GL #10: Tips to help landlords self-manage their buy to lets


In this episode of Good Landlording, Richard Jackson and Suzanne Smith share lots of practical tips to help landlords manage their buy to lets successfully themselves, without using letting agents.

Richard and Suzanne are both very well qualified to talk about this subject. Suzanne has always self-managed her properties, even with her first as an accidental landlord, and Richard self manages many of his properties.

They discuss what self-managing involves, whether landlords need training or accreditation, what the benefits of self-managing are and lots of practical tips for landlords.

self-managing landlord in a rental property

Overview of self-managing rental properties

There’s a lot of scaremongering on the part of letting agents, to try and put landlords off managing their properties themselves. They make out that it’s really complicated, and something best left to agents.

For some landlords, using a letting agent might be the right approach. They might not have the time or inclination to do it themselves. For guidance on how to choose good letting agents, you can listen to the Good Landlording episode GL #3: Guide to selecting good letting agents .

However, if you’re considering self managing your properties, it’s really not as difficult as you might think. There are lots of useful tools that landlords can use to automate much of the day-to-day tasks, or you can do it manually, using spreadsheets and calendar reminders.

Also, self managing doesn’t always mean you have to do it yourself. Many landlords with larger portfolios use property VAs (virtual assistants). VAs aren’t AI, but are specialist admin assistants who provide remote support to landlords. Some landlords employ family members to help, which can be a good way to bring the next generation into the business.

It’s possible for landlords to start by using letting agents to find tenants on a “let only” basis and set up the tenancy, and hand over management as soon as the tenants move in. This is what Suzanne did when she first started as an accidental landlord. She didn’t start finding tenants herself for three years.

Self-management is the opposite of the “passive income” mindset, that some landlords strive for. It’s also something that landlords need to go into with their eyes open, and make sure they understand all their legal and practical obligations.

>> Blog post: The Independent Landlord – How to Self-Manage your Buy to Let

What does self-management involve for landlords?

Self-management means different things to different landlords. However, these are the three key aspects of managing your own property portfolio yourself:

  • Property management. Looking after the property, which means doing or arranging repairs, maintenance, general upkeep and inspections. This includes arranging the annual gas safety certificate, boiler service, the 5-yearly EICR, PAT testing and managing suppliers, esp the trades.
  • Financial. Keeping tabs on the various costs that the landlord incurs, and the income due, ie rent. (See Good Landlording episode GL#7: How to manage rent arrears for tips on what to do to minimise the risk of rent arrears.
  • Tenant management. Looking after tenants after they move in, good communications, annual rent increases (See Good Landlording episode GL#6: What landlords need to know about rent

Some landlords outsource repairs and maintenance to third party suppliers, others do a lot themselves and landlords with large portfolios often employ a team to do repairs, maintenance and even cleaning, in the case of HMOs. This may lead to them setting up a property maintenance company.

Suzanne has recently done courses at Able Skills in Kent to learn basic plumbing and tiling so that she can take on more of the maintenance tasks herself.

Most landlords do a mixture of DIY repairs and outsourcing to the trades.

Do landlords need accreditation to manage their own rental properties?

No, there is no legal requirement for landlords to undergo training or accreditation to manage their own properties in England. (Unless this is a requirement in a licence). This is the same as for letting agents, who, surprisingly, do not need any qualifications to set up in business as a letting agent.

That said, Suzanne recommends that all self-managing landlords take the Landlord Fundamentals course of the NRLA to become an accredited landlord member. Local authorities typically give a discount on selective or HMO licence fees if the landlord is accredited. She includes the NRLA Accredited logo on her website and mentions the accreditation when advertising her properties for letting.

nrla accredited member logo

What are the benefits for landlords who self-manage rental properties?

  • Cost-savings as there is no fee payable to a letting agent (from 8-20% of the gross rent), plus a mark-up on repairs and other incidental charges (see GL #4: Tips for signing up with letting agents).
  • Economies of scale for larger portfolios, and some landlords with large portfolio find it is cheaper to employ a part-time property manager or maintenance person.
  • Full control over repairs, without having to pay the agent a mark-up.
  • Happier tenants – see OSB Group’s 2023 research paper, A Future Tenant Standard.
  • No filter between the landlord and the tenants, which has its advantages and disadvantages. The landlords hear issues direct, but it can lead to “over-communication”.

Tips for self-managing

  • Get the property in good shape before tenants move in as this will reduce the number of issues flagged.
  • Inspections / Maintenance visits – see How to carry out successful mid-tenancy inspections. It is a good idea to carry out a maintenance visit a couple of weeks after the tenants move in so that they can let you know if any repairs are needed.
  • Finances – put aside money each month towards an emergency fund for repairs, on top of the maintenance budget.
  • Be proactive about maintenance, and plan what each property needs .
  • Get organised with an electronic filing system in the cloud or in an app, not on your desktop, that you keep up to date
  • Automation – send rent reminders, and check that the rent has been received.
  • Keep notes of conversations with tenants and suppliers.
  • Education – keep up to date with legislation, including signing up for the weekly newsletter of The Independent Landlord.
  • Join the NRLA, become an accredited landlord, benefit from training, discounts and also their membership helpline.
  • Consider insurance for repairs, for instance YourRepair emergency cover, or rent guarantee insurance. (Depends on your risk appetite).
  • Plan for emergencies – leave keys with someone or arrange cover with a service provider such as Viewber.
  • Build good relationships with trusted suppliers, pay promptly. They can be your virtual team.
  • Make a note in your calendar or in property management software two months before the gas safety certificate and EICR expire, your landlord insurance is due to be renewed, the expiry of a fixed term and/or when the rent is due to be reviewed.

>> Related episode: GL#7: How to manage rent arrears

Golden nugget

If you’re thinking of starting to manage your rental properties yourself, start with one that is close to home as it will be easier to manage from a logistics point of view.

Credits

Music: “Paradise Found” by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech. Licensed under Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 License.

There are affiliate links in these show notes. If you buy something after clicking through, you’ll be supporting this free podcast. Thank you!

tips to help landlords manage their buy to lets

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