My notable property person today is Julie Woolfenden a landlord and the National Landlords Association Representative for Shropshire and Wales. Here is her story.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
Hi everyone, I’m Julie Woolfenden, a landlord from Shropshire and the NLA’s local representative for Shropshire & N.Wales.
I applied for the job of NLA Rep because the NLA were recruiting staff for the London Office. I was already an NLA member and although I knew I couldn’t apply for the London job, I decided – tongue in cheek – to send an e-mail asking if there were any vacancies in Shropshire. That e-mail culminated in a trip to London, and an interview, after which I was offered the post of local representative for Shropshire. A little later on I took on the role of local representative for N.Wales as well.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
I was formerly a Civil Servant, then in late 1997 I decided to accept a severance offer. I left the Civil Service with a small redundancy package and at that time friends of ours were beginning to buy property to rent out and suggested that I use my redundancy to do the same.
So, my first property – a 4 bed 1970’s house that needed some major TLC.
Being totally naive we spent £4k doing it up ourselves, never thinking to ask the council if there were any grants available … – you live and learn … or better still join the NLA for advice and guidance!
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
From the point of view of being a landlord it was taking the plunge to leave the Civil Service and enter the unchartered waters of the PRS.
Never having experienced anything to do with renting or letting it was a very steep learning curve and my wisest decision was to join the NLA.
I had never heard of them till another friend lent me a copy of the NLAs “UK Landlord” magazine, on the promise that I give it back to him.
It had some really informative/useful articles in it and I decided to become a member.
My friend never got his magazine back!.
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
Well I don’t intend to buy any more property at the moment, as I happy with the size of my portfolio and find it manageable on both counts of administration, which I look after, and maintenance, which my husband attends to.
This coupled with my outside interests and being the NLA Rep. ensures I have a pretty busy lifestyle.
Working for the NLA has broadened my horizons enormously, especially with regard to the Welsh rental market, which in part has slightly different legislation to England because of the Welsh Assembly Government.
My aim is to set up an NLA branch(es) in N.Wales similar to the Shropshire branch.
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private rented sector today?
For Landlords wishing to expand their portfolios – lack of finance.
Landlords with housing benefit tenants – the current default LHA payment system of paying the tenant direct.
Plus there is the issue of all landlords being over-regulated.
Most landlords are decent hard working people who provide decent homes to their tenants, but as ever there are the bad eggs, who bring the whole business into disrepute. Therefore Government heaps more and more regulation on all landlords – the good landlords comply- usually at cost to them; the bad ones carry on regardless.
Local authorities need to be more assertive in routing the rogues out, using the considerable powers they already have.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
No matter what the state of the nation or its finances, there are two basics in life – food and a roof over ones head. Everything else is secondary to these two essentials.
Therefore landlords fill a very vital role by providing much needed accommodation to people who cannot, or choose not, to purchase a home.
As the UKs population demographics change, many more people are renting, which provides a golden opportunity to landlords in the PRS.
However, it is essential that those who offer accommodation to others are fully versed in what it takes to run a successful lettings business.
7. We have a new government. What would you like them to do for the private rented sector?
Take a serious look at the question of direct payment of LHA to tenants, plus re-think some of the proposed LHA changes listed in the last budget.
Also HMOs. I am not an HMO Landlord, but I attend many Landlord meetings on behalf of the NLA, and I find many landlords are really confused by whether a property is:-
- An HMO:
- A Mandatory Licensable HMO:
- An HMO that could have additional or selective licensing or
- if it is a proposed new HMO, does it now need planning permission as well as a license.
The rules governing HMO’s are getting evermore complicated.
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
In a word No. I’m not very technically minded and although I keep intending to set up Twitter I never seem to get round to it.
I spend enough time on my laptop anyway and twittering etc would only add to it.
However, I do appreciate that these social media sites are here to stay, they just aren’t particularly necessary to my well being, or I have to say, my rental business, as most of our tenants come via referrals from our other tenants.
I’m quite happy sticking with the old method of face to face conversation – how boring is that!!!
9. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time in property?
1. Treat people as you yourself wish to be treated. Courtesy- a “please and thank you” go a long way.
2. Communication between landlord and tenant – it’s vital in this industry.
3. Never let things slide. If the rent hasn’t been paid one week/month, chase it up there and then, don’t leave it till another week/months rent is owing
4. Put everything in writing – laborious I know, but it saves an awful lot of confusion / misunderstanding etc. If the writing is via e-mail d/load a copy to a relevant file etc
5. A pair of ‘Marigold Gloves’ are an absolute essential.
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
Being a landlord can be very rewarding and an excellent way of earning a living.
However, if you intend to be a hands-on landlord (as opposed to putting your portfolio in the hands of an agent) it does take time, commitment and ongoing effort and a willingness to learn and keep learning.
Research is essential, as is joining a membership organisation such as the NLA and utilising the advice and help they offer.
Attend your local landlord meetings and talk and listen to other landlords.
Thank you Julie.
You can find out more about the NLA Wales here.