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.

3 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Became A Landlord

1. Everybody lies

Look, I know people don’t always mean to lie and sometimes they thought they were telling the truth, when in fact the opposite was true, but that’s life.

Everybody lies.

The sooner you get used to this line of the thinking, the easier your landlord life will be.

And when I say that, don’t think for one minute I’m just talking about tenants, nah, I’m talking about everybody.

I’m talking about the solicitor you use to purchase a buy-to-let and who says everything’s fine and then you learn two years later there’s a clause that prohibits you from letting the property and the freeholder’s on your back threatening you with a multitude of sins and you’re thinking WTF?

I’m talking about the builder you pay handsomely to install a new bathroom and who you think has done a good job to only learn months later they didn’t bother to put a frame in and the bath pulls away from the wall and floods the downstairs flat.

I’m talking about the housing officer who wants to rehome a vulnerable family and who promises you the property will be monitored and looked after and who does a disappearing act – along with the vulnerable family – and who leave your property smashed up and in smithereens.

I’m talking about so many things I could go on and on and it would burn your ears with the boredom, but the fact remains: Everybody lies.

Get used to it and get on with it.

2. There’s no Lamborghini in the drive

I swear when I started out in property there was a promise of untold riches. Before long, I thought, I’ll be on a helicopter jetting off to a 5-star isle and all will be well in the world.


For the run of the mill landlord, that’s not the case. For the very few, it will be, but my golly you need a lot of bloody good stock!

A few years ago a good friend of mine said to me ‘Why buy another house, it won’t make you happy’. And I looked at him and I thought, what a dick. What a dumbass thing to say. I love property, of course I should buy more, how else am I ever going to get my lambo!

But later that night, I realised he was right.

It was a turning point in my life when I realised, you know what: I have enough. I don’t have the lambo and the helicopter and the rest of the shebang I figured would come, but I do have a lot. I have way more than so many others and so I should be happy with what I have.

And I don’t remember the Buddhist saying, but it’s something like the pursuit of happiness which will make you unhappy. And something to do with clinging onto things and stuff.

As I say, I’m clearly not Buddhist, but I have reached a new level of understanding and meaningfulness in my life where I know money and even the pursuit of it will bring me no joy.

And I’m ok with that.

I’ve made my peace and I know, while the council and many others seem to believe I have a magic money tree at the end of the garden, I know magic is only for fairy-tales. And I’m way too old and far too cynical to believe in all that razzmatazz now.

3.Get rich quick is for suckers

In the beginning I read about property prices doubling every seven years. There was a graph that was touted about which had all these rising lines showing how rich you could be if you invested in property.

This is not the case across the whole of the UK.

Yes, I agree some places have seen stratospheric rises, but there are many areas where growth has yet to get back to 2003 levels.

Yes, there are some developers who make shedloads of money by flipping and selling and I’ve been fortunate to have done a few deals, but as an ongoing business model, it’s tiring and time-consuming. My developer friend tells me his life is like ‘feast or famine’, I would add it’s also a roller-coaster of risk and I’ve known many to lose the shirt off their backs on a particular deal.

And that’s the other thing – who knew you could lose money in property? I certainly didn’t when I started almost two decades ago. Back then, I was thinking it would only be a couple of years in the game and then I’d be out partying with aforementioned lambo not giving a shit about anything coz I would be bathing in riches.

Again, not true.

Yes, of course you can make money in property, but it’s a slow, hard, long game. Play it quicker and maybe you’ll win, but maybe you’ll lose.

What I can tell you is all this time on, I didn’t think I’d still be renting out property for a living.


When I started, I didn’t really have an end-game; I had a goal, a dream. And if truth be known, none of it included me still being a landlord all these years later.

And don’t for one minute think I’m having regrets about my life, because I’m not. I’m just sharing some of the things I wish I’d known then, before I started.

But the truth, regardless of everything I wish I had known before I became a landlord, is that I would do it all over again.