I am often surprised by some of the landlords I meet, who seem to go into the private letting business with little knowledge but high expectations of how their business can produce a healthy income with the minimum amount of effort. I know landlords who do make it look easy and live a very comfortable life-style – but that is not without a huge amount of effort, usually for years.
I make that point because of another article I have read, which says that a third of landlords are stressed over tenant troubles. London Shared, the tenancy and property management specialists, have undertaken research, which showed that a third (30%) thought that being a landlord was more stressful than they had thought it would be. Only a third? It was a fairly small sample, only 500, but if the results can be extrapolated for the sector as a whole, it proves many feel they are up to their necks in a job which they do not feel sufficiently prepared for.
One cause of stress is that tenants not only seem to feel that the landlord is available 24 hours a day, but also don’t understand that they too have responsibilities in the tenancy. Some landlords may laugh, but the top 5 issues which landlords reported that tenants expected them to deal with are:
- Unblocking the drain (23%)
- Lost keys (19%)
- Turning on the heating (14%)
- Changing a light bulb/Changing a fuse (13%)
- Mowing the lawn (7%)
At least 3 out of 5 of these should not be the landlords’ responsibility, but a surprising number, when told that the tenant does not know how to change a light-bulb, will go out and change it, taking a new bulb with them! Once perhaps, to show how it should be done, but not repeatedly.
I take as my guidance what would happen in social housing. Would a housing officer go out to change a light bulb? Would a tenant be able to ring at 3am to say that he has lost his keys? In case you are not sure, the answer is no!
No-one will be surprised that rent arrears cause a massive amount of stress to landlords. It seems 40% of the sample receive their rent payments late. Some of this may be due to benefit dependent tenants who will always be paid the rental element of their benefit in arrears, but as 18% state that this has resulted in them de-faulting on payments they are supposed to make, it must be assumed that some of it is due to unexpected arrears.
Some of the stresses are due to things which should not occur and which no landlord should be surprised about. Forethought, and research, could indicate how to minimise the risks, but it is precisely this which many landlords don’t appreciate when they take their first, expensive steps into the private rented sector. Stress does not make good landlords. It leads to illness, to rash decisions and anger. An agent can relieve some of the stresses, though can bring more, if you don’t get the right agent.
Do the research. Find out what training is available from Accreditation Schemes, local authorities, landlord associations. It may not relieve all the stresses, but at least landlords will know what to expect and won’t believe they are entering a business which is ‘easy money’.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon