LandlordZONE sits down with one of London’s most prolific but little-known landlords who has spent 30 years amassing a huge portfolio in the East End and West End areas of the capital.

For reasons of privacy, and a desire to remain ‘behind the scenes’, he doesn’t want to reveal his identity.

But his story – and worries over the future of the private rented sector, will ring bells with many of the other landlords who set out on their buy-to-let journey during the ‘boomtime’ 1990s.

Why did you get into property?

“My brother and I ran a company operating in the house building sector which went bust during the post-1990 recession, so it was time to try something new and we bought our first property using personal credit cards – a one-bedroom flat for £6,500.

“We then bought approximately six properties using this method. In those days that meant assuming low or no capital growth, because we didn’t believe flats in Hackney would ever rise in value so instead, we relied on the rent to provide the profit.”

How did you grow so fast?

“We discovered that the local council was offering landlords £5,000 a year to rent a one-bed apartment to tenants on benefits and on that basis we turned to a major bank, Allied Irish, who appreciated the opportunity and helped us finance further purchases – although we paid 30% annual interest on what were essentially bridging loans. But with figures like that it didn’t matter.

“Not for the first time we then ended up being in the right place at the right time – during the mid-1990s the first buy-to-let mortgages came out, so we transferred the whole portfolio over and, because the properties had shot up in value as the East End became gentrified – or yuppified as we used to say – so the LTV ratios worked. We reduced the interest we paid from 30% to 10%.

“We then carried on, gathering 250 properties.”

What happened next?

“The portfolio became a monster but happily many of the properties had gone from £10,000 to £200,000 in 10/15 years, so we sold a lot of the East End ones and bought more upmarket properties in the West End – so fewer properties but higher value.

“We took advantage of the weak sales market at the time in central London just after the 9/11 event in the US.

“Developers had unsold off-plan units that often came with the deposit paid by investors who had then withdrawn – so in return for taking the deposits we took on the contracts.

“It was a huge gamble, but by the time they were completed, the flats had doubled in value. Again, in the right time and in the right place.

“Then we had 100 properties in the East End, and 50 in central London – the beast had been tamed!”.

What next?

“I went to a meeting just before the Covid pandemic began that revealed how government’s plans to ban Section 21 which scared the hell out of me – our model of finance and operation was based on being able to evict tenants who caused problems or didn’t pay their rent relatively easily.

“If that process is going to become more difficult then our business model doesn’t stack up, so I began selling off some of the portfolio. My aim is to have around 40 mainly in the West End. That way I can keep a more personal tab on the tenants.

“Saying that, over the past 30 years the portfolio has always achieved 99% of its income and we’ve had few problems with bad debt because we’ve stuck to what we know and where we know – as soon as you get out of your comfort zone you are exposed.”

What would you say to the next generation?

“I’m going to be in my mid-sixties soon, so I feel it’s time for the next generation to pick up the reins. I believe that the future of landlording is more corporate and ‘professional’ and the bigger portfolios be increasingly funded via investment finance.

“These days you couldn’t start up as we did – the extra regulations and other responsibilities mean it’s a much more serious commitment now, and self-management on a large scale is much more of a challenge. Instead, I am going to invest in art and continue my philanthropic projects.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. This landlord’s story confirms what I think of BTL for those just starting their journey. As he says, right place, right time. In other words, if you’re going to get into BTL, you needed to have done it many years ago to reap the capital appreciation rewards.

    Today, it’s too hard for the small landlord. The regulatory and taxation environment is intolerable, the rise of large companies investing in Build to Rent, universities letting their own new builds, higher expectations of renters, non-payers, are just some of the reasons I’m exiting the PRS.

  2. Can’t believe this idiot has admitted to credit card fraud.

    He used credit cards for business purposes.

    Had he bothered to read the terms and conditions he would have noted that personal credit card finance is NOT to be used for BUSINESS purposes.

    So the credit card issuers should check on his personal credit card usage going back years.

    Then they should mark his credit files as a fraudster.

    MCL and National Hunter as well and a permanent CIFAS for his credit card fraud.

    • They will probably rightly make the point that they weren’t engaged in a business at that time, and obviously the credit card provider saw nothing wrong with it and hasn’t pursued it, so I don’t think this landlord needs to lose any sleep over being accused of fraud, and I’m sure they won’t.

    • Sounds like sour grapes.

      How can it be credit card fraud? In the 1990s, I used to received credit card bills and they would included blank cheques. I dont’ think the credit card companies how people spent their money, as long as they got paid.

      Today, I use my personal credit card for property related expenses e.g. new appliance, booking a boiler engineer visit…..

      Most small businesses have at one time or another relied on credit card borrowing. Not everyone is funded to the tune of millions by those hedge funds….

    • Based on credit card fraud.
      Does that make his success OK then!?

      Everyone breach credit card conditions if it creates a successful business!!

      Are we now promoting credit card finance fraud!!??

  3. This is a landlord on a big scale who has decided that the risks outweigh the benefits. I too have decided that for the same reasons outlined in the article and in addition I make no money from them as a result of the tax burden. As a higher rate tax payer I just about break even despite higher rents available in the area. I have sold 2 properties, 2 more are about to complete and I have plans to sell off the remaining 5 over the next 2 years as the BTL mortgages fall to be refinanced. I will probably have to serve notice on tenants who then have to fight about 100 other candidates for a property in my area. There are fewer and fewer properties each time. Oh yes and my council is introducing a selective licensing scheme for one area at over 500 per property with a view to license the whole borough in due course. They will no doubt say that the licensing has raised standards and therefore the whole borough will benefit. I expect that these are one of the councils that have also noticed that PRs landlords are leaving the market , rents are going up and there is nowhere to house the increasing numbers of social tenants. So good luck with that strategy. I had originally planned to keep going well into retirement with the properties but the ever increasing expenses and risks mean I cannot continue without risking my imminent retirement. So I may keep a small single c rated property, keep my property gross income below 10k so that I don’t have to do MTD and retire gracefully without the landlord stress that has crept up since 2015. I’ ll use myreleased capital to repay debts, mortgages and put as much as I can into pensions and ISAs. I know I am not alone in taking this course. At least my well maintained properties sell like hot cakes when they hit the market.

    • Many LL are and will be following your lead me included!

      I’ll be making 9 people homeless very soon.

      I’ll be hopefully all sold up in a few months.

      Then I can ignore anything more to do with the PRS.

      I might have a lodger but that would be it.

      No more than £7500 of rent would be received!!……..Obviously!!!

      Everywhere I read on LL comments and they are all selling up.

      Such comments would have bern unheard of prior to 2015.

      S24 was when the rot set in followed by all the following anti-LL policies.

      So you could say the Tories are being quite successful in getting rid of LL

      Not sure how that assists homeless tenants!?

      Once I’m finished in a few months with being a LL I’ll have to stop commenting as it WON’T be any of my business anymore!

      Can’t wait!!

  4. Yep. If it is credit card fraud then good luck to him, if it’s good enough for the prime minister and the government then……

  5. It’s sale time and increase rent time. I have had to raise rent on all 23 properties. I am selling them slowly but will try and get as much cash out as possible. Only loosers are the tenants who have been with us on average 7-10 years.

    Some of the tenants we have support through there lives and ensured they have enabled there children to grow with equity not just profiteer as a landlord. One for the government to think about.

    We also have DSS tenants who have children who get pupil premium at schools and we are helping there lives, so is the government not taking these individuals backwards when they are in poorer areas with no aspiration??

  6. My family has been in the business of the private rental sector for eight decades, Yes there are new challenges. I am not minded to get out, however unfortunately none of the kids are prepared to put in the graft (although no doubt enjoy all of the financial benefits!) so the whole lot will probably going on the block when I am no more.

  7. I have been in the property rental business since 1981 and I have had enough and have started to sell up, all of my landlord buddies are doing the same, good luck to Shelter and all of the local and central authorities if they think they have achieved anything by their vendetta on private landlords as all they have done is create a housing crisis of unprecedented proportions. They must be stupid to think private landlords would stay put as sitting ducks.

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