Being Estate & Letting Agents in W1, we deal with Landlords/ladies on a regular basis. Our Director and Head of Residential Lettings in Fitzrovia, Emma How, caught up with one of Davis Brown’s newest Landladies who recently developed a flat and became a landlady for the first time. We were keen to get an insight in to her experience in both developing and letting her property for the first time and hope this provides some useful tips for those who are also just starting out.
What made you decide you wanted to develop a property?
I owned a garage called the Coach House which had a redundant room above it. It had no heating or electricity and for years I had wanted to develop it into a flat, however, this was a scary prospect as I’d had very little experience! I decided to jump in feet first, and decided if nothing else, it would be a learning experience!
How did you go about developing the Coach House?
I was recommended an architect who drew up plans and submitted them to the council. The building is Grade II listed so there were a few obstacles to satisfy the planners. I needed Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent. I then sent the plans to four building contractors. I was amazed at the difference in price when all the quotes came in. I decided to go with the middle quote as I had a good feeling about the team and felt they would listen to my suggestions and we could work well together.
What bit did you enjoy the most?
The fun part of the project was choosing kitchens, bathrooms, tiles and time management with the builders. I wanted to rent the flat on an unfurnished basis so I chose some pretty neutral tones so it was a completely blank canvas for future tenants.
What was the biggest thing you learnt?
Nothing goes to plan and costs can quickly increase! We had to dig down much further than we anticipated as the local planners would not pass this stage of the project off before we could move on. The original quote moved quite a lot as I up graded the heating system to make it more efficient and I spent more on the kitchen than planned as this is one of the most important rooms in house. Make sure you choose a building team you can trust and listen to them.
When did you instruct a Lettings Agent?
I knew nothing about the Landlord/Tenant business and I therefore had to be guided through the procedures and processes that are required of me as a Landlady. I asked a handful of Agents to see the flat 2-3 weeks before completion.
I chose Davis Brown who guided me through every step of way and gave me the confidence to deal with any problems that might occur. There is so much to understand and to deal with and it was so important to be able to speak to a company that knew all the ropes as I was completely out of my comfort zone.
What did you learn?
Again, Davis Brown were a huge help here and helped me learn all the ropes of being a Landlady. All the appliances were new and needed to be registered and guaranteed in my name in case they broke down. A six-week deposit needed to be taken and registered formally with a deposit scheme. The gas safety certificate needs to be checked yearly. The list goes on…
I really understood the importance of an inventory report prepared with photographs, and I asked the tenants to sign so we were both covered in case of damage.
On their arrival, I had to test the fire alarms to show the tenants they were all working sufficiently and once again, I got a signature from the tenants.
As a personal touch, I gave the new tenants a welcome guide with information such as where the bins are kept, rubbish collection and what access they had.
I learnt very quickly that the relationship between tenant and landlady has to be completely transparent and both parties know they are responsible for the property – me maintaining it to the correct standard and the tenants respecting the space.
Once all the paper work was done – everyone knew exactly where they stood, this makes for a smooth relationship between landlady and tenant, and I am most grateful that Davis Brown were here to guide me through it all! I am now looking forward to my next project with the confidence I have gained to take me forward.