The Best Decision a Landlord Could Make

There are secrets of success only an experienced landlord would know … and after 30 years of letting my own and other peoples properties, there is one decision I made all those years ago that has certainly proved to be the best I have ever made as a landlord.

It’s not until you first enter the property investment arena that you realise just how naive and unequipped you actually are. Problems come in droves and answers are either hard to find or they are expensive (legal advice never comes cheap). And the trouble is, most people become landlords by accident, because they have bought or inherited a property and don’t want to sell it straight away – and therefore choose to let it as a temporary resolve. They find themselves with tenants they never anticipated having and a business they know very little about.

Many rely on a letting agent to oversee their lettings, to deal with day-to-day management issues and administer the tenancy. But agents take a huge chunk of the potential rental income. Those landlords that need all of the rent balance to meet monthly mortgage payments must wish they had the knowledge and confidence to ‘go it alone’ and keep the 10 to 15 per cent agent fee in their own pockets.

Knowledge, confidence and ability are normally gained over time – but there is a much faster and extraordinarily cost-efficient alternative to the normally protracted route of acquiring the skills and wisdom necessary. It’s not rocket science. Novice landlords simply need the help of others that were once in the same position. They need peers that have made the same mistakes in the past, who they can learn from and talk to about how to go about dealing with specific tenancy and letting issues.

The answer is … to join a local Landlords’ Association.

There are countless organisations operating up and down the country offering invaluable assistance to the new landlord, as well as for those who may be more experienced. These self-help membership-based groups usually exist on a none-profit-making basis, though many raise money through membership fees and insurance commissions and then re-invest to expand the benefits and add a wider variety of discounted services for organisation members.

New landlords gain enormously, as they can meet up on a regular basis with other more experienced landlords, estate agents and others operating in aligned property and investment industries. Meetings are often booked on a monthly basis at a nearby hotel or pub function room and many associations arrange guest speakers, who pass on useful knowledge or offer pearls of wisdom relevant to the property arena. Perhaps the most useful of all is the fact that a Landlords’ Association acts like a network group – always being there when needed, whether for support or advice.

There are side-benefits too, because when a landlord wishes to dispose of one or more of the properties in their portfolio, they usually offer the units to Association members before they hand them over to an estate agent. This means that a landlord can acquire ready-to-let properties long before they find their way onto the open market. The same benefit extends to those wishing to sell properties, because they can offer them to other landlord members without having to pay for advertising or an estate agent’s commission.

Everyone’s a winner! And here’s the icing on the cake … in most cases, the saving made on buildings insurance alone will usually offset the entire cost of joining. These organisations can negotiate excellent discounts from insurance companies and brokers, through arranging large portfolio block policies. Premiums are usually reduced to a fraction of what landlords might otherwise have to pay – and the more members join the scheme, the cheaper the premiums become.

I speak from personal experience because when I was a novice landlord, many moons ago, I became immediately and completely lost in a maze of legal mumbo jumbo … until that is I joined a local landlord group who introduced me to the Housing Acts, the gas and furnishings fire safety regulations, the Rent Acts and other associated Health and Safety Regulations. They not only told me these Acts of Law existed, but also explained in plain English what they meant. I also joined its insurance scheme and saved a small fortune over successive years. The Association I became a member of proved its worth to me many times over and the decision to join it was without doubt the best decision I ever made.

You can find out whether there is a landlord group operating in your own town or city by contacting the council’s housing or environmental health department. Many groups keep in close contact with local authorities and some liase with them on up and coming changes or new regulations being introduced that are pertinent to the private rented sector.

You may also find Landlord Associations advertised on the internet or in local newspapers – and it’s also worth checking with the local fire service and police, as they often have discussions with landlord groups.

Perhaps the most important and beneficial part of becoming a member of a Landlords’ Association is knowing that, no matter how big a hill you might feel you have yet to climb, you no longer need to do it alone - there are experienced colleagues and co-members who will offer to support and guide you every step of the way.

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