord have sharpened.

In the beginning, I was a very active hands-on landlord. I didn’t fix your tap (I’ve always employed people who knew what they’re doing!), but I was very much more of a presence.

Back then, you would’ve spoken to me on the phone where I would’ve got to know you, explained about the property and sought to see if there was a match.

As a tenant, you would’ve then met me on a viewing (I always took great pleasure in meeting potential tenants), and we would’ve discussed your plans for the property, for life and future hopes.

In all, we would’ve both got a good measure of each other.

At that time, I used to think finding a tenant was akin to finding a partner – you’re looking for someone who you can settle with, trust and grow old together.

Writing that now, it sounds very silly, but then I remind myself, I have several tenants, selected via this method, all these years on, who are still my tenants.

In a way, it’s as though we’ve grown together. Our bond is the property, but after all these years and the extra wrinkles and crinkles life has dealt us, there’s something more.

When things went wrong (life invariably happens so you must expect this), I was there to stand in, not just as a landlord, but as an ear to listen, sometimes a confidante, other times maybe to take the brunt of rage.

It was a role more like that of a support worker, where oftentimes, I was the first person to hear of a relationship breakdown, family death or a redundancy.

It was a role I took very seriously.

Fast forward several years and my hand-picking (due to time-constraints) was no longer viable. This meant more and more tasks were outsourced. Tenants were chosen via an agent, although I still preferred to manage everybody myself.

Closeness to the core was what I thought would prove the best business model.

In time, that model also changed.

Property management, as satisfying as it was, is hellishly time-consuming and with a large portfolio and ever onerous legislation, was proving increasingly cumbersome to living any sort of life. And as much as I loved being a landlord, I did want a life outside.

Over the last few years, I’ve passed over many management responsibilities.

I’ll be honest, I’ve found it challenging to take a step back.

When you were once so close to your business, it’s hard to come to terms with the distance that now exists. I struggle to let go of my once close tenant relationships.

If I’m being completely honest, it’s been an uneasy truce.

You see, I love being a landlord and getting involved with people’s lives and helping where I can. But today, with different times, I think there’s a need for a different model.

Now, when I think about the role of a landlord, I realise you should probably be more like a utility supplier: in the background, there-but-not-there. Which is how, maybe, the original comment about ethereal came into being.

Nowadays, I am a disjointed being.

To most tenants, I am nothing more than a name on the contract, a bill payer, somebody who has authority, but no presence.

I am there, but not there.

As I say, it’s an uneasy truce.

How I Changed My Mind About Being A Landlord (And Learned To Embrace Landlord Life)

As a landlord, I’ve got used to being the baddie.

To many, I am a scourge on society, a parasite, scum of the earth. To others, a role model.

It’s a strange position to be in, and one, which until the last few years, I don’t think I was fully aware of.

The vitriolic hatred, I mean. And the job shaming.

In my mind, I do good for society: I provide homes for people to live in.

I make no apologies for the fact I make a profit from what I do, because that means I can improve properties. For those who don’t own property, I can tell you they go wrong very often, and they’re expensive to maintain.

As a landlord, I also have to contend with a lot of regulation, and I have to be up-to-date on the constant changes. The government like to tinker, a lot.

In the last few years, they’ve made it a lot more challenging to be a landlord, and a lot less financially lucrative. One could argue it’s part of the ‘levelling up’, but I’m unsure who’s the winner.

You see, landlords have been leaving the sector. Fed up with the hiked taxes, increased costs and pared down ability to run their business, they’ve said ‘Enough!’.

I get that, I started selling earlier this year as well. I got fed up, frustrated, annoyed how everything is always against me.

And I don’t want to sound like a whiny victim, because I’m certainly not, but I don’t like being forced to run my business with one hand tied behind my back, which is sometimes how it feels.

Covid was an important test.

We all learned how vital our homes were. We got locked down in them. Stared at the same four walls for months on end.

The government, in their misguided wisdom, decided tenants could have breathing space, that landlords were the bully boys and snatched away any rights we had. That meant landlords were not allowed to evict tenants even if they weren’t paying rent, even if they were anti-social and causing issues.

Within this maelstrom, the position of a landlord became pretty precarious. Media headlines claimed (still do) the tsunami of evictions about to hit our shores. They speak little of the financial catastrophe many landlords have faced. How some landlords risk losing even their own home because they own a rental property.

The landlord’s voice has been pretty silent in all of this. The media don’t want to know, it’s not good for business, doesn’t make news.

What does make news is rising house prices, increasing rents.

When landlords exit the business and the property falls into non-landlord hands, that property is taken out of circulation. It’s no longer a resource of the rental market. Who cares, you may say.

Tenants, I reply.

Post-covid, rents have risen stratospherically. There is little supply and huge demand. Even for somebody like me (cynical, keen to sell up and get out), I’ve been astonished by the rent hikes.

And maybe I’m being mercenary, but I’ve changed my plans. I’ve managed to sell some (nowhere near as many as I’d hoped), but it was enough to loosen the noose, so to speak. That money has been earmarked for exciting stuff: chimney pointing, roof repairs, new kitchens and bathrooms, heck I’ve even thought about a mansard roof balcony, that’s how *fun* I am.

But the craziest thing?

I am genuinely excited.

I’ve been in this business way too long to feel such thrills and I was looking to exit. To do such a turnabout can either mean I’ve completely lost the plot, or I’ve found the wood in the trees.

And its uncanny how life works, because it was within this turbulent time The Telegraph approached me to write about life as a landlord.

I hope you enjoy it.

OMG Why Does It Take So Long To Sell A Property?

So, it’s been a while since I last wrote and that’s been due to a number of things, but mainly because I’ve been trying to sell some buy-to-let properties and that, dear reader, has not gone well.

I don’t know what to say about this hotter than hot market, apart from the fact I believe it to be a media myth.

Yes, the market may be scorchio when it comes to offers and people promising to buy your property, but let me tell you, it’s a different breed of sheep when you’re trying to complete on a property.

I honestly have no idea how anybody right now is managing to book the removal men because this has got to be the slowest, most labourious state of the market I’ve ever known.

And I know we’ve got Covid – I haven’t been living in a shed up a remote mountain for the last 18 months – but for Chrissakes, how can it be so difficult to send a frigging email?

I mean I just don’t get it – you’ve got these gazillionaires all prancing about with their multi-gazillion making bank accounts and putting rockets into places and spaces I’ve never heard of and doing all sorts of fancy pants things, and yet me here, I can’t even get a property past the finish line.

Which has made me wonder if I’m really cut out for this sales malarkey?

I mean, I know I’m not the most patient person in the world, but I’m struggling with the current piss-taking of every single property professional inhabiting the planet right now.

Just why is everything taking SO LONG?

I swear, this isn’t a difficult process.

But every single person seems to think it is and then quintuples whatever time estimate you think it would reasonably take to complete a sale.

I’ve been so close to losing it on several occasions it’s a wonder I’m still here. I think it must only be the copious amounts of Absolut and Mint Aero’s and ear chewing of my friends as to why I haven’t sacked every estate agent and told them where to stick their ‘For Sale’ boards.

And if I sound angry, you’re damn right I am.

If you’ve tried to sell a house and you’ve managed to complete the sale within a period of less than five months, I would like to know your secret. Do please spill the proverbial because I’m struggling to understand why everybody is so S-L-O-W.

Don’t they know another lockdown may be just around the corner? Hasn’t the pandemic taught us anything?

Like, life is for living now and let’s get done today what we can get done today because tomorrow may not happen?

I shake my head when I recall the property I bought earlier this year and which completed in under two months AND you had Christmas and New Year in-between AND the solicitors were closed for two weeks.

I mean, how can I buy a property so quickly and yet everybody else seems to be waiting for the number 12 bus (which is likely discontinued or diverted or delayed due to some random covid-related reason).

Anyway, my life right now involves a lot of waiting and not losing my shit. That means this blog post is a pure rant, because I think if I said what I really felt to anybody involved in my sales, they’d tell me to do one.

And I don’t really want to do one, I just wish people would understand empty properties are expensive; they’re a liability and they’re a security risk. I just really wish someone somewhere would pull their finger out of their orifice and do something productive on the keyboard instead!

Why I Am Selling My Buy To Let Properties

So, it would appear I have hit a point.

A really sharp, stab-your-finger sort of point.

I don’t know if it’s lockdown fatigue (and the excitement of being out and about again), or too long in this business.

But the point I’ve reached is: I’m selling, not letting.

And the whole thing kinda took me by surprise. You see, I was getting the properties ready to rent again. I was busy okaying various quotes for various works where various tenants hadn’t (yet again) looked after a nice property. And yet again, here I was replacing carpets that were just two years old.

And it struck me, like a weird idea (although it’s really not): I do not have to put up with this shit any longer.

Out of nowhere this blinding realisation came. And I know it sounds dumb, but you see as a landlord and property investor, you don’t really tend to sell properties you rent. As a landlord, you rent properties, it’s buy-to-let, eh?

Of course, I have sold properties over the years. But something about this time feels different. It’s like I’m actively looking for my exit.

And I’ve surprised even myself, because in the last 10 days I have now listed three properties. Three properties which I was about to list to let and instead have listed to sell.

20 years is how long I’ve owned one of the houses. The other two, are 18 years and 17 years respectively. If they were children, they would’ve finished school and would now be going to university!

So, I’ve pondered to myself what’s driving this (because if any more tenants give notice, I will also sell those). And I’ve realised it’s two key things:

  1. I’ve been in this business too long and I’m tired of the constant tenant trouble
  2. The current climate makes landlords too weak

Just to be clear, I’m not against tenants getting protection, there are some asshole landlords about who’ve made life very hard. But, little people like me, we play by the rules and we just continually get stiffed.

I dread reading the updates about what’s happening next in the world of landlording. The ‘breathing space’ regulations are something I have yet to check in detail, purely because I cannot face the prospect of trying to understand for how long can a tenant live without paying rent, while the landlord has to juggle everything to try and make the numbers stack.

And it drives me insane how powerless I am. Currently, we have some non-payers and a particularly anti-social tenant (part 4 needs it be written but I haven’t mustered the words yet). To have to give six months’ notice to gain back a property in these circumstances is not reasonable. And if the tenant doesn’t leave, I only have a long wait for court and bailiffs to look forward to. I can’t even begin to think what damage may be caused by such a delay.

And what I’ve realised is: the constant worry is draining me.

The worry about will a tenant pay the rent, will a tenant look after the house, will the tenant let the gas man in, will the tenant not fight with the neighbours and on and on and on.

And I just don’t think I can do this anymore. There are so many things, more worthwhile things, to worry about.

That’s why I have got to give myself some breathing space. And that is why I am selling.

How I bought a house the week before Christmas and completed before the Stamp Duty deadline

No, I wasn’t buying cash.

No, I wasn’t buying at auction.

Yes, I did need a mortgage.

Yes, there was a small chain.

The doomsayers (if you read the mainstream media), said it couldn’t be done.

It took me precisely: 7 weeks and 6 days from offer acceptance to sale completion.

Oh, and that was during the Christmas and New Year break when the solicitors were closed for two weeks.

And I guess I should mention, but I think you’re already aware, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and there’s this great frenzy to complete before the Stamp Duty holiday which has caused a logjam up and down the country meaning most purchases are taking approximately 20 weeks to complete.

How did I do it?

What’s the secret to my success?

Good communication.

Excellent people.

Lady Luck.

I cannot stress enough how important communication is. It is everything. And when I say that, I really mean it. I communicated everything with every person, even if maybe on the face of it, they didn’t need to know it.

And I don’t just mean emails, they are second rate when it comes to making sure shit happens. If you want to get things done, you pick up the phone and talk to people and then send an email after the conversation to recap your conversation.

There’s nothing like emphasis.

That meant from the offset the estate agent and solicitor were looped into every stage of what I was doing. They got informed when my mortgage application had been submitted. They got informed when I applied for searches, they got informed when the survey was booked, when the survey was back, when the searches were back, when I made a cup of tea. You get my drift.

All of this I did to ensure they were aware of progress and could ensure their vendors were also doing the same. Call it chivvying along, call it healthy competition but really, who wants to be the one left behind?

Regular updates means nobody ever forgets who you are and what you’re buying. And that means it keeps everybody else on their toes to make sure they’re holding up their end of the bargain.

The pressure trickles down and around the chain.

The estate agents I was buying from then applied pressure to the estate agents who my sellers were buying from. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about estate agents, is that they like a good old fashioned pissing contest.

Just add some fuel.

So the other thing I did differently, was the legal work.

Most of the time you apply for searches and do all that sort of gumpf after you’ve got the survey back. With a huge bottleneck at local councils and a likely surge of yet more requests, I decided to switch the order of things.

We applied for the searches before we’d got the surveyor’s appointment and before my mortgage application had even been approved.

The potential downside to this line of action was if the survey was unfavourable, I would lose the search fees and be liable for any legal work up to that date. The upside was if the survey was fine (which I was anticipating), then I would be ahead of the game by some six to eight weeks.

That, I knew, could be the difference between making the transaction happen before the stamp duty holiday ended or not.

The downside was losing a few hundred quid. The upside was saving several thousands.

I wanted the property and believed it would pass, so I pushed ahead.

The searches were back within days. I have to admit; I was astonished given the delays I’d read about in the news.

And the survey? Well, unbelievably that also got booked in pretty quick. From the time of my mortgage application to the date of the survey, it was just over three weeks. That is exceptional going when you consider Christmas and New Year was also in that intervening period.

It then took twelve days from the date of the survey to the mortgage offer.

But, I have to confess to being organised when I submitted my mortgage application. I didn’t fanny about and spend days oohing and arrhing about the rate and getting my paperwork together. The decision was made and all relevant paperwork submitted that same day.

If you’re going to hit a deadline, you have to prioritise to make stuff happen.

Of course, things were going too swimmingly and even I thought that.

I called the estate agents to touch base on I don’t remember what, maybe general pestering, to discover they had all come down with Covid and had closed the office. It was by sheer chance I’d managed to catch the boss.

I told him to focus on getting better and to give me the vendor’s number. We would sort it out from here.

And this is where Lady Luck comes in (although she’s been sitting on my shoulder since the start, but it was here she really made her presence known), because, what you won’t know, is that when I called the estate agents to discover the entire team was ill, was only three days after those same estate agents were meant to show me the property again for me to do some final measurements.

As it was, on that day, the estate agents were so busy, they had asked the vendors of the property to let me in instead.

And so it was, I met the vendors for the first time, struck up a rapport and avoided, as it later turned out, coming into contact with an agent who later tested positive and who’s meeting would’ve meant I would’ve had to self-isolate – in the worst case, could’ve potentially given me Covid and made me sick.

Take nothing for granted.

As I say, everything had been going swimmingly, so swimmingly in fact that we were due to exchange last week.

But then the vendor’s solicitors, having agreed a completion date, went AWOL. They didn’t answer my solicitor’s emails or calls and everybody was rather stumped.

So I asked the vendor to pop by their solicitor’s office (which was local to them) to find out what was happening.

It was in darkness.

So, doing what all good desperate people do, they banged on the door.

Nobody answered, but five minutes after their visit, they got an email which they sent to me which simply said:

>not today

>we’ll contact you when we’re ready

Which I have to confess was a curveball I hadn’t seen coming.

The last few days have been a bit stressful, not for any other reason than the fact the vendor’s solicitor was refusing any sort of communication with anyone.

Then suddenly yesterday they sent an email and said: ‘we’re ready’.

And so, that was it, I have no idea what they were doing, and I guess in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter: because I’d bought the house!

So there, dear readers, is the story of how I bought a house the week before Christmas and completed before the Stamp Duty deadline.

My Tenant is Causing Damp to my Flat: Episode 3 (The Unexpected Twist)

Honestly, it feels like I’m writing some sort of damp-based drama series for Netflix, but real life is stranger than fiction, so here goes…

If you’ve missed episode one and two, you can catch up via the hyperlinks.

* * *

I think there’s a saying that all plans are made to be screwed up?

If there’s not, there should be.

Because that kind of feels like where we right now. However, let’s skip back to The Plan.

So, having been threatened with the tenant reporting us (by ‘us’, I mean me as the landlord and the agents as the letting agents) to the council, we decided to shortcut the process and contact the council ourselves. Help is what we needed to try and get this situation under control. And we were happy to make it official, we had nothing to hide and everything to gain.

But, this is the council.

I don’t know what we were expecting, having sent proof of the flat before he moved in and now two months later and the humidity readings, but to be quite frank, the response was lacklustre and non-committal. I guess the only good thing is that they did attach an up-to-date damp and condensation leaflet to give to the tenant, silver linings and all that.

So, the next plan.

Big boss letting agency man said we should get commercial dehumidifiers in the flat. This would then remove some of the humidity to a stage where we could deep clean the property to try and get the place back on a more even keel.

An electrician was also contacted to install humidistat fans throughout which would kick in when the humidity levels got too high and extract the air to more normal levels, thus preserving the fabric of the building. We decided on the silent type so as not to be too much of a noise nuisance.

We also decided to get an expert in to see if we could boost the insulation and see if there was anything more that could be done, from our end, to prevent the damp and mould.

And I have to admit, it’s an infuriating situation to be in, because there’s a lot of cost involved here, when all the tenant has to do is open the windows. But I have to be pragmatic and future focussed.

Doing nothing is not an option.

And when you look at the potential damage to the building – and the cost of rectifying that, I guess, in comparison, this is cheaper. Not as cheap as opening a window, granted, but I try and not harbour on this. Sometimes tenants will not do the simplest things to help themselves, and thus I have no choice.

To regain control of this situation we need to force air into the property, whether the tenant likes it or not. 

So this was The Plan. Stage one of contacting the council had been completed and thus it was time to move to the next stage. But then the phone rang, it was the tenancy liaison manager.

‘Sorry SL, I’m calling you with more bad news about this flat.’

‘OK,’ I reply, nervous as to what else could be happening.

‘The police attended last night.’

‘The police? Why were the police there?’

‘The tenant had an illegal lockdown party and they were all high on monkey dust.’ At this, I quickly typed ‘monkey dust’ into google, to learn it’s a synthetic drug (MDPV) which causes powerful hallucinations and paranoia, with many users climbing trees and buildings, plus it makes you violent. Highly addictive and unpredictable, the effects can last for several days. It can be bought for as little as £2.

‘Oh dear God,’ I reply.

‘So the tenant in the downstairs flat had to leave last night and stay with friends because it got so noisy.’

‘Oh my goodness, was it him who called the police?’

‘No, it wasn’t him, it was the tenant.’

‘Which tenant?’

‘The tenant who was having the party.’

‘Sorry, did I hear you right? The tenant who was having the illegal lockdown party where everybody was high on monkey dust was the one who called the police on himself?’

‘Yeah, you got it, he said he wanted the people to leave.’

‘Well, why didn’t he just ask the people to leave? He was the one who invited them there.’

‘That’s the other thing SL, I think we have a bigger problem here.’

‘What’s that?’

‘He thinks he works for CID.’

To be continued….

My Tenant is Causing Damp to my Flat: Episode Two

If you missed episode one of the tenant damp saga, you can read it here.

* * *

So I email the big boss of the letting agency to find out why inspections are not being carried out, to be told they are. There was some sort of misunderstanding.

‘OK,’ I say.

‘We’ve sorted an inspection, we’ll update you when we know more.’

My phone rings on inspection day.

‘SL, I’m really worried, I’m going to send you photos of the damage, but I think we need to get a roofer out there quick.’

‘OK,’ I reply, ‘but that’s a bit weird because I had a roof survey done last year and it got a clean bill of health.’

‘Just you wait until you see these photos!’ The tone is dramatic and I wait for some sort of equally dramatic music to kick in. It doesn’t, I’ve been watching too many drama series. The agent continues, in full emphasis of every word, as if delivering a Shakespearean tragedy. ‘And he has got the heating on. I don’t know if he was just doing it for my benefit, but it was really hot, way too hot. I thought it was like a sauna to be honest, there was water trickling all down the windows like in the tropics.’

I put the phone down and look at the THIRTY-SEVEN photos I’ve been sent of this one-bedroom flat. I swear I want to cry. Having refurbished this flat at great expense a couple of years ago, to see walls peeling with paint and black splodges reminiscent of a giant ladybird makes me so, so angry.

I decide to take a deep breath (that’s what the mindfulness book says I should do) and focus on my feet. Apparently, because they’re furthest from you, it grounds you more.

I make a tea.

I mull on the photos some more, while breathing very heavily and remembering to count to eleven on the out breath. Again, that’s what the mindfulness book told me to do in stressful situations.

How can it be the roof? If it was a roof leak how would you have saturated walls in every room? And if it was a roof leak, wouldn’t it start from the ceiling?

I can’t stop the questions flooding into my brain.

I inspect the photos closer. If it were a ground floor flat, I’d tell you it had a sudden attack of colossal rising damp, but as a top floor flat, it didn’t make sense.

I text the tenancy liaison manager back.

>I’m not convinced that’s a rook leak; can you show the big boss.

Now, the handy thing about the big boss at the letting agency, is that he’s also a builder.

Later that day, he sends me a message, he will attend himself.

He calls me. ‘SL, the tenant is clean and tidy, but the walls are saturated. It’s not the roof, it’s his lifestyle. He’s running the flat at humidity levels in excess of 75%!’

I’m not going to get into the long science of this, but this article explains why the hell you don’t do that. In a sentence: it’s bad for your health and the property.

‘I’ve confronted the tenant with the meter readings from my Protimeter Hygrometer, which shows the humidity.’

‘And?’ I ask.

‘It’s not my fault,’ was his position.

‘It’s nothing to do with me,’ was his default.

‘I pointed out to him he was distilling cider 24/7, I talked to him about the fermentation process, I told him how this was creating the excessive levels of humidity and causing the damp and that he needed to ventilate the property by opening the windows.’

‘Oh yes,’ I reply, already knowing how that old chestnut of opening windows so hated by tenants, but the easy cure all to every damp problem, would go down.

‘It’s blimmin freezing, I can’t be doing that,’ was his reply.

‘So I told him, that’s what he needed to do, and he replied, he wanted the damp sorting and it wasn’t good for his health.’

‘But he’s not willing to open a window and solve his own problem he’s created?’ I swear under my breath. I count to five. ‘So where do we go from here?’ I ask.

‘It’s OK,’ big boss replies, ‘I have a plan.’

To be continued… 

My tenant is causing damp to my flat.

6.15pm I make a pina colada. Before you ask, just because.

6.16pm the phone rings.

I glance down and scowl, it’s a handyman. I take a sip and answer the phone. The coconut cream has barely a chance to touch my tongue when the acrid taste of being a landlord overwhelms my senses.

‘I’m really sorry to bother you SL, I didn’t know who else to call.’

I hold my tongue, I want to say the agent, but manners dictate I reply not.

‘I’ve come to this property where there’s been a report of damp and it’s crazy.’

‘OK, what’s crazy?’

‘Well, this flat, this guy who’s moved in a couple of months back, there’s black in places where I’ve never seen black. I’ll send you photos now.’

I take a deep breath. I don’t want photos. I don’t want to hear about condensation mould. I eye my drink longingly and look at the Spotify music list I’d been about to play. I sigh and flick to the WhatsApp photos pinging through.

I’m pretty pissed off when I see them.

‘How has this happened?’ I ask.

‘The guy says he can’t afford to put the heating on. But he’s there brewing cider and there were four or five other people just sat on the floor drinking – they were all drunk!’

‘Sorry, did I hear you right? We’re in lockdown and what’s happening?’

‘There’s no furniture SL, there’s no bed, he’s just sleeping on a quilt. Can you see it in my photo I sent? Not even a cover on it! There’s no tv, no chairs, they’re just all sat around on the floor drinking his homebrewed cider. They’re well pissed, and they’re loud, making a right racket. I’ve had to get out of there as they’re making allegations.’

‘What sort of allegations?’

‘They’re saying the building is unsafe and so he doesn’t have to pay his rent.’

‘How is the building unsafe?’

‘They’re saying about this black mould everywhere.’

‘That he’s caused by not putting the heating on, by brewing cider and by having loads of people around like it’s a pub? Not to mention breaking the law given it’s a national lockdown!’

‘Exactly, that’s what I said to him. I said to him, “Listen mate, this is rented as a home not a pub, I’m telling the agent.” And then I called Mrs Violet at the letting agent and told her she needs to do an inspection straightaway to put the guy to rights, but she told me she wasn’t allowed because it’s lockdown and I says to her, “But how can I be allowed to come here and its lockdown?” and she says it’s because I’m maintenance. And so, I had to call you SL.’

‘I understand, well thank you,’ I reply.

‘I don’t want to be telling you all this bad news, but you know I have to be straight. If you don’t do something pretty quick that whole flat is gonna be covered in black within the next month.’

‘I understand, thanks.’

‘Oh and there is more…well, I bumped into the neighbour down below the flat where this guy is brewing cider and he’s not happy.’

‘I can understand.’

‘No, you can’t, it’s not just the noise and all them people, one of the cider vats fell over last week and leaked all through his ceiling, he was showing me the damage.’

I take a very large sip of my now bitter tasting pina colada.

To be continued…

Why I Hate Property Educators.

So I read in the news today that allegedly some uber successful businessman is buying the UK’s “largest” property education network.

I use alleged and air quotes freely as I have no clue as to the veracity of these claims.

And I wonder about the rest.

Anyway, if I’m to believe what I read then said successful businessman has decided to capitalise more on his company’s success and bought said company from the property educator.

Now, I don’t know what you have to do to bag the title of ‘property educator’, I wrote a book – The Secret Diary of a Landlord, and so I’m wondering does that get me into this hall of fame?

I think not.

You know the reason why not?

Because I tell the truth.

I do not share any secrets (apart from life in property is way less glamourous than what any sucker will have you believe) and I do not charge any subscription fee. I also have no course to sell.

I have no retreat for you to holiday at.

I have no deal to spin you.

I have no secret knowledge to impart other than the words on the pages of that book – which you can read for free if you have Kindle Unlimited. There is no further upsell.

Seriously, I have nothing to sell you other than the experiences in that book.

You see, dear reader, I am a real property investor.

I do not make money by selling smoke and smiles and promising you really big things that you dream about and will make your life great.

No, I present to you the reality of property. The battles and the fights, the legal wrangles, the fuckwits you will have to deal with and the stress that will likely see you want to top yourself at some point in your career.

Because, in all honesty, that’s how this business is.

It is not all smiles and holidays and jamborees and sexy deals over dinner.

No, running a property business is much like any other business. It’s fucking hard work.

It takes time, it takes money, it takes effort, it takes sleepless nights, it robs you of joy, family time, friends and peace of mind.

In short: there is no quick win to being a property millionaire.

But that, dear reader, is not what man on the street wants to hear. He wants to hear how easy it is, how you just have to cross a palm (any palm will do) with gold and breathe three times and do a twirl and some other NLP shit and everything will be alright.

Do you know what: WAKE UP!

It’s because people are not willing to put the work and effort and understand the truth about this business why property educators continue to flourish.

When you decide to finally build a property business you want to be proud of and that will make you money: Start it.

Take action. Understand life will be hard. Really hard. Then get over it and learn to work your business.

Business means business, treat it as such and stop looking for an easy answer and a quick buck.