Two common mistakes – could a letting agent have prevented this landlord’s woe?

30th July 2018 posted in Landlords

Ten years ago, Ray Wilkins from Surrey bought a four-bedroom detached property in Addlestone as a buy-to-let investment. Living in nearby Surbiton, Mr Wilkins and his partner decided to manage the property themselves. 

Over the years, he has had some great tenants and also some not so great tenants, with one such incident costing him in excess of £12,000 when a cannabis factory was discovered at his property. 

Then, four years ago, a friend and well-respected member of the local community introduced Mr Wilkins to a family who were moving over from Spain and looking for a home to rent. Having met the prospective tenants several times, learnt that the family had properties in Spain and that the father was an Economist, Mr Wilkins was confident that they have the financial means by which to pay him and that they would take good care of his property. He helped the family find reputable schools for their children in the local area and his own children even helped their children improve their English. 

Fast forward to today. Mr Wilkins’ tenants owe him £17,000 in rent arrears and he is locked in a legal battle for possession of his property.  Nearing retirement age and having separated with this partner, Mr Wilkins has no choice but to sell the property, but his tenants are refusing to leave. 

“Over the years I have built up a good relationship with the family and would have gone as far as to consider them friends. Some 18 months ago the rent payments started to become inconsistent.  I spoke to them on several occasions and was always reassured that the balance would be cleared. I even reduced the monthly rent to help them out, even though £1500 per month was considerably lower than market value for a property of that size. I had said to them I was going to have to sell the property and gave them plenty of notice to start looking for somewhere else.  Then, at the start of this year, payments stopped altogether.  They are refusing to allow anyone access meaning the gas safety certificate is out of date and I’m aware that there are several things that have been damaged in the property. They have since been on a number of holidays and leased a car, all the while I am having to pay the mortgage on the property out of my pension savings just to keep up with payments.”
Ray Wilkins instructed the help of tenant eviction specialists Landlord Action, who have already served a Section 8 notice to the tenants. Once this expires, the next step will be to go to court. Speaking about this case, and many similar ones he has handled over the years, founder of Landlord Action, Paul Shamplina says in the majority of cases, there are two common mistakes landlords make… “not using a reputable letting agent to source, reference and manage the property, and not treating buy-to-let as a business.”

“If you are running a successful business, you don’t employ the first person that walks into your office without first interviewing them and checking out their references. And if you yourself had no experience in recruitment, you would appoint an HR specialists or recruitment company to handle this for you. Similarly, if a client stopped paying, you wouldn’t make friends with them and after six months, still be hoping they paid up. Why is running a buy-to-let business any different? Landlords provide a service to tenants in exchange for a monthly fee.”

It’s very easy to say and much harder to do, and while I always advocate building a good relationship with tenants and keeping the lines of communication open, a level of professionalism must remain in order to operate a successful tenancy. Landlords that rely on their rental income to pay a mortgage or sustain their own lifestyle, simply cannot afford to become emotionally attached.  Using a reputable letting agent can mitigate this risk and the benefits are tenfold: -

-    Access to a large pool of tenants
-    Comprehensive tenant referencing
-    Professional Check-in / Check-out and inventory service
-    Can help ensure compliance with all legal obligations as a landlord
-    Mid-tenancy checks
-    Manage property maintenance issues and tricky tenants
-    Collect rent
-    Offer rent guarantee
-    Eliminate need to deal with the tenants directly

Landlord Action is the recommended legal firm on tenancy disputes for the Hunters Network.

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