My NPP today is Adrian Thompson of the Guild of Residential Landlords. Here is his story.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
My name is Adrian Thompson. My Fiancé and I run the Guild of Residential Landlords which is one of the landlords associations that operates nationally. Our main niche in the market place is the legal advice contained both on the website and the help-line. We tend to deal with on the ground situations that affect landlords on a day to day basis.
In the words of one of our subscribers who is a member of the Guild and also a member of one of the other organisations: “We use (the other association) for the news and you (the Guild) for legal advice.” I think this one line sums us up perfectly. (Although we are getting pretty good at the news stuff now!) The website is www.all4landlords.com.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
I grew up on a working farm and my parents have also owned a number of properties during this time. I have therefore been in property literally all my life. Indeed, some of my earliest memories are going round the properties on a Sunday to collect the rents. This of course doesn’t happen much nowadays as most tenants prefer to pay electronically.
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
Although I knew important at the time, I never imagined quite how significant the case of Doncaster v Coventry City Council, October 2010 would be. If the measure of achievement is by the number of landlords who have been assisted and potential money saved, then this case is a good achievement. I have never seen a small case like this go so viral over the internet before, and when doing housing benefit courses, most landlords whether in London, Cardiff or elsewhere have heard of and quoted the case to local authorities. Of course ultimately, the Department of Work and Pensions changed their guidance to local authority staff stating that the case should be accepted. (If you don’t know what this case is about see here.
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
We are always moving forward in particular with technology and the internet. We have just launched a free of charge community based website www.askalandlord.co.uk. This is as it sounds, a place for landlords to ask questions and hopefully others will answer them. There are only a few questions on there as it was only launched a few days ago but hopefully landlords will find it useful.
We are also working on a cheaper landlords association alternative in www.keywee.co.uk which is intended to be a standalone on-line only landlord and tenant research website. It is currently being tested and will be live soon. We are also developing on-line training, “accreditation in box” and a landlords supply website which will supply most things a landlord needs from tenancy agreements and notices to fire alarms and fire extinguishers. Keywee.co.uk should be this year and the others will hopefully appear in 2011.
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private rented sector today?
Obviously the lack of finance is an issue for many but I think the greatest issue is the cost of property and the current inability (in our view) to make them pay for renting purposes. Housing Benefit being paid direct to most tenants has also caused considerable issues nationwide.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
According to current figures, rents are increasing (although I haven’t experienced this personally)! Combined with this, house prices continue to fall. The markets will always find a balance ultimately and so the two combined factors should make buy-to-let affordable once again in the future.
7. We have a new government. What would you like them to do for the private rented sector?
Tenancy deposit scheme legislation in particular showed that long term good landlords are more than willing to exit the market in large numbers. It was previously the case that there were sufficient numbers wanting and able to purchase these properties, however that is now very difficult for most. Therefore, regulation should be a very last resort. Of course, Grant Shapps the housing minister loosely promised to reintroduce direct payment of housing benefit to landlords and we are still awaiting fulfilment of the promise.
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
I find twitter the current choice for simplicity. I’ve tried facebook on many occasion but simply can’t get it to work for me. With twitter, it takes about 5 seconds to get what ever you need to be out there done and those who want to see it will.
9. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time in property?
The most important lesson must be to treat your rental property as a business and try not to get personal. A large number of the calls on our help-line dealing with problems is where the landlord has done something extra special to help and this helpfulness has in someway back fired and either given problems for possession or with the rent.
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
If you are thinking of buying a property for rented purposes, don’t simply look at rent less mortgage = profit. You need to remember expenses can become huge.
There will always be slight void periods in-between lets. Within five years most landlords will have experienced some form of damage or non-payment of rent. Each letting will usually require a quick spruce up so a quick lick of paint and maybe flooring. Every 10 years, a new kitchen, bathroom, flooring and central heating boiler will often be required (although the boiler will start going wrong after about five years)! Also, although interest rates are very low at the moment, they won’t stay this way. Mervyn King of the Bank of England has finally accepted inflation is going to be difficult to control which means interest rates are set to rise.
Purchasers need to remember that although rates tend to rise in increments of only 0.25%, with rates currently at 0.50% an increase of 0.25% is a 50% increase. Try and avoid interest only mortgages (which I accept is difficult) and work your figures on an interest rate of 4 or 5%.
Thank you Adrian, and good luck with the Guild. Readers can read more about it at www.all4landlords.com.