‘Mummy, when I grow up I want to be a landlord.’
‘Well, study hard my child and maybe, just maybe, one day you might just get there.’
I have mentioned many times before that being a rentier is seldom a vocation. I doubt the scenario above has ever actually happened. A career as a rentier is, I suspect never mentioned by careers advisors, and does not appear in those bizarre job suitability or aptitude tests. The same is true for letting and estate agents, neither of which feature in feverish dreams of potential success, even if the latter usually requires a degree.
63% of private landlords admit having no prior experience of the industry. 94% are not in a professional letting body. In short – they’re amateurs, not even well-meaning ones.
These figures are truly appalling, but utterly unsurprising. The unmourned, mercifully now defunct ‘Inside Track’ seminars, which promoted deluded profiteering acquisition was the closest thing to training, but that’s long since discredited. The dominance of the terminally unskilled can mean that rentiers remain ill-informed about rules, regulations, customs, laws and bye-laws related to letting out homes. Just buy a house. Then rent it out. Erm… that’s it. Hooray!
Consequently, some newbies mistake bricks and mortar for a filigree crystal castle, constantly worried it will shatter, or that rough-hewn tenants will break it. They will be unaware of rules about deposits, licensing etc. They will do all the really bad things, such as turning up unannounced for too-frequent inspections, to the extent they let themselves in, or issuing notice to quit by power of thought alone and then wondering the tenant is still there. Etc. Etc…
Oddly perhaps, the opposite can be true. I wonder of owners could be too tolerant, on occasions fail ever to inspect, and then realise all too late that the dreaded cannabis farm is present. Or tenants have knocked the down dividing the lounge from the kitchen, like on the telly.
But what sort of education should career rentiers seek out? I suppose, a degree in business might be useful. Experience in customer relation is desirable, for those tempted to be rude or obstructive - basic money-saving home maintenance, too.
This matters because buy-to-let seems on the rise once more. I would not wish fresh faced dilettetantes and, well-meaning dabblers turned into wizened, world-weary cynics. I simply think they’d benefit from awareness of the pitfalls, responsibilities and problems.
For a home to be fit for letting out to paying tenants, it would be helpful for a mortarboard wearing tyrant to mark ‘pass or fail’ when presented with, for example, bathrooms fitted with tiles ready to harbour mould before tumbling down, or other faults which destroy the security, safety and happiness of occupants in the ‘investment.’
Which it isn’t. Nor are occupants ever really ‘customers.’ We’re tenants. It’s our home. Becoming a rentier should be a considered decision, more like a vocation than an inadvertent career. Because done badly by the ill-informed, it will ruin the lives of tenants and owners alike.