Over the past few years I’ve spent a large portion of my blogging time discussing the perks of being a landlord, and subsequently managed to neglect discussing the skid-marks of the profession. While I think being a Landlord is an awesome long-term investment, I’m still very much in touch with how God AWFUL the experience can be.
There are a lot of factors I despise about being a Landlord, and the list increases by the day. But I guess every job has its armpit.
Unstoppable financial market
There’s nothing more frustrating than relying on a significant factor of our business model that we have virtually no control over. The economy is that factor.
The financial market is constantly changing, and that can have a severe impact on the livelihood of landlords when things start to point in the wrong direction. For example, an increase in interest rates could mean higher mortgage payments at the end of the month. A few consecutive jumps in rates and landlords could find themselves struggling. It’s not unusual for “for sale” signs to start popping up after a short-lived battle.
A volatile financial market can be worrying, but it is the nature of the buy-to-let beast. Many Landlords forget to take that into consideration, hence repossession from the lender.
Relying on tenants
Every landlord is at the mercy of their tenant, and that’s the sad reality. It can be a fucking nightmare of a situation. I usually hate relying on people at the best of times, but unfortunately I have no choice but to put all my hopes and dreams in the hands of my tenants. I’m relying on them to:
- make rental payments on time
- keep the property in acceptable condition
- not piss off the neighbours
Sounds like a small, simple list of duties that a premature monkey could manage, right? Experience has taught me that it’s not all that easy for some people.
Chasing rent & the excuses
I hate having to chase rent, but unfortunately it does often come with the territory. Since becoming a Landlord, “professional debt collector” has been stamped into my CV.
Only in an ideal world will every tenant make rental payment on time every month. Unfortunately, I don’t live in Disney World and I don’t have hot sex with Jessica Rabbit every night.
And, the excuses that come with late rent! Fuck me sideways, they can be unbearable. I’ve received the run-of-the-mill “I forgot” all the way to utterly absurd, “my son stole the money out of my purse”
Truly painful shit.
Anyone can fall into arrears, even the least suspecting
While you can try to minimise the risk of obtaining tenants that are likely to fall into arrears, there is ultimately no silver bullet solution that will guarantee the perfect tenant, and there never will be because of the simple fact, circumstances always change. The reality is, even someone with impeccable references can fall into arrears. It’s a reality every landlord needs to be aware of- every tenant is a prospective, ticking time-bomb. I’ve had the most unsuspecting tenants fall into arrears because of change in circumstances.
It’s a horrible feeling; being at the mercy of a rent-dodger can be gut-wrenching; a real sickening experience- not only because of the financial losses, but knowing that people are able to get away with that bullshit (which they actually do). Unfortunately, it’s something most landlords will most likely experience at least once during their reign.
The best a landlord can do is try to prevent, and also prepare for the worst.
Landlords are glorified babysitters
I’m a self-managing landlord, so that means I don’t use Letting agents to manage my properties. If there’s a problem with one of my properties, my phone is the first and only to blow up, even if it means interrupting me during an ungodly hour.
Burst pipe at 4am? My responsibility. Hole in the roof on Christmas day? My responsibility. Backed up bog? My responsibility.
It’s ALWAYS the Landlord’s responsibility.
Being a landlord is more fun if you have a massive portfolio and a cash flow that will allow for others to do the monkey work. Otherwise, if you’re a small time landlord with a pitiful portfolio, like myself, the task is mostly menial and inconvenient, and you’re reduced down to nothing more than a glorified babysitter. Cleaning up after tenants, and continually having to ensure they behave the way they’re contracted to behave (which they mostly don’t) is all part of the job. That’s a sad fact of this sorry reality.
Finding decent tenants is probably the most important step a landlord needs to make, and that’s why it’s such a pain in the royal ass. It requires precision. The margin for error when it comes to tenant selection is huge, and the penalty can be life ruining.
Bottom of the barrel tenants have enough power to cause bankruptcy. Seriously! All it takes is a shit-faced tenant to refuse payment for a few months to ruin a Landlord’s life.
The main problem is, it’s difficult to distinguish between a good and bad tenant, despite how much thorough referencing is conducted. Even when you think you’ve got the best tenant on the planet, one small change in their circumstance can change everything, reducing them into tenants from hell.
Losing good tenants
I haven’t had many tenants over the years because I’m still new in the game, but I’ve had a healthy mix of the good and the ugly. I’ve recently lost a really good tenant, and it genuinely made me recognise the importance of quality tenants. It’s tough to find decent tenants, but it’s even tougher when you’re trying to replace an excellent tenant because you already have high expectations.
The thing with the buy-to-let game is that it’s a business based on people… and people are idiots.
Dealing with genuinely horrible tenants
Depending on the calibre of tenant, a Landlord needs the patience of an angel to stand any chance of remaining sane.
If I didn’t have some level of patience, I would have ripped my hair and bollocks out by now due to incompetent, selfish, rude tenants. I’ve had to deal with unbelievably scummy tenants, that literally haven’t an ounce of human decency! Even simple gestures like “please” was beyond some of them.
The law sucks
Tenants in England & Wales have way too much legal protection, and it’s truly mortifying. For example, Landlords have to wait 2 months before they can even begin the eviction process when a tenant is in arrears, and once the process begins, it can take several months to actually get them out. Sigh.
I don’t have a problem following the rules, especially if they create a safer and fairer environment. But that’s the problem, many of the legislation baffles me, because they literally make very little sense for existing.
Replacing broken Shit
Having to pay out on repairs is HORRIBLE; whether it be to replace a fridge freezer or repair a broken door-hinge! Granted, it comes with the territory of being a landlord, but it’s still annoying, especially when the cause is incompetence and/or carelessness of the tenant. It’s like owning a car- we know we have to pay for petrol and maintenance, but NO ONE likes paying for the shit.
Hygiene standards can drastically differ from one person to the next
I’ve learned this lesson once, but I’ve regretfully been reminded of it several times over. Just because I like to live in a clean and funk-free environment, it categorically does not mean everyone else does.
I’ve let properties to working professionals like an oral surgeon and head-chef (these are real life examples), only to be mortified at how disgustingly low their hygiene standards are behind closed doors. In both cases, for example, the kitchens were left saturated in what could only be described as congealed kebab grease, including all the cooking appliances. It must have been a greasy and filthy existence for the pair of them.
These cases were particularly worrying because a fundamental element of their professions is hygiene- regardless, it’s worrying anyways! You never forget a dirty bastard.
The best way to combat greasy, scum-bag tenants is by conducting vigilant tenant references.
Working with people isn’t easy
It’s NEVER easy working with people, not necessarily because people are unreasonable, but rather, because people are different and have their own expectations, which we aren’t necessarily accustomed to.
A landlord and tenant relationship is generally very fragile by nature, so it’s quickly turned sour, over very little. I’ve seen it happen, hell, I’ve been caught in similar predicaments a few times. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but much of the time it is.
At times I’ve been extremely frustrated by the actions of certain tenants, and in an ideal world, I’d handle the situation with all guns blazing. I’d be hard, fast and aggressive. But in reality, that’s not a solution, that’s just a good way of creating long-term problems.
Are you a Landlord? If so, which aspects do you despise?
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.