How I rekindled my joy for buy to let

How I rekindled my joy for buy to let

The way I’ve been talking about paint the last couple of weeks, you would’ve thought it’d just been invented. 

Poring over colour charts, oohing and ahhing on the merits of Dulux’s light and space range (it has light reflective particles don’t you know), you’d think I was a novice.

Take a look at my Twitter feed and you’ll see my euphoria about the original Minton floor I’ve discovered and am restoring at considerable expense on a building I’ve owned for 18 years. 

I’ve been here before; this isn’t my first rodeo. 

And yet… and yet, I am like a small child at Christmas.

So, what’s all this about?

I’ve been asking myself the same question.

I think the shift happened sometime in the summer. I can’t put an exact date on it, but I know that’s when I booked in for the communal hallway to be renovated and was told I had to wait four months. There wasn’t much wrong with the communal areas, they just needed a tart and tidy, but I decided this time I was going at it with gusto.

Now, the funny thing is, prior to this, in the preceding months, I’d overseen the redesign and replacement of two kitchens, one bathroom and redecorated an entire flat. It was business as usual. There was no tingle, there was no specialness, there was no feeling like the night before Christmas. It was work, you choose a kitchen and a colour scheme and that’s it, that’s the job.

But then something inexplicable happened, and I can only pinpoint it to: I remembered the joy of buy to let.

Back in the day I used to have so much fun doing up my properties. I’ve got a thing for taps (yes, taps) and so many of my places at the time would’ve had the latest fancy design that’d caught my eye. But, over the years I learned style over substance is a losing battle. Most of those fancy taps failed and have now been replaced with functional models with designs so boring they make me yawn.

I’ve now realised, over the years, ‘practicality’ beat the creative spark out of me.

Whenever I wanted to do something a little different, I was reminded: ‘a tenant will be living there, not you’. And so, my choice reduced down, no longer did my places have the personality I so relished putting into them. I realised my colourful feature walls were ‘too personal’, my lurid glass splashbacks were ‘not to everyone’s taste’ and any attempt at doing anything different and crazy got crushed out of me.

I bowed to the gods of functionality.

But functionality is not fun, even if it shares the same first three letters.

There’s a reason why so many landlords paint their place’s magnolia – it’s a neutral colour choice which blends with anything a tenant happens to bring along. It’s available in big contractor tubs at cheap price tags and it’s easy to touch up when the inevitable scuffs and dents appear.

There’s a very good reason why you don’t choose Honey Mustard (aka yellow) from a particular brand and paint your walls in a vivid shade of sunshine.

But I don’t care.

It’s a bright, bold, brave choice. It won’t suit everyone, and again, I don’t care.

For the last few years, we’ve been living in a very, very grey hue. Sophisticated is what we’re told. Muted is what it means.

Which is what I think us landlords have been.

Curbed at every corner, we’ve had the lifeblood strangled out of us with every passing errant piece of legislation the government chose to pursue that day.

Treated as dirt on the bottom of ministers’ shoes, many landlords have exited the fold looking for less hassle returns. And I get that. Who wants this insane level of crap for providing homes for people to live in?

Well, let me give you a clue: there’s still a few of us, and for those who are left, it’s now a Choice.

I’m still being a landlord because I want to be one. Me painting my hallway yellow and restoring my Minton floor is, perhaps, an allegory: it’s me taking back control. It’s me putting my personal stamp back on my property and saying to the world: like it or lump it.

And it’s funny how putting some colour – real colour – on the walls can bring such joy to your life. I know it doesn’t solve all the rest of the problems, but it reminds me of this: In the last 18 years since I’ve owned my building there have been seven prime ministers and 22 housing ministers; there’s only been one me. 

It may not be politically correct to be a landlord, but I am.

Dave Kleinschmidt Political Correctness is...
Copyright Dave Kleinschmidt
Political Correctness is…

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.

It’s taken me years to say, but I’m happy to be a landlord

It’s taken me years to say, but I’m happy to be a landlord

Next week it will be two years since I started writing the Secret Landlord column in The Telegraph. That time has just zipped away, and I’m afraid so has my number of posts on this blog.

If you’ve missed my columns, you can see them all here

You’ll notice in the last few months I’ve become increasingly vocal. This is because the pressure now facing landlords is ramping up as this housing crisis reaches levels not seen before.

There are so many changes on the horizon – with the removal of Section 21, EPC regulations, bank stress tests, to name but a few; this environment is becoming a health and safety hazard all of its own.

I’m delighted as a landlord I have a voice in a national newspaper. I know I cannot speak for all of us when I write, but I always try to put the other side across: the truth the other side of the door.

Being a landlord can be a difficult and lonely job. I know many people (mainly non-landlords) don’t see it as a job, but if you want to run a decent buy-to-let business you treat it like a job.

As the Bank of England have ramped up their pressure on interest rates, far quicker and far higher than many of us (including the ‘experts’) expected, it has thrown Section 24 into a whole new ball park. We all knew the low rates wouldn’t last forever, but the speed and the intensity of the increases have left many with not enough time to plan for the pain.

I can understand why so many landlords are getting out.

Last year I had a year of pain.

It was the execution of my restructuring of the property portfolio I had built over the last two decades. Trying to dismantle a business is stressful. I had many sleepless nights and there were times when I felt like throwing in the towel completely and declaring: I’ll sell the lot.

But I didn’t.

I believe there is still a future in buy to let. The future may be different to what I thought and planned, but I know the demand for rented properties will always be with us, so I’m not prepared to sell out. But I am prepared to change.

Change is what you need to do if you want to survive.

I’m not saying I have all the answers – or if indeed any of them are the right ones – but I can only share that being a landlord is still one of the best jobs around.

This period will pass. There will be rule changes, there will be rate changes, there will be so many changes I haven’t even contemplated, but the facts remain: people need somewhere to live and they are prepared to pay for that.

I still enjoy providing homes for people to live in. I still enjoy providing a service – and it is a service – whereby I maintain and manage properties for people to enjoy.

I can only remain in this business because I still enjoy what I do.

I’m passionate about what I do.

And that’s what gets me through.

The market for buy to let may not be as financially attractive as what it once was, but there’s still ways of making money. Demand has never been higher.

No matter what the doomsayers claim, there will always be landlords and tenants. And I’m happy to be a landlord.

Can’t pay, Won’t pay tenants? Then be prepared for landlords to say: Don’t Stay.

These are tough, scary, anxiety-inducing times. And I can understand why movements such as ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’ and ‘Enough is Enough’ have found such support.

But not paying has consequences.

When I look to this oncoming winter, I fear not only for myself and the onslaught of eye-watering bills, but also for my tenants. I know some of them will face difficult choices, and if I’m honest with myself, I know some will be tempted to not pay their rent.

I would love to say I have a solution, but the fact is: if you don’t pay, you don’t stay.

As a landlord I do not have access to a magic money tree and I, like my tenants, am also being stiffed with soaring bills. If the boiler breaks down, it will be my responsibility to fix it. If the roof leaks, it will be my bill to bear. The cost of materials and labour has spiralled to a frightening level.

These are terrifying times.

But it is because I am scared that I am prepared. This year I have focussed on selling properties I thought may become an issue. I have served notice on those tenants who are in arrears and taken back possession of their properties. I have identified tenants who I think may struggle and taken out extra insurance on new tenancies and ensured guarantors are in place.

This winter is set to be a shitstorm. There is no point pretending there will be a happy ending, you have to be ready.

Martin Lewis has done a sterling job keeping us informed about the impending utility bills disaster and the Money Saving Expert website is a valuable resource. Since the start of the year, he has warned of this looming catastrophe. But despite his best efforts, the doomsday is fast approaching. The tips about how to cut energy usage are very useful, as is the advice to cut what you can now and, if you can, start saving towards these impending bills.

But, the most critical thing Martin Lewis has demonstrated is the importance of not putting your head in the sand.

Communication is king.

Early intervention is key.

If you’re struggling, the best thing you can do is ask for help before it gets too late. There are resources available: energy suppliers have grants and targeted help, councils have discretionary payments that may be applied for and those on certain benefits may be eligible for more.

Landlords (on the whole) are not ogres. They can be talked with, reasoned with. No landlord enjoys evicting a tenant, but not paying rent will mean they only have one choice; they are not made of money. Not paying will not make anything go away, it will likely make things worse.

Talking about any issues early on is the best course of action.

I wish I could say this winter won’t be horrible and it won’t be difficult, but it’s not true. It’s going to be dreadful and many of us will have to make decisions we never believed possible. And while despair may feel like the only emotion going, being pragmatic and planning for the worst is the way forward.

This is a spike and it will pass.

We don’t know how long it will take, but you need to hang in there.

Sources of support:

If you are struggling to pay for your energy bills, contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. The rules from energy regulator Ofgem state that your energy supplier has a duty to help you and can help to set an energy payment plan that you can afford. Options to help include a full payment plan review, affordable debt repayment plans, payment breaks, payment reductions, more time to pay, or access to hardship funds.

Citizens Advice has dedicated cost of living resources available on their website. Trained Citizens Advice advisers can be contacted over the phone through the Citizens Advice national phoneline, or you can visit a Citizens Advice centre in-person.

The Money Saving Expert website, founded by Martin Lewis, includes a range of resources, guides, money saving checklists, budget calculators and tips focused on the cost of living crisis.

StepChange is an organisation that offers free, flexible debt advice based on a comprehensive assessment of your financial situation. Any advice provided is confidential and will not affect your credit score. StepChange have put together resources focused on the rising cost of living, which you can access here.

Your MPs constituency casework team may be able to signpost you toward local sources of support and provide support in instances of benefit delays or when accessing the benefit system. You can also make an appointment to speak to your MP through one of their advice surgeries. You can find your MP, and their contact details, here.

The Trussell Trust supports a nationwide network of food banks and provides emergency food and support to people in poverty. They also campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK. If you need to use a foodbank, or are able to donate to a foodbank, you can find your nearest Trussell Trust foodbank here.

I’m a boring property investor, but my future self will thank me.

I’m a boring property investor, but my future self will thank me.

What do you do when you get a large sum of money?

Fast cars?

First class ticket to a Covid free beach?

Illegal shit I can’t even begin to write?

Spoiler alert: if you’re me, pay down mortgages.

Yes, dial back and clock that: pay down mortgages. Not a sexy fast car. Not a first-class ticket to a Covid-free bliss. Not a fancy anything that shows I just made a mint from selling properties?

Am I mental?

I wondered the same.

Rates are low and I’ve got some amazing tracker rates linked at just above BBR from the early noughties. I know, I’m lucky.

But that’s the thing: luck doesn’t last. I know that.

I’ve been wondering a lot when they’ll start to increase bank rates. And I know some of my landlord friends have become a bit, shall we say, complacent. Me, I’m not that way inclined. Trust me, my life would be way easier if I could just go with the flow, but I’ve accepted: I. Am. Not. One. Of. Those. People.

I am a planner.

I like to look ahead, rub my crystal ball, and try and decipher a future which looks fun. Now, given the ongoing shitshow which is this country and lurching from crisis to crisis, I’ve been trying to figure out what I think will happen.

Let me tell you this: Raising the interest rates quite so aggressively didn’t figure as one of the options. I knew they’d raise them at some point, but inflation, I thought, was more fleeting, more transitory, pushed up by global shortages and as such, I thought (wrongly) the Bank of England wouldn’t be so knee jerky.

Apart from, I think, I’m wrong.

Interest rates look set to raise faster than my crystal ball had anticipated and so that’s made me think again about my situation and that fun future I was hoping for.

So, I favour the snowball method of debt repayment. This means I pay down the highest rate first and then move onto the next. In theory this is fine. More tricky when you’re a portfolio landlord owing a rather hefty amount.

I therefore opted for a different approach. I worked out those tracker rate mortgages which I could switch onto a fixed rate (five years) for a low fee, and which (in my plan) made sense for me to keep. I then looked at the remaining trackers and said: which do I plan to keep for the next five years, and which will be sold?

This exercise was rather involved and considered the condition of the property (e.g. when was last refurbed), what may be required in the future, what was the impact of potential new EPC rules, how was the local area holding up and what other specific factors may impact on the future value of the property.

You could call it a ‘property health check’. It spanned both now and future scenarios and looked at both rental and sales values. It was my way of checking which properties will stay the course. For those that will stay the course, I then made capital overpayments to the key priority ones.

And then in a twist even I didn’t see coming, I paid off a low-rate fixed rate mortgage AND paid a £9k redemption fee (Surprisingly I would still save on the interest even after paying that fat fee!)


It was my own home.

And it may be boring and it may not make financial sense, but let me tell you, it certainly helps me sleep at night.

You see the thing to this property investing lark is that stuff goes wrong. Shit happens all the time. Who knows where interest rates are going to be in four years’ time? (when my fix comes to an end).

And before I did this, I will let you into a little secret: I went to see two new potential projects. One was a behemoth of a place I thought I could turn into a boutique hotel (when I got inside, I decided that was a rash idea and exited the thought process early on), the other was a bungalow I thought might work a treat as a do-up-and-dash (aka flip to sell).

But the thing that got me, and maybe it’s a stage of life thing, I don’t want the extra risk right now. Being a property investor already has inherent risks and so I’ve decided, for now, I’ll play it safe.

I paid off my mortgage.

And at this juncture I’m reminded of a saying: Make your investments boring so the rest of your life can be fun.

I think that just about nails it!

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:


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?

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.