The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock has a tough week but learns a valuable lesson in how to rent out her least favourite property
I did it! Two weeks and three days after first advertising my least favourite property I've re-let it to a lovely group of tenants and, best of all I did it without a letting agent. Woohoo!

I saved myself about £1,100 in fees (that's assuming an agent would have charged me commission of five per cent of the annual rent plus VAT) and I got a higher rent than a local agent said he would achieve. So right now I'm feeling pretty damn smug.

It was a bit of a slog, though. I reckon I spent a couple of hours taking photos of the flat and writing adverts, plus at least eight hours on viewings.

'I wanted to handpick the tenants to make sure I wasn't going to end up with a bunch of psychos'



On top of that, it took me 15 minutes a day to deal with email and phone enquiries from prospective tenants, then at least three hours sorting out the paperwork for the new tenancy.Another 30 minutes was taken up sourcing a company to prepare the inventory and check-in report and I spent 15 minutes finding cleaners to freshen the place up before the new tenants arrive.

So, in total, I spent 18 hours doing all the stuff the agent would have done for me. If I earned more than £60 per hour in my day job (I wish), I would have been better off employing someone to do all the legwork.
Then again, if I earned that kind of salary, I wouldn't be letting properties anyway.

However, saving money wasn't the only reason I chose to let the property myself. I didn't want the frustration of dealing with a third party and I wanted to handpick the tenants to make sure I wasn't going to end up with a bunch of psychos.

However, I'm afraid I did break pretty much every rule to successful letting. For instance: I didn't verify the incomes of three of the four tenants; I failed to do credit checks on any of them; I let one of them move in before she paid her deposit, and I handed them a lease agreement held together by a sparkly hairgrip. I did start out with good intentions but I quickly got bored with doing things by the book and decided to just wing it.

I did try to get proof of the tenants' earnings but three of them were recently self-employed so only one was able to provide a letter from an employer showing he had a steady, albeit small, income.

As for the credit checks, all of the new tenants are from overseas and I couldn't find an agency able to run checks on people who haven't been resident in the UK for at least three years, so in the end I told them I'd take their word as their bond, adding that if they did let me down I'd hunt them down and shoot them. They promised that wouldn't be necessary.

Three of them promptly paid their deposit and one month's rent in advance. One called up in a tizz on the morning she was due to collect the keys to say she hadn't been able to transfer her share of the rent to my account but, oh well, I let her move in anyway. Fortunately she has since paid up. As for that hairgrip, I have no excuse except to say that my stapler had run out of staples.

I know a letting agent would never use such a thing, but then they charge a fortune for office supplies and their contracts still don't look as pretty as mine.

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