An interview with Mandy Thomson–Lodger,landlord

Mandy is a landlord and a property investor residing in London. She runs a very popular website called lodgersite.com where she talks about her experience as a landlord and as a lodger. Mandy also regularly posts, on her twitter account, interesting news related to property.In this interview we discuss with her what it takes to become a successful lodger landlord. What a potential lodger should look for in an advertisement? And some advice on investing money in property for letting.

Q: What was your motivation behind creating lodgersite?

A: I had just had a bad experience letting my friend’s spare room and also wanted to write a website as I was learning front end development.

Q: You have been both a landlord and a lodger. How was your experience? Was being a lodger helpful in making you a better landlord and vice versa?

A: Unfortunately, I was a lodger landlord before I was actually a lodger myself – but it would have made me a better, more aware landlord if it HAD been the other around. As it was, I saw my friend (as my lodger landlord) make the same kind of mistakes I’d made, so I got a very good insight into how NOT to do it!

Q: In one of your articles Flatmate v lodger you write “as a flatmate in the UK, it does suggest your landlord sees you as an equal in the home, at least in day to day terms”. Do you think that a person looking for lodging is better off exploring advertisements that use the term Flatmate in it as compared to lodger?

A: Possibly, but looking at room let ads, I rarely, if ever, see either term mentioned, and in fact it’s often not immediately obvious as to whether it’s a lodger or flatmate (or housemate) situation. I’d say look at specialist room letting sites such as Spareroom, rather than free ads and newspapers and certainly shop windows.

Q: Is there anything you consistently look for in a potential lodger when meeting him/her?

A: I have to confess, I haven’t had a lodger in a very long time. Having said that, my website is based on a year’s research, and I’m always updating the content – so I believe I can speak with some authority when I say I would obviously look for someone I like and feel comfortable with, have a very similar outlook as and lifestyle in common with, and above all, someone I can trust.

Q: What are your thoughts on co-tenancy? Where two or more friends/acquaintances rent out a place and live together? Don’t you think that it makes trust problem with lodging go away while at the same time giving the benefits of reduced rent and company?

A: Again, it depends on the people concerned. I believe when it is good and it works, there does seem to be much more of a friendship than with lodgers and resident landlords, because they are equals and fully share the property. However, sometimes you can get some really domineering personalities who will very much take the role of the “boss” in the arrangement – I knew a young lady who was forced to leave a flat share like that to move back in with her parents and commute 4 hours every day to university in another city.

Q: Sorry for the arbitrary question here but are you by any chance a fan of Sherlock Holmes?

A: Not especially…why am I not surprised?

Q: You raise a very important point in “house rules” about contract cutting it both ways. Lodger’s agreement is quite different from a tenancy agreement where the line is clearly drawn between the landlord and the tenant isn’t it?

A: A tenancy is a very different situation, insofar as you’re not house mates. However, where there is a contract, any contract, both sides have rights and obligations. Sometimes lodger landlords forget that their lodger is paying rent for a home, not just a room. What I was meaning is that if they have a good lodger, a landlord should reciprocate by treating that person as an equal house mate – so neither has an advantage over the other on a day to day basis – this is not a legal requirement, but makes good business sense and makes for a better relationship with the lodger.

Q: You mentioned on your website that you worked in IT as well.What made you switch careers?

A: I was a software tester, then took redundancy, after which I decided to pursue my ambitions to become a landlord and a web developer. I managed the landlord part but not the web developer bit…

Q: In “Letting Monday To Friday” you mention a quite fresh approach to letting. Have you seen this work? Have you tried this yourself?

A: I haven’t done it myself, but have seen it work really well (I know someone who does it) – provided you let to professionals. Therefore, someone who has a room in a large city such as London, especially near the centre, will do really well. A professional is just looking for a nice comfortable place to sleep, and most likely will be on expenses and eat out a lot. Therefore, minimum impact and disruption and guaranteed rent.

Q: Lastly what advice would you give a person who is considering to invest in a property for the sole purpose of letting it?

A: I’m assuming you mean a whole property – but it would be the same for either. Who is your market – what sort of people is your property likely to attract? You might get a very high yield (with a whole property) in a disadvantaged area, but you are also likely to get a lot of problems too, as well as much less capital growth. I would therefore say that this market is really for experienced and well off landlords who can absorb some rent arrears and damage without going under.

Thank you Mandy for talking to us 🙂

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  • On April 27, 2015