How I minimise property management issues

by Mark Alexander

11:11 AM, 4th February 2011
About 9 years ago

How I minimise property management issues

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How I minimise property management issues

Please remember that my properties are all mid range to upper end of market properties aimed at the professional tenants and retired couples.  Some of the strategies outlined may be transferrable to other market sectors but not all of them.

Deposit Protection

I could use a TDP (Tenant Deposit Protection Scheme) for free whereby I would invest the tenants deposit with a government approved scheme.  However, I prefer to control the deposits myself so I register deposits with http://www.mydeposits.co.uk/

This isn’t free as it’s an insurance backed scheme but it does suit my business model better and leaves me in control as well as providing quality advice in the event of disputes.

Don’t sign a tenancy agreement until move in day

I very nearly learned this lesson the hard way.  Two days before a new tenant was due to move in the outgoing tenant said he was staying in the property for another week.  There was nothing I could legally do to force him to move out in those timescales.  I had already signed the new tenancy agreement for the incoming tenant.  Therefore, I was responsible for housing the incoming tenant until he could move in.  I was also responsible for storing his belongings.  This could have been a nightmare scenario and very expensive too.  What if the outgoing tenant had postponed moving out indefinitely?  I may have had to wait until I could get a court order to get him out and that could have taken months!  Fortunately I managed to incentivise the outgoing tenant sufficiently to comply but it was a very close shave.  Lesson learned, never sign an AST until move in day or you are absolutely sure the property is ready for the new tenant to move into.

Inventories

It could be argued that I’m a bit behind the times on this as I’m still not using video inventory agencies.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit tight or set in my ways?   Ever since one of my tenants re-painted the internal walls of one of my houses in gloss green, blue and purple paint I’ve used inventories because he argued that the walls were like that when he moved in and I couldn’t prove otherwise.  I couldn’t believe it when I got the results the first property inspection after 3 months.  My brother had some great pictures on his web-site http://themodernizer.com/

Nowadays I complete a very detailed paper inventory when I check new tenants into a property.  I list everything from colour and condition of walls to light bulbs, colour and condition of door handles and plug/light sockets.  Anything that can get worn is recorded along the following lines “Walls are freshly pained in magnolia and should be good for at least three years” or “carpets are three years old, have just been re-cleaned and should be good for another 7 years”.  This makes it far easier to work out what proportion of works required on checkout is due to fair wear and tear and what can actually be reasonably recorded as damage and debited from the deposit.

Serve section 21 notices on day one

This ensures the tenant is not allowed to stay in the property beyond the tenancy period unless we negotiate otherwise.  Two months prior to the scheduled move out date I begin negotiating a new tenancy with the tenant.  This is not fool proof though as some tenants agree to move and don’t.  The only way to get possession if this happens is through the courts and this still takes time and costs money.  For this reason and several others, it’s always best to maintain a good relationship with tenants.

Quarterly property inspections

I make sure that my tenants know from day one that I will need to inspect the property every three months.  Where possible, dates and times are pre-agreed.  When I visit the property I do so primarily to ensure that the tenant has no problems.  If problems are identified I deal with them quickly and effectively.  We discuss and agree the problem, I confirm the problem in writing and keep in regular contact with the tenant until the problem is rectified.  As an example, I picked up on a damp problem at a property inspection.  I gave the tenants a leaflet on preventing damp.  A month later I  followed up with a telephone call and they advised us that the problem was getting worse.  On further inspection it was discovered that the roof was leaking.  They had a young baby and I was concerned that a child should not be exposed to damp.  I offered to put them up in a B&B whilst the problem was rectified but they didn’t like that idea as there wasn’t a good one in the area.  Accordingly, they decided to stay in the house and put up with the workmen and the mess.  I spoke with them every few days whilst the work to fix the roof was undertaken.  I also gave them a one month rent free period to compensate them for their inconvenience.  They can’t say enough nice things about me now.  They are the sort of people who will rent the property for the next 10 years.  They will also have no hesitation to recommend me to their friends.

Informing the local Council and utilities companies of new tenant move in dates and meter readings

In the early days I relied on tenants doing this for themselves.  Guess what?  They didn’t!  The bills were in my name and they didn’t do anything about them until they were about to be disconnected from services.  Then I had to negotiate what element of the bill was theirs and which was mine.  I wasn’t always as good as I am now at letting properties quickly between tenants so this often got very messy.  It didn’t take long for me to realise that I needed to sort these issues for both incoming and outgoing tenants myself.  From the tenants’ perspective it’s good service and a few less things for them to have to worry about doing too.

Letter to neighbours

Whenever I buy a property or change tenants I write to the neighbouring homes to introduce myself.  I give them my full contact details and explain that I am a very conscientious landlord.  I explain how I select tenants and how I manage my properties.  I encourage them to contact me with any concerns they have at any time.  Many landlords I speak to cringe when I tell them this.  My view is that if there is a problem I need to know about it and deal with it quickly.  What’s the point of sticking ones head in the sand?  My strategy doesn’t prevent problems but it does minimise risks and enables me to resolve problems with the minimum of damage/destruction to property and relationships.

Managing volume

Throughout these explanations I’ve explained what I do.  The reality, however, is that I don’t actually have sufficient time to do all of this.  I’ve had to employ people to help.  My original portfolio was based around where I live in Norfolk.  Most of the properties are in Norwich, Kings Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Dereham.  For the last three years I’ve also been buying properties with my brother.  This portfolio stretches from Whitley Bay in the North to Portsmouth in the South.  We have properties in the Wirral, Manchester, The Midlands and Yorkshire. Everybody we employ is trained to manage our properties in this way.  For the past 12 months or so my brother has taken responsibility for most of the management and maintenance.  Since then, touch wood, we haven’t had a tenant from hell story to tell.  My brother runs his own property management and maintenance companies which deal almost exclusively with our family property portfolio.  That said, I do still get involved from time to time with several of the aspects of lettings that I’ve explained above.

To learn more about my property investment strategy please read the following posts in this order:

  1. The Roots of my Property Investment Strategy
  2. What you shouldn’t do with your buy to let mortgage
  3. How I maximise the returns on my liquidity fund (cash in the bank)
  4. Sell or hold after completing a refurbishment?
  5. Buy to let strategy – in this article Mark Alexander explains the 20% liquidity reserve rule of thumb
  6. What’s more important, cashflow or liquidity? Mark Alexander reports
  7. Is your property portfolio ownership structure optimised to enable you to pay the minimum amount of CGT, income tax and IHT?
  8. The history of No Money Down and Instant Remortgages since 1992
  9. How I minimise rental voids
  10. How I choose my tenants
  11. (You are Here) |  How I minimise property management issues
  12. Are YOUR tenants YOUR best ambassadors
  13. Due Diligence
  14. My 1000th post on my favourite property forum
  15. Property management advice
  16. Property investment advice


Comments

Andy Brown

8:15 AM, 5th April 2011
About 9 years ago

Hi Mark
We have a small portfolio of 10 properties,
In the case of a tenant that has been in a property long term, how do you deal with increasing the rent, we had a tenant in a property for 6 years, they were great tenants we had never increased the rent from day one as we didn’t want to rock the boat.
They were paying £495pm we thought it was time of a small increase of £25pm but two months later they gave notice and purchased them selves.

We had an empty period of 2 months after they left as it needed tidying, Decorating ect, but we know get £650pm.

I fine difficult to up the rent when you have a good tenant. What’s your thoughts.

Regards

Andy Brown

Mark Alexander

8:59 AM, 5th April 2011
About 9 years ago

Hi Andy

This is always a dilemma if the ground rules are not set on day one. I find it's always useful to sit down and have a chat with tenants over a cuppa. That way you can read the emotion and make a bit more of a judgement call.

You may also find the following articles worthy of a read. Yet another good excuse for a 'proper tea' 😉

http://www.property118.com/index.php/how-i-minimise-rental-voids/ Also the two following articles in this series.

From a legal perspective you should also read this article from Landlord Law specialist Tessa Shepperson http://www.property118.com/index.php/how-to-increase-rent-the-proper-way/

Regards

Mark

Ian Ringrose

15:01 PM, 10th January 2012
About 8 years ago

“Don’t sign a tenancy agreement until move in day”

When we were renting we HATED this, as we could be left homeless on the day of our move after moving out.   Therefore we gave the keys back on the old property after moving into the new property, knowing that if the new agent/landlord messed us about on the new property we could refuse to move out of the old property and delay the legal actions for long enough to find somewhere else.

Also we would never consider renting a property unless it was empty when we viewed it.

Now as landlords we get voids as noone wish to rent a property that is not empty and ready at the time of viewing.

There must be a better way that works for both sides


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