Renting in London: who would you rather rent from, owner-landlords or letting agents?

Tenants would pay dearly if agents managed all rental properties...
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Many of my friends have invested in rental property, either to make a nest egg for their retirement or to put their kids through university, or to have somewhere to send their offspring to live when they are sick of washing their socks.
Many of these pals save themselves and their tenants money by self-managing their properties and they all take good care of them. So I was stunned to be told by a spokesman from a well-known, very vocal tenants campaign group that my friends and I are precisely the sort of landlords his organisation doesn’t like.
What this campaign group wants is for all rental properties to be “professionally managed”, and while it hasn’t specified exactly what that means, it seems to suggest it doesn’t want “accidental”, “amateur” or “part-time” landlords like me to be in charge of our own rentals.
Having stumbled into the role of landlord, I admit that it is perhaps surprising that anyone can let almost any property without undergoing any checks or compulsory training. As a consequence, I’m sure there are many well-meaning, but ill-informed landlords who are getting things wrong.
For this reason, I think it would be beneficial to have a compulsory national register so that when new landlords sign up, they are automatically informed about their legal obligations and sent notifications of any updates.
However, to those who call for all rental properties to be “professionally managed”, I say be careful what you wish for.
In my experience, we amateurs who manage our properties ourselves are able to provide a better, more considerate service at a lower cost to tenants than any professional organisation.
For instance, would a managing agent get someone out of bed in the early hours to let a dopey tenant into a property when they have locked themselves out?
I did.
Would a letting agent arrange for an overflowing lavatory to be unblocked after hours when the tenant tried to flush away an entire toilet roll?
No? I did.
Would a “professional” management company have arranged and paid for a locksmith to change locks on a Sunday morning after a tenant was mugged?
I think not, but I did.
Would a letting agent have loaned someone a duvet when they turned up late at night without one?
I did. I whipped it off my spare bed at home, then forgot to replace it so when my mother-in law arrived for an overnight visit a few days later my husband had to get into the loft to find her an old sleeping bag.

My tenants might have to put up with a tenancy agreement smeared with butter from my kids’ breakfast and, yes, I did once accidentally send a tenant my daughter’s Year 1 artwork instead of an inventory after a multi-tasking mix-up at the post office. But, hey, what’s important  is that my tenants know I will look after them.
No doubt there are lots of tenants and many landlords, too, who appreciate the organised but dispassionate service provided by letting agents and management companies. However, there are also many tenants who are happy to rent direct from landlords like me.
By doing so, they can avoid paying hundreds of pounds in admin fees.
If all landlords are forced to hire professionals to manage their properties, the cost of renting will rise and many tenants as well as landlords will be worse off. Any tenant who backs a call for this sort of change risks shooting themselves in the foot. There is room for us all.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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