27 Jul 2010

The Accidental Landlords

I’ve never been a big fan of buy-to-let. I don’t do it, and I don’t tend to write about it. But I am not hung up about it and I know lots of people who swear by it, and use it to build their life savings up. Normally they are pretty savvy and know what they are getting into, but I do have some friends who have been bounced into it and haven’t a clue what it’s all about. And I thought I would share their tale with you.

The house in question is in a terraced street in Nottingham. They have no connection with Nottingham and live about 100 miles away. It came into their possession via an inheritance. Very nice too, you might think, except that the property has a mortgage on it and the rent they receive only just covers the mortgage, so it’s not exactly a bountiful gift. They’d very much like to sell it and pay off the mortgage and have done with, but the house has a sitting tenant and he won’t let them have access. They don’t have a key and they don’t have a phone number. So they write and make appointments, and drive to Nottingham, but he doesn’t open the door. He is either deliberately out, or he hides inside. They stand outside, scratch their heads, and feel foolish. Then they drive home, having wasted a day, and wonder what on earth they should do next.

How should they proceed? I don’t know. Buy-to-let is not my thing, partly because I wish to avoid situations like this. I thought I’d blog about it and maybe garner some suggestions.


  1. Difficult. I am sure they have written the tenant a formal letter requiring access so the next step is good legal advice - as soon as possible

  2. AnonymousJuly 30, 2010

    I'm with Building Stoat - you have to be very careful not to harass the tenant or, worse still, end up unlawfully evicting them, so legal advice would be well worth it.

    I would recommend the Landlord Law website - www.landlordlaw.co.uk - I've no links other than as a "satisfied customer", using her service to get tenancy agreements.

  3. Join the Residential Landlords Association. Cheap for all the benefits you get including legal advice.


  4. Legal advice on this is a must. Goodluck.

  5. The solution would be quite simple if you had a Housing Act compliant tenancy agreement! The tenant presumably pays rent therefore an agreement exists beit written or verbal. As the property owner / landlord you are entitled to access the property for inspection, maintenance and mandatory safety checks (i.e. gas and electrical appliances safety certification), assuming there is gas to the property. You write advising the tenant that access will be required on a certain date (allow 3 days notice minimum)for mandatory inspections to satisfy the legal requirements of government legislation (for which you can be held responsible in the event of an incident if certificates are not in place). Request the tenant to contact you to arrange a convenient time, but make it clear that the locks should not have been changed without your authority and access will be gained by force if necessary and all associated costs will be bourne by the tenant as a result of their non compliance with a legal request and their having changed the locks without your authority. If no response is forthcoming arrange a locksmith to accompany you (make sure you provide proof of ownership status for the locksmith), and enter at will. As this is a registered tenant I would suggest you check this proposal with your local 'Tenancy Relations Officer' in the local authority housing department, or have a chat with a solicitor, just to make sure. You could also try the 'Landlord Law' website. Good luck.

  6. Buy to rent should only be done where you control all the variables. The case in question shows how true this is.
    People buying to rent in France don't have this problem as they are renting furnished accommodation. This benefits from a lot of protection for the landlord and eliminates the concept of 'sitting tenants'. Come to France!