As a landlord I’ve got used to being hated on. Shaded on. Shat on. Whatever the latest terminology is.
It’s not easy and at times I’ve crumpled. I’ve been ashamed. I’ve got mad. I’ve got defensive. I’ve got explanatory. And then, like a pendulum, I got proud.
I became proud of what I do: which is provide decent homes for decent people to live in. It’s not that hard to do, but it’s much harder than it should be, especially nowadays.
I’ve been a landlord for 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes in those times.
I can no longer go to raves with my tenants or doss on their floors like the good old days. I can’t take them out for drinks when sad things happen in their lives. I can’t pay them to paint, fit a window or any task like that (which they may be suitably qualified to do) because I can’t be dealing with the ‘you can’t do that brigade’.
Which I think is such a pity.
Maybe it’s because I started young in this business (I was in my twenties) that I have a different, maybe even naïve, view of the world. Many of my tenants were my contemporaries.
There was no ‘us and them’.
Me buying a property had nothing to do with me having more money. In those days of the early noughties, you only needed to have a pulse and you could get a mortgage.
It’s scary when I look back to how things were, it’s no wonder the bubble popped so catastrophically.
I’m really lucky I’m still here, and that I still have my properties, and that I choose to be a landlord.
I say choose, because being a landlord is a choice. If you don’t want to deal with people, there are plenty of other non-people related investments, and many other passive funds around to not get involved in.
But for me, from the very start, I’ve always liked to get involved. I enjoy making homes for people. I enjoy meeting those who will build their lives in the bricks and mortar I’ve provided.
Over the years I’ve had some scrapes and horror stories and many, many events that have set me back and made me question: WTF am I doing and why?
The stress of being a landlord, is sometimes unbelievable.
However, it’s actually also really rewarding. I know I’m not front-line staff of any description, but I take great pride in the services I provide. I like fixing stuff for people. Admittedly, sometimes I might swear about the bill, but I actively encourage my tenants to report stuff to me. I WANT them to tell me when things don’t work.
For those properties I manage myself (I have a hybrid approach of several agents and then me) the initial email that goes to my tenants welcomes them to their new home. It reminds them of the rent due date, my bank details and says how standing orders are best because life gets busy and payments can be forgotten.
It sets out my hours of business, tells them I’d really prefer them to always email me (I like to keep chains of communication), but says they should always call me 24/7 if there is an emergency. It also contains a list of contractor details for them to contact should they ever encounter a problem.
I know, right? How scary is that?
Not. At. All.
Never in all my years of using this system have I ever had a tenant abuse my trust. Not one tenant has ever called a contractor on the sly for shit they really didn’t need. And the beauty of this open, trusting system: it saves me money and time and it puts the tenant in control.
I know some landlords may tosh at such a suggestion, but I know another portfolio landlord friend of mine – who has double my experience – copied my template (with my approval) and now finds they have a much better quality of life.
I think it starts in the beginning: choose the right tenants for the right property.
Over the years, I’ve housed a lot of tenants, but one of the key questions I always like to ask is: why do you want to live here? I mean, really, why do you want to live here?
I ask this question not just because I’m a nosy cow, but because I simply want to know why they have chosen my place over another. I don’t see this business as simply: ‘here’s a property, that’s the rent, take it or leave it’.
Choosing where to live and have a future is a big deal, I want to understand how the property they’re choosing fits into that.
Earlier this summer, I had a little studio flat come up for rent. In total, there were something like 28 applications on the property. The agents asked me what I wanted to do. I said: first up, I want every potential tenant to have a working, home-owning guarantor. That got rid of half, but I was still left with too many good choices.
Ask them, I said, to tell me why they want to live in my place?
You know how many people were willing to write that down?
They got the flat.
Now, I’ve read the stories about all the crazy things landlords are asking potential tenants to do, but even if my request seems outlandish (at first) it’s actually deeply relevant to me. If you care enough to tell me why you want to live in my place, you care enough to be my tenant.
And maybe I sound like I’m being all over-zealous and whatnot, but the truth is, I care about being a landlord. I care about doing a good job. I may not always get it right, but I care about the tenant experience, and I care about the property.
That’s my job.