Are all landlords rogues?

Honestly, you would think that being a landlord required us to carry a sandwich board around our necks confessing to criminality, the way the media reports on what our elected representatives say; together these two groups are painting a picture of landlords that I just don’t get.

Speaking at the RESI conference held at the Celtic Manor resort in Newport, Wales, Lewis said the government was committed to “driving rogue landlords out of business, but we will never jeopardise the new appetite for investment in this sector with red tape and unnecessary regulation”, without harming the increased appetite for the buy-to-let market. He continued to say “That would simply undo the good work of the last five years – a journey that has taken this country from the brink of bankruptcy, to the fastest growing advanced economy in the world. Businesses are growing, more people are in work than ever before and living standards are rising. Our plans for devolution will give cities, towns and counties across the country the power to galvanise their local economies, deliver more homes and provide a better business environment.”

Well that last bit is all well and good, much to be applauded there of course… but quite what it has to do specifically with landlords is not all that clear. What is clear, is that the soundbite is that “rogue” landlords need to be weeded out, and no-one would disagree wit that, if it weren’t for the fact that in media terms this gets conflated into all landlords somehow being tarred with the same brush. A sort of guilt-by association.

Well, I’ve been a landlord for 20 odd years and an agency trying hard to put good tenants into great homes provided by well-intentioned and caring property owners and I can count on the fingers on 1 hand the landlords I’ve encountered who didn’t have the ‘right’ approach – simply to be prepared to invest where necessary but in general to hope that their property turns enough of a buck to enable them to see it as a viable part of a pension plan, or a way to provide some aspect of their future.

We all got into buy-to-let as an investment for the future, bricks and mortar seemed like a good thing (a better thing once upon a time in the dim and distant early noughties than in the rather uncertain present, no question) and in a climate where Gordon Brown had conducted his infamous raid on tax treatment of dividends that effectively ruined the strong British pension environment, investing in property was undeniably a strong option for people looking to the long term.

Of course, property is wonderfully ‘tangible’ as an asset  you can see it and watch the neighbourhood grow nicely around it, so that your dinner party conversations dwell on your canny skills in selection and investment nous…so much more interesting than similar skills in stock selection! ON the other hand, property takes upkeep, and more importantly, it takes a different sort of skill to deal with tenant err…. vagaries. Thos times when the rent doesn’t come in, you worry yourself stupid because you have a mortgage to pay and the Court might end up only route to save the situation – if you can cope with the equal vagaries and complexity of that whole thing.

So to be a landlord is pretty stressful at times, just as much as it is pretty pleasing at others. It takes a massive level of commitment to good practice, to decency in terms of providing a good living standards and to a whole array of different sorts of acumen; in being able to do the books, erect fences and repair boilers and organisational excellence (do you make sure you keep your accounts, your gas safety certificates, your deposit records in good filling systems and where on earth did I file that EPC from 8 years ago?!?). Doing this well and still being able to make a return that pays the mortgage, is a huge issue for landlord and I don’t recognise “rogues” in any of the great, committed, hard-working, astute, sometimes exasperated-with-tenants but most times reasonable folk that I meet on a daily basis.

So I wish the world would stop seeming to image that ‘landlord” equals “crook” or as near as damn it.

Of course, one way to avoid the stresses and still reap the rewards is to let us take the strain; that’s what our positioning is all about. Guaranteed Rent and guaranteed condition of the property mean pretty much guaranteed peace of mind. Not sure it will guarantee people see you as throughly decent guy/girl, mind you, but that’s something we will keep working on.

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