LETTING IS TOO COMPLEX NOT TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

Published 18 January 2019

confused webThose of a certain age will remember the time when on a Sunday morning, suburban driveways and garages would be busy with the sound of people tinkering with their cars.  Routine servicing of your own car was commonplace; with relatively simple engineering, it was seen as a sensible way of avoiding garage bills.

Of course, this doesn’t happen anymore.  Our cars are now extremely complicated machines, combining sophisticated mechanical engineering with frankly baffling electronics.  For almost everybody, the prospect of doing it yourself is a non-starter – we know we need an expert to do the job.  Our cars are more reliable and safer as a consequence.

You may be wondering why I am talking about servicing your car in a property column, but there is a very good analogy here with managing a residential letting property.  When buy-to-let started to become more widespread, and ‘amateur landlords’ emerged, many took on the management of their properties themselves, believing it to be a simple task.

Well, we can argue about whether it ever really was that simple, but much as in the automotive world, things have become considerably more complex.  As a result, the proportion of residential landlords who are self-managing has fallen to less than a quarter (compared with more than a third a decade ago).  Even so, that is still a substantial number of investors who either don’t understand the risks they are taking – or else have chosen to ignore them.

If your car is not kept in good condition, you risk serious injury or worse.  Not getting it right as a landlord might not be a life or death situation, but it can open you up to all sorts of serious risks, the biggest of which is not being able to get your property back if you want or need to.

It is easy to understand why most people choose to operate in this way – a perception that they can save money by avoiding professional management fees.  But that can be a very false economy indeed; getting it wrong can be very expensive both financially and in terms of time and hassle.

The complexity of being a landlord stems from massively increased legislation and regulation, which puts the onus on the landlord to provide a fit and safe environment for the tenant to live in (including ensuring gas safety certificates are up to date, EPCs are at the correct rating, and carbon monoxide detectors are in place a working).

It also means taking responsibility for ensuring the immigration status of potential tenants, all documentation is correct and served to the tenant, and handling tenants’ deposits within the law.  Get any of this wrong, and the consequences can be fines or imprisonment, and/or the inability to serve notice to the tenant if you want your property back.  All to save a few pounds a month on management fees. 

The risk has become just too high for the cost benefit.  Just as with your car, it really is best to leave it to qualified professionals.

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