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Be Ready for the Buy to Let Olympics

The TV screens have been full of the Winter Olympics, the sports being televised seeming more death-defying than in the Summer Olympics, which will follow all too soon. Why anyone would want to take part in a sport where they could easily end up with broken limbs, when people of sense would prefer to stay in warm houses is beyond my comprehension, though I hear the après ski is quite a draw.

Still, I wish these brave athletes well and hope they realise their ambitions of claiming more medals for these Winter Olympics than have been won previously.

What has that got to do with the private sector landlords, I hear you say. Well, perhaps I am a very sad person, but landlords creep into my mind at the most curious moments – and the Olympics are no exception!

What prompted the following thoughts was when a speed-skater crashed out of an event.  She was devastated, as she had been disqualified from three events at the last Winter Olympics. I don’t know why she was disqualified, but she had done something wrong and few landlords would get a second chance (certainly not a fourth chance) if they had transgressed against the rules.

Whether you admire the competitors or not, we all recognise that to get to Olympic standard they have had to train, train and train some more; watch their diets; devise strategies which would mean they could out-perform their competitors. A good landlord needs to consider that their letting business is an Olympic challenge; it requires hard work, a thorough knowledge of the most recent legislation and a determination to take whatever steps are necessary to make the business work.

Hard work is the equivalent to training, in making sure that the property is up to an acceptable standard; perhaps re-painted between tenancies; inspected regularly so that even if the tenant does not realise there is a problem, the landlord does and can take action before it worsens.

Landlords may feel they have little time to spend away from either their everyday work or from their letting businesses, but take whatever training is available. That’s the second ‘training’. Some landlords will pay for training but this is not the only training that is available. Accreditation schemes, landlord associations, local authorities, may also offer training opportunities.

In some respects, training offered by local authorities or accreditation schemes offers slightly more than training offered by national associations. Knowledge of local conditions and the attitudes towards landlords can provide important and useful links which can help landlords, in the same way that athletes try to familiarise themselves with the conditions they will be competing in. 

It would be foolish to blindly set-off on the course, be it skiing, cross-country running or horse-trials without being prepared for whatever hazards may on the route. Many landlords ‘come a cropper’ simply because they are unprepared for the way some tenants behave.

Hopefully, if the landlord does attend training, they will be aware of legislative changes and, if a member of a landlord association, may get updates through e-mails. They make sure that what they put into their systems is good nourishment, in effective paperwork and careful record keeping that would stand-up in court, if eviction is necessary.

The final point I made about the Olympic athlete is the need for strategies; strategy will play as big a part as speed. Does this apply to a private landlord? Yes, because it is not enough to work hard, use the paperwork that will sustain a tenancy; the landlord has to be prepared to act when the tenancy starts to go wrong. Everything else will fail if the landlord is not prepared to take action, fast, when the tenant has shown they really do not deserve the tenancy to continue.

Treating a private rented tenancy as an Olympic challenge will not win a gold medal but it might mean that you can successfully get rid of a bad tenant and minimise the losses; it’s the difference between confidently running a business and limping in as an also-ran, unable to make it pay.

For advice on buy to let issues – General Knowledge