The accidental landlord: management companies are a small price to pay to keep tenants happy

Victoria Whitlock says it's worth every penny paying a management company to deal with those lettings headaches
There I am, doing my midweek jog (okay, shuffle) round my local park when my mobile rings and I see it's one of my tenants calling — so I ignore them. And for once, I don't feel even the teeniest bit guilty.

You see, I don't have to be on call 24/7 for all my tenants — not any more, because I've enlisted the help of The Happy Tenant Company to deal with all these annoying calls.

The Happy Tenant Company is a property management firm for landlords which, unlike most letting agents, charges a fixed fee for its services based on annual rent. Charges start at £750 a year for properties with a weekly rent of up to £400, rising to £5,500 a year for properties with a rent of more than £4,000 a week.

Now, I'm wary of using letting agents to manage my properties because, in addition to their fees, you end up paying well over the odds for any maintenance and repair work they carry out, but Happy Tenant promises to charge landlords only the true cost of any work.

I've been using the company to manage my four-bedroom property (the one that gives me most grief) since February. The first problem they dealt with occurred while I was in France on holiday. I got an email from the company to say the tenants had reported a faulty light in the hallway, but not to worry, they were dealing with it.

At the time, I said to myself: "Wa-hey, this is excellent." I forgot completely about the problem until a week later when I received an invoice from the company for £75 for replacing the light fitting. That stung a bit. You see, while I was on holiday I was glad someone else was dealing with the problem, but when I got the bill I wished I'd persuaded the tenants to manage without the light until I'd had time to ring round electricians to get a more competitive quote. I'm like that, I want to have my cake and eat it, but I suppose £75 was not an unreasonable price.

A month later I received a second statement out of the blue from Happy Tenant, this time listing a £115 repair to a lavatory flush they hadn't told me was broken. Had I been informed of the fault previously, I would have got a plumber to replace the loo as it has played up a few times over the past couple of years, and it wouldn't have cost much more than £115 to stick a new one in.

However, Happy Tenant couldn't have known the loo was of the temperamental sort and they reckon it's best not to bother landlords with minor niggles they think most would prefer to leave them to sort out — and they are probably right. After all, there's no point employing someone then doing the job yourself.

I suppose the best thing about using a property management company is the peace of mind it brings. If there should be a real emergency when I'm away or busy at work — something much more serious than a broken light fitting — then I know there's someone on hand to deal with it.

The Happy Tenant Company provides a 24/7 emergency helpline and has certainly proved efficient at dealing with calls from my tenants. As for all things, there's a price to pay, but for those landlords who don't live close enough to their properties to manage them effectively, or who are just too busy, a service like this could make them very happy, too.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

* Find many more homes to rent at www.homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings.

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