Archive | November, 2011

Is Landlord Emergency Insurance Worth The Paper It’s Written On?

30 Nov


That’s the question I find myself asking today…

As we enter the cold season, I am reminded of the horrible, horrible winter we had last year where we had a multitude of frozen pipes, broken boilers, upset tenants and my ever decreasing bank balance to pay the bills.  I remember at one point thinking to myself I would stop answering the phone. Every time I answered it, it seemed to cost me yet more money. Alas, ignorance was not an option…especially not when my tenants have me on speed dial and think nothing of bombarding me with their free annual text quota in a day.

And so with a heavy heart, I like many other landlords, are entering that wonderfully festive season which is traditionally known as Christmas to everyone else and T’is Season to be Jolly. Which in the landlord’s world – T’is the Season to Worry. Which in the plumbers world Ti’s Season To Plunder. Yes, for plumbers, winter is their peak season – this is the manual workers equivalent of City Boy Banker’s Bonus Month!

So when my kindly insurance broker called me to remind me it was that dreaded time of the year again – Insurance Renewal Time. I felt the sense of dread for the forthcoming cold season even more clammily around my neck…of course, it could have something to do with my annual premiums being the equivalent of a new car – or maybe I just need to get my boiler checked…

Anyhow as my broker is cheerfully telling me how this year I just have an 8% increase on my premiums (which I suspected I was meant to be grateful for) he then informs me of his new Christmas Selling Scam to fill his Santa Stockings. It’s Landlord Home Emergency Cover. I am aghast – am I not spending enough money with his company – and now he wants MORE!!! So I scoff and scorn about home emergency policies and bleet on about the cost and other such stuff. And then he stops me in my tracks when he tells me the price. It is a measly £59 including central heating cover per property. For the year. Yes, £59 for the year.

At such a tiny price there has got to be a catch. I mean this is £4.91 per month. So I ask him to send me over the policy details so I can check the small print. I then get onto the websites of Homeserve, AA, Swinton, LandlordCall, LandlordPlus and a million other sites which claim they offer Landlord Home Emergency Cover – there are a lot! And the price range varies – admittedly none of them as cheap as what’s he’s offered – but if I chose to I could spend 5 times more and go with Homeserve…for a pretty similar package.

So what do I get for £59? Well I get:

Plumbing and drainage: Sudden failure of, or damage to the plumbing and drainage system. This includes leaking pipes, blocked drains, water tanks and blockages in toilet waste pipes.

Gas & Electrical Supply: Sudden and complete failure or breakdown of the gas or electricity supply within your property

Pests: Professional extermination and control of pests in your home including cellars and outbuildings

Roofing: Damage to the roof of your home caused by storm or fallen trees or branches

Security & Glazing: Damage caused to external locks, doors and windows

Primary Heating: Complete failure or breakdown of either the heating and/or hot water supply provided by your primary heating system

3 Way Claim Helpline: A specific appointment time is agreed between the tenant and the tradesperson while on the phone to the claim helpline

Admittedly I can pull holes in the “emergency cover” and I can see limitations and exclusions where they will probably try and wriggle out of it.  But, you know I have had to shell out a lot for broken windows, burst pipes, broken boilers, smashed roof tiles from falling branches and a huge number of blocked toilet waste pipes over the last year!

And so I ummed and arrhed and asked lots of other landlords for their experiences. And I have to be honest I was undecided.  It sounded too cheap…and you know the saying “If it’s too good to be true…”

My broker usefully told me “It’s the sort of insurance that you don’t know you need it, until you need it”

Which, of course, I found extremely helpful (note sarcasm). And so I decided that for such a small amount of money I don’t expect much back. In fact, my expectations are so low that if anybody even answered the phone when an emergency happened I would think it was a minor miracle let alone anyone attending and even fixing the problem.

And so I have decided, it’s so cheap that I have to trial it. How can I not try it? At less than £5 per month it’s got to be worth a punt.  And so I am treating my experiment with Landlord Home Emergency Cover like a little test case – as if I worked at Which Consumer Research magazine or something.

Has it provided me with peace of mind for the 25% of my properties I’ve insured?  Well, at the very least, I have an emergency telephone number to give the tenant’s which is not mine…

Be Lord of The Manor for Less than £5,000!

21 Nov

Today I saw a fantastic property going for sale at auction – a freehold vacant Victorian mansion offering 122 bedrooms and three flats – enough to suit most growing families!


Kinmel Hall is an 18 acre country estate located on the edge of Snowdonia National Park and 40 minutes from Chester. Built around 1871/1876, Kinmel Hall is an ornate red brick construction with numerous detailing in the style of  a French chateau and was once dubbed the “Welsh Versailles”.  The hall offers a built area of circa 80,000 sq ft and is set within formal landscaped and tiered gardens which is surrounded by 3,500 acres of open parkland which was once part of the property.

Originally built as a 52 bedroom mansion with accommodation for 60 (!) live in servants.  Of course, if your staffing requirements are not so bountiful in these tighter economic times you could always just preserve the most special of rooms which is included in the hall – a newspaper ironing room!

Having driven down the half mile long surfaced driveway you will arrive at a large wrought iron gateway with stone pillars which enters onto the large gravelled car park forecourt with adjoining stable block and garaging beneath a clock tower and other outbuildings. There is a swimming pool and ice house.  Fortunately, there is a secondary access to the rear of the property which is sunken so that tradesmen will not be seen.

The interior of the property offers sumptuous living accommodation where the former glory of it’s lavish grandeur can be seen. The principle rooms are on a grand scale with intricate plasterwork and marble fireplaces.

The property is Grade 1 and part Grade 2 listed and has been used since 1929 for a variety of uses and offers potential for a wide range of future uses.  Kinmel Hall benefits from change of use to a hotel (c1) which has recently been renewed, although the planners are keen to see the property brought into beneficial use and will help to achieve this where they can.

With a much reduced guide price of £1.5 million Kinmel Hall will be going to auction on 7 December 2011 with Lambert Smith Hampton although if this is a bit too pricey – you could always buy the Freehold Manorial Title of the Lordship of the Manor of Beoley – which will allow the purchaser to append the title “The Lord/Lady of Beoley” after their name which has a more affordable price guide of £4,500!  Available to buy at auction on 8 December 2011

10 Alternative Auction Properties For Under £50k

13 Nov

Today I have put together a selection of alternative property investments which are going under the auction hammer in the next few weeks. There are a variety of unusual properties you can buy at a property auction – not just your standard 2-up-2 -down house!

So if you fancy an alternative property investment from auction – feast your eyes on these:

1.  Barn Living: Fancy a barn to convert in Norfolk with a £30k Guide?

This detached single storey former agricultural building is divided into two areas and extends to approximately 1,200ft² of internal floor space. The barn which is in good order has recently been used as a storage facility and other potential uses exist subject to the necessary consents being obtained. Electricity is connected to the property. Located close to a number of other barns which have already been converted to residential use, the property lies close to the A11 Norwich to London Road and is on the outskirts of the historic market town of Wymondham.

Going to auction on 1 December 2011 with Brown & Co


2. Car Park for sale: Fancy running a car parking business in Carlisle with a guide of £15k?

This town centre land is being sold by Cumbria County Council and is currently being used as car parking. The site area is approximately 61.54 sq m (74 sq yds). The land is situated at the junction of Warwick Street and Peter Street, opposite the Fire Station in Carlisle town centre.

Going to auction on 1 December 2011 with Pugh


3. Get Closer to God with this Welsh Chapel (& it has planning permission to convert to residential) for just £35k

A rare opportunity to purchase this former Grade II listed Chapel situated in the village of Talysarn which has basic local amenities and is within convenient travelling distance of Caernarfon town centre.  Planning permission (C07A/0289/22/LL) has been granted for the conversion and alteration of the Chapel to a dwelling in accordance with the application – plans submitted and planning conditions specified in the planning consent

Going to auction on 25 November 2011 with Dafydd Hardy Auctions


4. Get down and dirty with these £5k former public toilets in Bristol

Former public toilets situated with road frontage on Manor Road, Saltford providing easy access to Keynsham, Bath & Bristol. This is a single storey building currently arranged as male and female toilet facilities with good road frontage.  There is potential for redevelopment to residential, offices or garages subject to obtaining the necessary consents.

Going to auction 29 November 2011 with Maggs & allen


5.  Invite the Hotel Inspector round to your very own Fawlty Towers with this former guest house in Blackpool for £40k

Mid terraced three storey former guest house. Offering 3 bedroom owner’s accommodation on the lower ground floor, bar/dining area on ground floor and 7 letting bedrooms on first & second floor (two are en-suite) rest with shared bathroom & WC facilities.  The property is situated on Lonsdale Road in an established location for hotels and guest houses. The Promenade (A584) lies approximately 300 yards to the west and the town centre is approximately ¾ of a mile to the north.

Going to auction 1 December 2011 with Pugh


6. Got ‘green fingers?’ Join the ‘Grow Your Own Brigade’ with these £15k allotments in Cumbria

These allotments are situated just off Lowca Lane and accessed via a lane through a gate. There are over 20 sites in operation at present which could bring in an attractive rent for the purchaser. Suit investor or allotment owner.

Going to auction on 1 December 2011 with Auction House Cumbria


7. Bored of being a buy to let landlord? How about being a pub landlord with this Birkenhead pub at £40k?

Three storey detached former public house. The property is in need of refurbishment and offered with vacant possession.  Offering over 3,100 sq ft internal area arranged as a public house on the ground floor and residential accommodation of 6 rooms, kitchen and bathroom on the first and second floor.  The plot is situated on Duke Street (A5027) at the junctions with both Old Bidston Road and Brook Street, Birkenhead. The property lies approximately ¾ of a mile west of both the Kingsway and Queensway Mersey Tunnels.

Going to auction 1 December 2011 with Pugh


8. Will this former Mill in Derby be your development dream with a guide of £50k?

Requiring conversion, this former mill building could potentially be converted to provide seven apartments (subject to planning permission) or a variety of other uses. The present accommodation provides four floors, one of which being the basement and the fourth floor having the potential to have a partial mezzanine.  Situated a short distance from Derby City centre , Manchester Street is off Ashbourne Road within easy reach of Friar Gate and the Cathedral Quarter of Derby.

Going to auction 1 December 2011 with Graham Penny Auctions


9. “Hello, Hello, Hello What have we got here then?” A former police station in Manchester for £50k!

Single storey vacant former police station offering gross internal accommodation of 118.67 sq m. Outside there is parking and an enclosed yard area. The site area is approximately 267.34 sq m.  The property fronts Barlow Moor Road (A5145) at its junction with Beech Road in Chorlton area of Manchester. Junction 7 of the M60 Motorway lies approximately 1¾ miles to the west and the city centre lies approximately 3 miles to the north.

Going to auction 1 December 2011 with Pugh


10. Star in your own Baywatch with these Victorian Swimming Baths in Bradford for £50k!

Grade II Listed vacant former swimming baths with potential for alternative use subject to gaining the necessary consents.  Dating from 1903 these swimming baths offer a site area of approx 875 sqm and currently comprise a boiler room and filter room on the lower ground floor; reception, central swimming pool, 3 changing rooms, sauna, slipper baths, WCs and office on the ground floor; and an office on the first floor.

The property is located in a mixed use area on Carlisle Road close to the intersection with Drummond Road and Silver Street in Manningham. Bradford city centre lies approximately 1½ miles south east.

Going to auction 6 December 2011 with Pugh


So if you’re in the market for a different property investment – maybe try your hand at one of these!

Happy Bidding 🙂



How To Invest In Property: Local Knowledge is King!

9 Nov

Today I got wind of a top floor, 2 bed flat (65 sqm) for sale in London for just £87k – yes we’re talking a pocket money purchase in the Capital!  With over 120 years left to run on the lease, a predicted rental of £750-800pcm, and similar properties advertised on the market for £130k it sounded too good to be true…

And so I sat down with the legals to see what the issue was – there had to be some reason why this was so cheap!

I discovered it was an ex-council property which had been bought under the Right To Buy Scheme in 2007. I saw the price paid by the buyer in 2007 was £120,500 and that was with a £16k discount under the scheme.  Given the sale was happening within 5 years of the purchase, the council were looking to clawback some of the discount which had been given at that time of purchase. The legals showed that in 2007 the buyer had taken a mortgage to buy the property, but had since defaulted and now the bank had taken possession of the property and this was a repossession sale.

Like many flats which are sold in these circumstances, there were years of unpaid service charge bills – however, for a mortgagee to sell the property these outstanding bills will usually have to be cleared on sale completion (although you would always have to check the legals to make sure this was the case).  What did not appear clear though was the payment of a Section 20 major works bill which had been outstanding since 2009.  This major works bill meant that the owner of the flat had to pay £10k towards the works. Where it got confusing was who was paying the bill – it was unclear if/ and what works had been undertaken and if and what works had been invoiced. The legals showed that the mortgage company selling the property would only be liable to pay for the works which had actually been invoiced.  Given the works were estimated and billed on the service charge in 2009, it then became unclear if this actually counted as an invoice for the work, or if this was classified as an estimate. If the mortgage company decided that they were not liable to pay for the major works then it would be you as the new owner who would be picking up the £10k bill.

So I called the council, who started out pretty helpful, but who then decided that I was asking too many prying questions and given I was “just a third party” they felt they could not answer the key question – which was – have these major works been invoiced?

It was a key issue – it meant that the £87k price you thought you were paying, could in fact be £97k by the time you had added on the major works bill of £10k.  The issue got further involved when it transpired some of the major works had been undertaken (e.g. the double glazing) but it was unclear if these works had been invoiced. You would logically think that works carried out 2 years ago should be paid for by the seller rather than the new buyer – but as the council informed me, it is usual to do works and then not bill the leaseholder for another 2-3 years.  Although, they did then state that they bill leaseholders on receiving and accepting an estimate from a contractor for major works and that money becomes due and payable then –  although that could be 2 years prior to the work starting!  It was this lack of clarity and ambiguity which was the sticking point with the property and why it was a problem to sell.

Of course, all of these issues, with time, could be ironed out – the issue was I had 3 hours to make my decision whether or not I wanted to buy the flat at £87k because another buyer was also looking to buy the property and 1pm was the deadline.  At 1pm I had to say whether or not I was giving my bank details for the 10% deposit and exchange contracts on the property – or otherwise the other buyer would purchase it.

And so I decided the best way to approach this deal would be to say the purchase price is £97k – that way I could protect my downside should the worst happen and the council end up billing me for the whole £10k major works sum.

£97k for a 2 bed flat of that size in London still seems a pretty good price to me  – but I don’t really know the area that well – it’s much further out than my usual patch. So I called local agents and decided the actual resale price of this property was more in the region of £120k…but given the current market instability I wondered if it was more like £115k.  Hmm not sounding as interesting now when we’re anticipating the purchase price is £97k.

Then I remembered that I know a couple of property friends who are very active in this local area. So I called and asked their opinion. With the postcode and google maps in front of them they could locate my anticipated purchase.  The local area was seen to be a good residential area, but one which was far from train links (although there was a bus stop on the same road as the flat). I could tell that while they wanted to give me information they didn’t want to tell me too much that would influence my judgement either way (this sounds odd, but when you know another property investor is about to make a purchase decision based upon your comments you give only the facts rather than a personal opinion).

I could tell that I was only getting half the story. And given time was getting on and I had to make my decision soon I still felt that this was all a bit too objective and I wasn’t getting the real nitty gritty as to whether this was a bargain property or not.

So I just asked the question direct:

“Would you buy it for £87k?”.

The answer – a resounding “No!”

This is where local knowledge is everything: both of them pointed out yes it’s a good area BUT the end resale was not such a bargain in the local market, that an ex-council flat in that particular local area had a stigma, that on a map it looked miles away from anything and unless you already knew the area you wouldn’t bother to look, the person who moved to the flat would probably need a car which is unlikely in that income bracket and so on. And so the end user of the flat became a narrower and narrower target – which affects future saleability and the value.

And then my property investor friend summed it up neatly for me “The property is not a bargain, the price is a reflection of the product that it is, in the location that it is”. That’s it – clear cut and to the point.

I decided not to buy!






Bailiffs have evicted the tenant – but why do I feel like the baddie?

7 Nov

This morning the bailiffs attended to serve the eviction order and take possession of my flat.  It was the one which the police raided earlier in the year which I wrote about here

I had been told by my solicitor that 9 times out of 10 the tenants have already left as they know once it gets to the bailiffs then there is no way they can stay.  Well this was never going to happen with my tenant. He likes to play games. And he knows the system.

He left his 8 month pregnant girlfriend at the flat (who’s not on the tenancy) and his dad – and told them to tell us that he was in hospital.  The girlfriend and tenant’s dad asked if they could have some more time as they had not been able to organise a van. They claimed that if they had 2 more days they would be able to organise it and to remove their belongings. Bear in mind – they have known the bailiffs would be coming for over a week. Prior to that they knew last month a court order had found in my favour for the possession.

The bailiff asked me if I would give them the additional time. I replied that they had known for weeks now they should have left and the goods should have been moved before today. I also realised that the bailiffs were overstretched and due to be evicting elsewhere so they didn’t want to hang around while the tenants’ moved their goods.  But, I stood firm – the bailiffs were there to secure possession of my property. By law the courts had found in my favour. I informed them the tenant had, had adequate time to organise a van and I believed that a time extension would make little difference to them but to me, as the owner of the property it would mean yet more loss of rent, and a delay in trying to put the flat back into habitable order.

I informed the bailiffs the tenants had to leave now as prescribed in the eviction order from the court.

This is the first time I have ever had to use a court order and bailiffs to evict a tenant. And let me tell you it doesn’t feel good. I am a human being too and it is not nice to have to be a “not nice person” and make “not nice decisions”.

What left a bad taste in my mouth was when it felt like the bailiff was also on the tenant’s side. Maybe they weren’t – but it felt yet again that I as the landlord was the baddie. To be honest, it’s really pd me off.

The tenant wrecked the flat, was a criminal (awaiting conviction), didn’t pay his rent and then used his heavily pregnant girlfriend as a pawn…and yet I have been left to feel like I did something wrong.

The tenant and the girlfriend have a new place to live. Meanwhile I am left with the legal, court and bailiff bills, the refurbishment costs of the flat and months of rental arrears to write off – oh and the guilty conscience.