Whenever you read an article or listen to a report about buy-to-let properties, you inevitably hear about rogue landlords and the exploitation of tenants.
Pensionerfinance.co.uk interviewed one private landlord who couldn’t disagree more.
David Collins, who owns three properties in South East England, had this to say:
“About 15 years ago I decided that rather than put my money into a private pension, I would buy a few buy-to-let properties as an investment for the future. I didn’t have a lot of money to spare, so they were all purchased with the help of mortgages – which I am still paying. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
“In many ways I can’t and don’t complain, because the value of all the properties has increased considerably and I will eventually see a profit, but in the meantime my tenants have made my life a living hell.
“My first tenant, a mother with two children, looked ideal. She seemed like a lovely person who was just a bit down on her luck, so I was happy to help her. The housing benefit she received almost covered the rent, and all she had to do was make up the difference of around £80 per month. It went well for the first two months until the payments dried up completely.
“The housing benefit was paid to her directly and rather than paying the rent she decided to keep it and, of course, stop making any contributions herself.
“To cut a long story short, it took me almost seven months to get her out of the property. When I finally did, the house had been trashed. And when I say that, I mean that all the built-in furniture had been ripped out and burned and the fridge/freezer, oven and various other household goods that I had left for her had disappeared.
“It took me two months to get the house back in order. In total the whole experience cost me almost £8500, which I didn’t have, so I had to get a loan from the bank just to keep things going.
“There are many other stories of rent arrears and bad tenants that I could share; however, there is a further point that needs raising.
“All three of my properties are quite old and need constant upkeep and maintenance.
“Boilers break down, wiring needs renewing, and last year I needed a new roof for one of the houses, which meant that not only did I need to find almost £10,000 but also pay for the tenant’s accommodation while the work was being carried out. I have no issue with that, but it was just another expense.
“The government has also cut the tax relief on buy-to-let mortgages, so this year I will have to pay extra tax as well.
“The whole experience of being a buy-to-let landlord has been an ongoing nightmare since the beginning.
“I have always treated my tenants well and fixed any problems that occur within 48 hours, but sadly the duty of care is a one-way street. Tenants know that the law is on their side so if they don’t pay the rent on time, or fail to pay the rent at all, they can get away with it with relative impunity.
“I have tried in the past to enforce debt orders through the courts but have found this a waste of time and money. If tenants don’t pay the debt, they get a ‘black mark’ on their credit rating, and that’s about it.
“This year I will be selling all my properties, so rather than maintaining the level of homes available to rent on the market, there will be three fewer.”