A frisson of excitement ran down my spine when I first heard about a rather unusual property management firm. It's called the Happy Tenant Company and it claims to offer a hassle-free service for landlords who don't want to manage their own properties, but also don't want to pay a fortune to a letting agent to do it for them.
Rather than charging landlords a percentage of the annual rent, which can be as much as 17.5 per cent with a letting agent, the Happy Tenant Company charges a fixed annual fee, starting from £750 for properties renting for up to £400 per week.
Better still, it charges landlords only the cost price for any work it carries out on their behalf, without any markups. So, if your tenant has a plumbing emergency, it will only charge you the standard hourly rate for the plumber; if you need a gas safety certificate, it will find you a competitively priced gas engineer to inspect your boiler and appliances, and if you want a credit check for your tenants it promises you won't pay through the nose.
Founder Jonathan Monjack, a lawyer by profession, says the company finds landlords the best service at the best price and, unlike some high street agents who shall remain nameless, it doesn't accept bungs or kick-backs from contractors. At the risk of sounding like an advert for the Happy Tenant, I have to say its charges to landlords look competitive.
It charges only £50 plus VAT for a gas safety certificate (I usually pay £60), its plumbers and handymen charge £55 an hour, electricians £60, and for cleaning a two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat it's £150.
It provides tenants with a 24-hour hotline and promises to deal with non-emergencies the next working day. Once they've let their property, landlords can hand everything over to the Happy Tenant and let its team of "concierges" deal with any problems. As a landlord who spent last Sunday evening trying to sort out a faulty bathroom light in a rental flat, this is music to my ears.
Of course, the Happy Tenant Company isn't a letting agent, so landlords still have the hassle and cost of finding a tenant themselves. However, if landlords want to use a letting agent to find a tenant, the company will liaise with the agent on their behalf and it uses its buying power to beat agents down on price. It told me it gets agency fees down to an average of six per cent of the annual rent, which is not bad.
Once landlords have found a tenant, they can hand everything over to the Happy Tenant, which will reference them for £19.50 (letting agents usually pass this cost on to the tenant), arrange an inventory and check-in (£130+VAT for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom property) and provide a free tenancy agreement, for which an agent would usually charge at least £175 on top of their commission.
The Happy Tenant collects the rent and retains a £500 float from landlords so if any small maintenance issues crop up it can deal with them without bothering to call the owner first. For those landlords who take a hands-off approach to their rentals, this could be ideal.
The Happy Tenant was only set up a little over a year ago and I haven't road tested it yet so I don't know if it's as good as it sounds, but for inexperienced landlords or those who are too busy to manage their own rental properties, it looks appealing.
Mother-of-two Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London.
Find many more homes to rent at www.homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings