What is an amateur landlord?

What is an amateur landlord?

12:47 PM, 19th October 2013, About 9 years ago 44

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The phrase “amateur landlord” annoys me, I really wish people would stop using it.

First off, if you were a tenant would you want to be dealing with an amateur landlord?

I don’t recall ever seeing an advert on Rightmove or Zoopla which reads “Amateur landlord offers this stunning 3 bed ……” do you?

Would you put the words amateur landlord in you to let advert?

The phrase smacks of the landlord behaving amateurishly or not having a clue about what they are doing doesn’t it? What is an amateur landlord?

Dictionary definitions of the word amateur include:-

  • activity as a pastime rather than as a profession
  • one lacking the skill of a professional
  • not professional; unskillful

Are these the descriptions that people with just one or two rental properties wish to affiliate themselves with?

A landlord who owns just one property should still act professionally shouldn’t they?

I don’t really understand why the phrase “amateur landlord” ever came about. People who rent out property take an income from the rent, some spend any profits, some reinvest them and all are hoping for capital growth. Whilst this may not be their main profession, and often isn’t, surely they can’t claim to be amateurs? Why would they want to?

Perhaps they don’t want to be called professional landlords in the hope that Consumer Laws will protect them? Well there is no legal definition for what a professional landlord is anyway so I can’t see how that makes any difference. The legal case of OFT vs Foxtons ruled that landlords can be protected by consumer laws, however, the case didn’t set any a criteria for what constitutes a landlord no longer being a consumer.

Would these be consumers?

1) Let’s assume a person earned £500,000 a year as a banker and owned 30 investment properties making a net profit of a further £50,000 a year would that person still be a consumer?

2) Turn the numbers around and let’s assume the banker is making £500,000 of net profit a year from his property portfolio and £50k a year from a non-exec Directorship, what then? Logic might suggest he can’t possibly be a consumer any more because the vast majority of his income comes from being a landlord right? Well I’m not so sure about that either.

3) What about a housewife who owns one property making £50 a month profit after all expenses and has no other income?

The housewife with one property might be the better landlord too, hence more professional?

So is it number of properties which should set the precedent of whether a person remains a consumer or should it be based on what percentage of their earnings relate to rental properties. Based on the three examples above I can’t see logically how it could be either of these.

So, with no precise legal definition for what is a consumer landlord why do we have all these other tags?

Why aren’t landlords referred to as landlords?

If we must have further definitions I suggest the following:-

  1. Accredited Landlord – I like this one providing it refers to accreditation by education, not some “jobs for the boys” Council run scheme which inspects properties. I think it should be compulsory for all landlords to be accredited if they wish to manage their own properties.
  2. Rogue landlord – this is meaningless, either they are criminals or they are not.
  3. Portfolio landlord – a person who owns three or more properties (still a consumer though)
  4. Accidental landlord – that’s almost as bad as amateur isn’t it?
  5. Landlady – such a people run pubs or Guest houses. The legal definition of a female who rents out property is a landlord.
  6. Consumer – a landlord who is protected by unfair consumer contract terms – legal definition is required
  7. Sophisticated investor – a landlord who is not a consumer

Thoughts please?



Vanessa Warwick

22:12 PM, 20th October 2013, About 9 years ago

Hi Denise,

I am really sorry that you took my comment personally. That was not my intention.

I was hoping to provoke some debate and challenge your thinking that you are an "amateur" landlord, because I believe that this puts you in a risky position.

I also agree with Andrew that not everyone is suited to being a landlord and there should be barriers to entry, mainly to stop those people who want to make a lot of money , without providing any kind of service to their tenants. People with £££ signs in their eyes often make very poor landlords because they are coming at it with the wrong mentality.

A lot of very anti-landlord people read these forums, and saying you are just dabbling as a landlord gives them a lot of ammunition to attack ALL landlords.

I was a tenant once myself and I try and see everything from the customer's point of view, because, let's face it, if we don't have tenants, none of us have a business.

Therefore tenants welfare and safety and happiness should be at the heart of everything we do, and that surely demands a professional approach?

Industry Observer

10:24 AM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

The definition of amateur as opposed to professional is very simple in my mind, though sport has tended to blur the edges.

Pros do it for money and amateurs don't if you'll excuse the pun joke. A professional Landlord is one who does it for a living, or as has been mentioned somewhere seeks income from the business.

If you want to know if you are a professional Landlord or not, and there are several definitions from various bodies, just ask HMRC.

Incidentally portfolio has also been corrupted/adopted by our industry. All definitions of portfolio refer to a range of investment s which could include property of course. But a Landlord with all their investment/pension of any meaningful amount of money strictly speaking does not have a portfolio.

See what a can of worms you open up Mark when you start trying to re-define words or phrases?!!!

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118 View Profile

11:33 AM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Industry Observer " at "21/10/2013 - 10:24":

A landlord could own just one property which is loss making, the losses of which are subsidised from other income. The objective of that landlord might be to repay the mortgage in the hope of benefiting from an income from the property in retirement and possibly growth in the capital value of the asset. One could still argue such a landlord is professional though, both in terms of competence and the fact that rent is being charged to a tenant.

I disagree with your opinion on the word portfolio having been corrupted by our industry, check the dictionary meanings, there are many of them.

A property portfolio is as different to an investment portfolio as an artists portfolio, a photographers portfolio or a models portfolio.

Also check out wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portfolio

In objects:

In collections:

In computing:

In music:

In media:


Industry Observer

11:53 AM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

I have neither the time nor inclination to spend time on this thread which isd of complete personal dis-interest to me.

All I am trying to point out is that as with so many issues - TDP and deposit v rent the prime recent example - you can call something anything you like. It is what the powers call or define something that matters.

Far as I am aware in the case of the status of a Landlord and whether they are amateur or professional, or if you prefer portfolio landlords, the powers that be are HMRC.

End of far as I am aware. Call yourself what you like, but if they treat you as a professional landlord then that is it. Far as I am aware HMRC regard any Landlord with more than one property, or a Landlord out of choice and/or relatively short term (less than a year) as a professional Landlord.

The soft furnishing rtegs go as short as 6 months

Etc etc

Kirsty McGregor

11:54 AM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

I agree with this in principle, that the phrase 'amateur landlord' is wrongly used. Every landlord should act professionally, as they are providing a service, and should know their industry's regulations etc.

I have to say as well, that, from what I've seen, some landlords who only own 1 or 2 properties, take far greater care of the tenants and pride in the properties, than some landlords who have 100 properties. Inevitably, for them, a tenant is only 1 customer out of many, and are potentially therefore more disposable.

But of course, with everything, it's very hard to generalise. Some landlords with just 1 or 2 properties are idiots or even criminals (knowingly or unknowingly). And some landlords with large portfolios can be amazing.

But the term "amateur" should definitely be avoided if the PRS want to improve its reputation overall.

Rayhan Rafiq Omar

15:09 PM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

First let's start by saying well done to Mark. This is an incredibly active conversation.

Professional, as a term, is given legitimacy by general public recognition.

I'll give you an example:

I became a father last weekend and my wife and child were on the maternity ward. At 2am, the midwife on the ward got a call from a pediatrician asking for our son to be brought down to their department for a lumbar puncture (an LP involved poking a needle between two vertebrae to remove spinal fluid).

They wanted to stick a needle in my son's spine and because they are the professionals expected me to just accept their actions. No explanation of why.

I flat out refused and asked the doctor why they needed to disturb a child who was healthy. After a long discussion, I extracted that a blood test indicated a possibility of inflammation which led to a possibility of infection in my son. So as a precaution for these possibilities, they wanted to conduct an LP to rule out meningitis (infection in the spinal fluid).

The conclusion of this long discussion was me persuading them to do the first blood test again tomorrow, rather than poking a needle in my son's spine. The blood test results were not even communicated to me the next day.

Moral of the story: doctors have titles, certificates, years of specialist education and as a result are given unquestionable status as professionals beyond reproach. It's just a perception, not a reality.

What is also a perception is that landlords and agents do not work for the money they earn. It doesn't matter how much people like Mark campaign and share best practice, the public see nothing different. Even the Tenants' Charter and Mark Prisk's new measures will do nothing toward landlords and agents being perceived as more professional.

So what can you, as a landlord or agent, do to make people feel secure that you are providing a professional service?

Two very clear things:

1. Communicate clearly a standard of service. It must be written in a place that is publicly accessible. Get a website and shove your promises to your customers on there.

Note: If you write bullshit on your site, you'll be seen as such. The usual laughable nonsense about agents being local experts in their area is an in-joke amongst property people that is slowly finding its way to the general public. You don't want to be seen as a joke, so don't make bold claims. Keep it simple. Just state that tenants can expect a professional standard of service and include the important highlights.

2. Use professional tools and processes. Utility companies have call centres and email addresses for customers to contact them. These tools give customers an expectation of service.

Tenants, in the main, think of their landlords as leeches who don't want to fix anything in the property.

As a result, things that the tenants are responsible for don't get reported and are left to fester. Things the landlords are responsible for don't get reported correctly and are costly to diagnose and cure. If I was a landlord, and wanted to be treated with respect as a professional, I would have a clear process for my tenants to use (like FixFlo).

So, Mark, if you want to change perceptions about the professionalism of landlords, don't talk about all the regulations, laws and guidelines that the public have little knowledge or respect for. Instead, set a standard with a clear website that says 'I am a professional landlord, this is what I promise my customers and my current customers can report problems to me using FixFlo'. This way, everyone will think you are a professional, because it is clear to see you are.

Doctors are professionals because the public thinks their training makes them so.
Landlords are not professionals, because the public thinks they take no steps to appear professional.

Appear professional, get a simple website, use FixFlo and set an example for all landlords out there.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118 View Profile

15:26 PM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rayhan Rafiq Omar" at "21/10/2013 - 15:09":


Thank you for your considered post and congratulations to you and your partner on the birth of your healthy baby boy.

With regards to landlords having a website, well actually it is not necessary. If they upgrade their Property118 member profile by sponsoring The GOOD Landlords Campaign for a one off payment of £50 or more they will already have something far better. Landlords can add as much detail as they like and their profile will be easy for their tenants to find with a Google Search. For example, search Google for "Mick Roberts Landlord" and the first entry on page one of the Google searches is Mick's Property118 member profile 🙂

To prove this isn't just a one off, also search "Andy Bell Landlord" and his Property118 member profile also comes up number one on page one of the Google search results.

It's far cheaper than building a running a website and far more effective too in my humble opinion.

Rayhan Rafiq Omar

15:42 PM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "21/10/2013 - 15:26":

Mark, we're talking about 'appearing' professional.

Having a profile on a discussion site does not a professional make.

If you take the lazy route, you'll likely look lazy, and unprofessional.

These conversations about the perception of landlords as amateur will gone on as long as prominent landlords, such as yourself, think everything is fine as it is.

You can do better, and should do better.

You wouldn't use a service that didn't have a website, clear contact number and a description of services rendered.

Tenants would see you as more professional if you stopped hiding behind the status quo and started setting a better example. And unfortunately for tenants, you're one of the better landlords.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118 View Profile

16:40 PM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rayhan Rafiq Omar" at "21/10/2013 - 15:42":

Hi Rayham

I disagree. A member profile can include all of the information you've suggested you would put on a website and far more. It's also much easier to find than a website because everybody can remember to search Google for their landlords name followed by the word property or landlord but may not remember the website name. In addition to the usual stuff appearing on websites, Property118 member profiles also include links to what members have said in discussions, therefore, real people can find out more about real people. It might be low budget but it's highly effective.

Many employers now look at Twitter feeds, Facebook and LinkedIn pages to find out more about prospective employees as opposed to what their CV says. This is no different. All landlords need a digital footprint.

John Daley

17:30 PM, 21st October 2013, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Kirsty McGregor" at "21/10/2013 - 11:54":

This is interesting, are there really a group of landlords who wish to raise standards in the sector by adopting the practices of the professions, enforceable standards, regulation, training requirements etc etc.

Who is going to pay for this ? If rents outside London are in decline, as I read yesterday, are landlords or agents prepared to take increased admin costs, I suspect not.

But perhaps if all the above came with a bar preventing the amateur from letting property at all it might work because everyone would be affected in the same way and the amateurs would have to let their stock through the professionals.

Before anyone has an aneurism I don't actually think this is the answer. My view is that landlords, being people, are good, bad or indifferent according to their nature. Tenants are exactly the same for the same reason.

Letting property is not rocket science (or medicine) and good landlords need to have a group of skills and knowledge that can be learned fairly quickly. It doesn't really matter how many properties you manage because you'll manage your stock according to your own values and views.

Personally I am very happy to believe the statistic that about 75% of tenants are happy with the way their landlords manage their homes. I guess there are another 20% of landlords whose services are indifferent to poor and maybe 5% who are crooks and villains and could not care less provided the tenant pays.

Clearly the last 5% have an effect to blacken the name and reputation of the rest and landlords, who tend not to work together and have no powerful advocacy group to defend their interests and put a counter view will have to work very hard to 'wash' the reputation of the sector.

I feel that there is a sense of unfairness felt here on this site and others in the way landlords are percieved and actually in real life the reputation is not justified because the majority of renters are happy.

However your bottom 5% are providing more than ample evidence to justify regulation, licensing and tenants charter proposals. If the sector is fragmented and does not self regulate at all, how does local government deal with the bad guys ?

You tell me ?

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