The buy-to-let dream is an easy one to love. We all like the idea of buying somewhere cheap and easy to maintain, letting it out to lovely tenants who stay for as many years as we want them, and watching the money roll in. The reality, however, can be very different - and can leave investors financially and emotionally far worse off.
A study by international tenancy and property management company, London Shared, has revealed that a third of landlords who look after their own property say it is far more stressful than they had imagined.
There are endless day-to-day niggles, as three quarters of renters don't understand their responsibilities - so call up with all kinds of requests and complaints. Over a third have had calls in the middle of the night - with problems ranging from blocked drains to lost keys and even a dud light bulb.
Landlords spend an average of 11 hours a month managing their properties and 83% of them spend up to £5,000 a year on repairs.
And it's not just repairs and maintenance, some 40% of landlords say they have been paid late too. Of those who received the rent late, a fifth ended up defaulting on their own bills as a result, one in ten are unable to pay off their debts, and 6% had to take their children out of school as a result. One in five of them ended up going to court to get money owed to them by tenants.
Tenants don't just pay late, they cause a variety of other problems too. A quarter of landlords have had to serve notice on their tenants at some point. Most of this was for rent arrears, but 44% cited damage to the property, 24% inappropriate behaviour, 18% subletting without consent, and 11% using the property for illegal purposes.
To make matters worse, even after eviction 44% of tenants refused to leave - so it took 6-8 weeks to get them out, putting even more financial pressure on the landlord.
One in ten landlords end up anxious as a result of all the hassle.
Even when the tenants are perfectly well behaved, there's a shocking amount of red tape to deal with. Just under half of all landlords said the regulations changed so frequently that they weren't entirely certain what their current responsibilities were when it came to repairs.
Jake Willis, Co-founder of London Shared, said: "The role of a landlord can be a full time job but eight in 10 (81%) of British landlords are juggling a second job to make ends meet. Many property owners do not realise the amount of money, time and care required to be a landlord and as a result they feel constantly under a huge amount of pressure."
He suggested five tips to help landlords stay on top of their investment:
1. Check the law
As a bare minimum you need to have a valid gas safety certificate in place, smoke alarms on every level and a carbon monoxide alarm by the boiler and kitchen (if you have gas appliances), but it's important to check legislation for anything relating to the specific type of property you are letting out.
2. Use correct contracts
You need a legal document, and to follow all the rules relating to it. Willis uses the example of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement: you need to register the deposit within 30 days, and give tenants prescribed information regarding their deposit. You also need to give certain notices when terminating an agreement.
3. Vet your tenants properly
Regardless of the checks you undertake, you can never know for certain that you have chosen the right tenant but you should at least check them as much as you can to minimise your risk.
4. Have a contingency plan
Willis says that failing to leave yourself with some emergency funds to cover vacancy is a huge error. You should always have money aside to cover the mortgage in case finding tenants becomes difficult.
5. Fix things properly the first time
It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you skimp on certain things you will save money however, ultimately this can come back to haunt you.