The accidental landlord: I’m losing the Olympic race for new tenants

Victoria Whitlock feels like the only person in London who isn’t excited about the Games. It’s so bad for business
Depressing news for landlords — the lettings market, at least in London, has “gone soft”. This is what agents tell me. Only a few weeks ago they had dozens of tenants chasing every property, or so they say, but now the viewers have disappeared — just as I’m trying to re-let two properties. S*d it, as one might say.

I’ve spoken to a few agents who say they’ve no idea what’s happened. We’re approaching what should be the busiest time of the year for lettings and yet it’s eerily quiet, which is very bad news. One big high street agent told me there were 36 per cent fewer tenants looking than this time last year.

I’ve got until early September before both my properties become vacant, which is usually more than enough time to find new tenants. However, I was really hoping the places would be snapped up quickly so that I wouldn’t have to do viewings throughout this month and next because, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Olympics are coming to town.

Not that I want to put my feet up and watch the Games (trust me, I’d rather watch paint dry), but there’s a real danger that they’ll destroy the usual busy summer lettings period. This is largely because getting around London on public transport from late this month to early September will be so difficult, anyone with any sense will try to avoid viewing properties until after the event.

More than one agent tells me the market might already be suffering from “the Olympic effect” as renters are choosing to renew their leases rather than attempt to find somewhere new to live this summer.

Apparently there will be an extra 800,000 people cramming on to our already overcrowded buses, Tubes and trains on the busiest days of the Games. How they’ll get on I’m not sure, because on my commuter train there’s not even room for an extra wafer-thin woman most mornings —so good luck to all the fans trying to get to any events on time.

The official advice on travelling on public transport during the Olympics and the Paralympics is not to, which is not very helpful, especially as the two events stretch from July 27 to September 9 with only a two-week breathing space in the middle.

For me, it all couldn’t be happening at a worse time. One of my properties is in SW19, just down the road from the All England Club, which will be hosting the Olympic tennis tournament from July 28 to August 5.
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As advised, I have checked at getaheadofthegames.com to find out what the impact will be on local Tube and train stations. It shows that the Tube station closest to my flat will be “exceptionally” busy from seven to nine o’clock in the evenings, which is exactly when most viewings occur. People using the station will have to wait more than half an hour for a train. Great.

It looks like pretty much every Tube station will be busier than usual for the whole of the Olympics, and most of the Paralympics.

I reckon that if I haven’t managed to find new tenants by the opening ceremony on July 27, I might as well give up until September. Not that I’m expecting the market to pick up then — because no doubt that’s when the tens of thousands of key workers who’ve been forced to delay their holidays because of the Olympics will go away.

My only hope is that the immigration queues at Heathrow will be so long during the Games that thousands of visitors will just turn around and get on the next flight home. Fingers crossed, eh?

* Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London

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