October 6, 2021
October 6, 2021

Understand Landlord Associations

We caught up with Peter Littlewood, CEO of iHowz to chat about he and the team have been helping landlords with compliance and legal issues.

What We Talked About

Episode 3 of our Property Letting Playbook we were lucky to have Peter Littlewood from iHowz join us. We talked about how iHowz is helping landlords with their licensing issues and how for a small fee, you can get help and advice from the iHowz team.

They understand the market exceptionally well and have a team of experts to help you with any issues including problems with your local authority.

If you would like to know more about how Peter and the team are helping landlords with managing and licensing their properties, you can visit them at here Membership is only £75 for the year. A small price for good peace of mind.

If you want to see more of our podcast entries, find out about the Oasis Living online Letting services or read our blog, you can head to our homepage. It's time to upgrade your property letting experience. Oasis Living are here to help you let and manage your property with confidence, transparency and efficiency.

In A Nut Shell

  • iHowz help landlords with legal issues and compliance.
  • Fee is £75 per year
  • They have helped countless landlords in the past and have the expertise to deal with almost any issue you might find yourself in.

Watch Episode 2: How iHowz is Helping Landlords

Episode 2: Transcript

[00:00:00] Andy Masson: Hey guys, welcome to the third instalment of the Property Lettings Playbook. You're here with me Andy, I'm the head of marketing at Oasis living. We've got Sam Ghosh, who's the founder of Oasis Living. We've got Peter Littlewood. at iHowz, it's nice to be with you, Peter. Thanks for joining us as well.

Well, so this is the third one that we're doing now. And I get to try my new fancy microphone, which a second ago was not working. So we'll see how we go. But so what we tend to do, Peter, and this is just tell us about yourself and we'll just go from there. And just want to hear about what all about iHowz all about you and your, your history with the property market and the lettings market.

And what iHowz place is within it. So if you just want to do as a quick intro that.

[00:00:52] Peter Littlewood: Yeah. Yeah, that's fine. Well, I house is a land trade association for landlords. We've been around in one form or another since 1974. So, you know, we've got quite a good following. Been through various different names.

We settled on. I has eventually. Yeah, for information, how to do things. So you know how to do how's people as good as sort of a few meetings along the way that, that name what we principally do is that we help them support landlord. Our landlord members. We do that via we've got a helpline that we use for members.

We've also got newsletters and we do a weekly newsletter, a weekly email newsletter. We used to do a lot of meetings there. Obviously they got knocked on the head 18 months old, nearly two years ago. It wasn't it. So so we've been doing a lot of zoom meetings. I'm quite used to this. We also do the same as you, you know, we do helpful videos for people and we put those on the website as well.

So it's all about keeping people up to date, really. So I was, I was going through your website today and a bit of yesterday. And so we've had this, so I has, this place really is sort of, is that, am I right in thinking it's there to help landlords and work with local authorities as sort of almost a nonprofit?

What's the word I'm looking for? Just

Yeah. So you know, we, we not here to make huge profits for our directors, anything like that. I'm going to show you that one. So we are principally here to to help them support landlords. We, we, as I said already, we make them aware of what's going on, but also we do try and step in and negotiate and discuss with local authorities.

And to a lesser extent central government we will help landlords where they need to take on court cases that tends to be with a tenants, but we have supported cases against local authorities where we feel the local authority is being unfair. We will also take part in consultations mainly with central.

So as an example central government doing putting together a white paper that they promised in the Queen's speech on a few months ago now which is supposed to come out and yours is running late. So, you know, we will take party in that and we will put a paper, we put a paper together.

[00:03:06] Andy Masson: Oh, okay, cool. So your existing is a sort of, yeah. On the landlord side if, you know, from, from both government and from tenant side as well, so similar to fairly similar, we had a Des Taylor on the other week from landlord licensing and defense. So is it fair to say that that's a similar.

[00:03:25] Peter Littlewood: It is there's there's concentrates on mainly licensing, but also where the is we've done something which he believes is incorrect. And, you know, he will take on cases like that. We've got more of a general view, but yes, a lot of it has been licensing. So we We have done. The only way you could challenge a license or licensing application is with a judicial review and they're big and clunky and expensive.

You know, you, you're talking about a minimum 50,000 pounds quite honestly. And even if you win, you might not get your cost back. So you know, it's serious, it's a serious matter. So we've, we've done a few, we've won some lost some but also. Sometimes the threat of judicial review will help bring a local authority to a table and we can negotiate this thing, which is what we wanted to do anyway.

[00:04:16] Sam Ghosh: I might have a small technical question at this point. So I didn't know fully about the process of a judicial review versus a hearing in front of a planning inspectorate so if there's a council, if they say, okay, well, there is something wrong you have done as a landlord. They will serve you a notice of some sort, and it probably goes to a planning inspector.

Right. And how different is a judicial review from that process?

[00:04:43] Peter Littlewood: Okay. That they are separate matters. So, oh, judicial review is, is used to to say that you don't agree with the decision, either a local authority or even the central government have made. And you wish to go to the Supreme court.

Normally it can be a lower court is normally Supreme court. It's done in two stages. You have to apply for a judicial it's called a jail. So you have to apply, apply for a Jr very quickly after a decision has been made. You also need to have all your evidence in place as though you're going for the full review.

So, you know, that could be quite serious as well. You're going to have very limited time to apply for the Jr normally 12 weeks. But to be quite honest with you, they like it. Four or five weeks, which is not long at all for, you know, to get all your ducks in a row and typically get legal people on board as well.

That will go before a judge who will decide where you've got enough evidence and enough case to actually go for a full JR. If the judge agrees with that, and if the judge disagrees with it, you can appeal it. A lesser judge. This is a peculiar thing about the law. If the judge says you can't appeal it, You can appeal it anyway.

So it's a really odd situation, but anyway, if you get permission to go before a full, full Jr that will happen, you can tidy up your evidence, but the bulk of your evidence has already been submitted. You obviously can submit more evidence if, if, if you think that the council's doing. The central, government's doing other things apart from what you originally challenged.

And you go before a judge, normally for a three-day hearing both sides present the judge at some stage in the future, we'll come back and give their, their, their review. And then again, it can be appealed or not. But the point about if it does, if it does go to the Supreme court, the Supreme court trumps everything.

So if the Supreme court says X, Y, Z, that's a law,

[00:06:50] Sam Ghosh: that's a law then.

[00:06:52] Peter Littlewood: And that change will be made to the law. I mean, just to, to. I'm telling you something else from me, but just to go back to your if you're an individual landlord and you disagree with a license condition, or even a request to have a license and you appeal that will go to the tribunal and they will hear that case.

If he's the same tribunal that tends to hear planning appeals, but you know, they've got a slightly different hat on with that tribunal, what will happen there is,

I will say to people don't be frightened of appealing something, but it's always worth looking at the tribunals and looking at their website because you can look on the website and see. If you find another case, which mirrors yours, you need to look at what the tribunals said last time. Last time appeal found in favor against you. They're probably going to do the same again. Yeah.

[00:07:51] Andy Masson: So just finding that legal precedent for before pursuing it further.

[00:07:56] Peter Littlewood: Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, so, you know, it's just, it's all quite complicated to be quite honest with you, but we, we try to negotiate.

So for instance, sticking with licensing for the moment, because it's a, it's a key subject. Our attitude about licensing is it was brought in for specific, specific reason. It was brought in, in the 2004 housing act. And it was brought in for our local authority to be able to use if they believe that the like a property was being poorly managed and they could license that property or properties around it.

And The manager of that property known as a landlord would have to apply for a license which normally would get accepted, but then they would have certain conditions imposed upon them. Normally management conditions. If they fail to meet those management conditions, the ultimate was that the license could be withdrawn from that, that manager now a new manager could apply or the property would have to be taken off that the rental market.

Hmm, that's what it's originally intended for. And we've got no problems with that. What we've got problems, where it is, where a local authority use it, wholesale to license, a complete borrower say clearly they doing it for a budgeting. Perfect. Which is not what it's intended for. Yeah. I mean, you talk to millions of pounds.

Croydon had I think it was Croydon, it was somewhere anyway. Had a an application turned down and their immediate complaint was, well, that's made a 22 million pound hole in our budget. That's not what it's there for. It's there to control errant landlords.

[00:09:33] Andy Masson: Yeah. And then can you just go through why do you think, or how are they using it for budgeting purposes? So is it cost for the license or is it cost for, you know, how, how just go into a little bit more detail on that. If you'reable to

[00:09:45] Peter Littlewood: well the theory is, is that a license I would have to apply for a license for which they pay. And it varies, varies considerably, but nobody's around a thousand pounds a license for five years.

per property, per property per manager for that what's supposed to happen is that the local authorities is supposed to inspect the property to ensure it is up to scratch. Now, unfortunately frequently they don't inspect the property, so they will take the money and they'll say, well, we've improved property conditions because we've raised X number of.

Fines or court orders or whatever, all too frequently. They, the reason they fined a landlord is because they have not applied for the license, which in our view, isn't improving the property condition. We've got no problems with improving property conditions and we've got no problems with a local authority finding, or even just dismissing someone from the private rented sector.

Who's a poor landlord they all around, but they're in the minority and unfortunately the minority gives them majority a bad reputation.

[00:10:55] Andy Masson: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I see a lot of this chat on the forums and things that I'm on online that are full of full of landlords. And you do, you know, before I was in this business.

There is a lot of on the tenant side being an I'm not a tenant anymore. I've just bought my first house. But when I was a tenant the tends to be a bit of a bad name for landlords in general which does not, is not accurate in, in my, my experience being in this industry. In fact, most of the forums and things that I'm on there, they'll call out these erroneous one and once in a lifetime, or once in awhile cases where a landlord is acted inappropriately and they'll call it out and you'll see, you'll see that the community does Rue, , that kind of behavior.

But yeah, I totally agree with you that, yeah, it's a tarring everyone with the same brush. Not exactly fair.

So, I mean, I dunno if he, I'm just trying to think I'm a lot as a lot of our listeners, hopefully we'll be sort of starting out there might be some, like, what advice would you give to a first time a buy-to-let landlord or HMO? Some of those wanting to get into HMO or, or, or, or just start renting out any property and start getting on getting into this business sort of part or fulltime

[00:12:13] Peter Littlewood: well, you used the word that business, treat it like a business. Don't treat it like a hobby, treat it correctly. We always say to landlords, whether you got one or a thousand, you still got the same responsibilities. You may be spending more or less time on the the management, but it is, it is someone's home.

That offering and providing and then hopefully managing correctly. So first of all, get trained to know everything that goes on. I know Sam did a training course with this. I think you'll say Sam, that there's, there's a lot to know isn't there. So quite frankly So you need to know what you're getting into before you get into it.

I had a conversation yesterday funny enough, many, many years ago. I thought about getting into bed and breakfast and I went on a training course .There's a guy. I said, right, I'm going to try and put you off because quite frankly, you should only be doing this. If you know what you're doing. And in fact, he did put me off.

We would like to do the same, you know, we like to train people so they know what they're doing. We do have potential landlords on our courses and sometime they say, "right. Okay. This is more to this than we thought we're not going to get into. We're going to find some other way of earning an income". Good.

We've done our job correctly. So make sure you know what you're doing, make sure you understand your market. So if you're looking for safe for sake of argument astute, let them make sure that there is a market for students let's in that area and your, your providing the appropriate property. If you're not going to do student lets, if you're going to do a straight left to a family, again, make sure that there's the one.

If you're going to get into HMO's and discover student lets as well then do understand HMO's is a, is a bigger job than a straight let. It's got it earns more income, but it's got far more management associated with it. Now again, people who understand HMO's and in particular student lets they know exactly what they're doing with it and they get on with it.

So let me stick with the student let's for the moment. Why a lot of student landlords like student let, is because they've got the whole year mapped out. So they know when they can go on holiday, they know when they can do work to the property, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. They know during the summer they're going to be full out manic and that's not going to stop till Christmas.

And then they're going to have a couple of months of doing very little and then they're going to be back on with you. So, you know, they, they like it. A lot of people don't like that. So yeah, it is. It's understand your market. The other thing I would say, and I hope Sam will back me up on this one is no, know your tenant.

Make sure that you you're going to get a good tenant. So when you view tenants, make sure, please make sure that you reference them and check them and credit, check them, et cetera, et cetera, and make sure that you are completely comfortable and especially where a lot of landlords unfortunately, will rush that process if they've got a void.

And we always say to them, well, a void, not very nice, but it's better to have a void at the beginning of the tenancy and lose a small amount of money. than to have someone who goes into the property stops paying the rent and it takes you months and months and months to get them out with that. Yeah.

[00:15:34] Andy Masson: And there's the risk that they're not a great tenant and they leave the place in a horrible way when they leave. So then you've just doubled your void time at the other end of the tendency anyway.

[00:15:44] Peter Littlewood: Yup. Yeah. I mean, again, we will also. I do look at insurances. You know, you can get rent guarantee, insurance, excuse me.

And the point about rent guarantee insurance is that they will do credit checks on that that potential tenant, or they will decide whether or not that you need a guarantor or not. So, you know, do look at rent guarantees. And also, unless you want to be 24 hours hand on landlord 365 days a year, then look at getting, I always describe it as like the AA type insurance for landlords whereby a tenant can ring up a number and get maintenance done.

Because again, if a tenant has a huge problem in the middle of the night, on Saturday night, they've lost a key or whatever. Can you cope with it?

You know, if you can't cope with it, you shouldn't be there. Shouldn't be doing this. So you can consider an agent for this kind of thing as well. And if you're going to consider an agent, make sure that the agent is a fit and proper person, they know what they're doing, preferably belong to a trade body.

And you know, you're not going to have aggravation with them. And then the last thing I to say on this is if you do use an agent I actually think the most important bit of paper in the letting industry is the contract between the owner of the property and the agent, because the contract between the, the the agent or the landlord and the tenant is described in law.

So even if you don't have a paper contract, most of it's there already. There's nothing described in law between the agent and the landlord. So often we get landlords on saying my agent is not done X, Y, and Z. Should they? The answer is very simple. Well, were they contracted to do X, Y, Z, if they were, they're not going to

[00:17:30] Sam Ghosh: because this is very different from the, the implicit contract that a landlord and a tenant has, where, even if there are gaps in the documentation, the law is built in a way that it will fill up the gaps, but that's not the case, which is why it's vitally important than the landlord. And the letting agent has a water tight document in place.

[00:17:54] Peter Littlewood: Well, it's not only watertight it's so that everybody knows who's doing what so there's nothing worse for a tenant, then there's a list of things to be done. You get that where, you know, there's a gap in the middle or possibly worse. You get that both parties are trying to do the same thing. It just drives the tenant mad. So it's really, really important to know who's doing what, what, what everyone's signed up for, for the agent's point of view and for the landlord's point of view, the tenant's point of view.

So really important for that, quite frankly.

[00:18:26] Andy Masson: So good takeaways from this really are for our listeners. W you know, firstly you've touched on them a while back. It's it's, it's not like a get rich, quick scheme becoming a landlord, especially if you want to self-manage because there's obviously you've detailed, beautifully some pretty intense stuff that you're going to have to deal with. And, you know, with the, the, the words 24 7 was, was thrown around. So there's obviously a lot to consider if you want to get into this. And when you are in it, you need to know, like you say, know your strengths and, and if you need an agent or, you know, if you like being in property, but you don't want to deal with it all the time, then probably an agent is something that you need to look for as long as they're the right agent, you know, because you are trusting this person with essentially trusting your person with the management, your property. So, and it's your asset. We talked on a podcast before about how it's, you know, it's, it can be an inheritance or it's your financial asset.

So you need to make sure that whoever you decide to work. Is on your side and on the side of the tenant, but also is going to protect your your investment and make sure that you get the best value out of it possible. Yeah. And also even if you decide to be a full time manager, are you never going to be ill or you're never going to go on holiday.

[00:19:40] Peter Littlewood: So there are times when you may well want an agent to be a full-time agent for say two or three weeks. Just while you go on holiday and they can handle that. They won't get into anything major, but they can handle the calls. If there's maintenance issues, diversion they could do with that, and they can do with the perennial one is some will probably tell you lost keys.

And that's the one that seems to come up all the time. You know, keys, loss it to some ungodly during the night.

[00:20:09] Andy Masson: I did that once in my last rental or. My, my wife's family lived in the same time, but it was the one day that they were traveling away. And I went out to put something in the bin and nothing, but my pajamas and the door shut behind me.

And I didn't have a key and my wife is away on a business. And I had to wait something like four or five hours and to just go to the local pub in my pajamas, in my pajamas and just wait. So yeah, I've I feel the pain of anyone that's lost their keys or couldn't get into the property when they need yeah.

[00:20:40] Peter Littlewood: You don't do what a friend of mine did was exactly that locked himself out. Unfortunately locked himself out with a hammer. Sorry, you broke the door down, I suppose as one. Why'd you do that? Why didn't you, why didn't you ring something? Oh, that's a good idea. Well, it's just cost you a fortune, isn't it? Oh, geez.

[00:21:01] Andy Masson: Oh yeah. Yeah. So yeah. Thanks. Thanks for detailing all that. It's I mean, if you've, so if people wanted to get in touch with you or, you know, when would you, when would you recommend that someone gets in touch with you and how do they do that? What's the best way to get in touch with you.

[00:21:18] Peter Littlewood: They can go on our website so you can sit behind me. I'll move slightly.ihowz.uk. So you can see it there with the,

[00:21:27] Andy Masson: and we'll make sure to put that in the description of the podcast, which will be on all channels,

[00:21:31] Peter Littlewood: iHowz.uk is probably the best way, quite frankly. But info@ihowz.uk will email us. So that's the easiest way of doing it.

[00:21:41] Andy Masson: Is there a membership that I see on the website?

[00:21:43] Peter Littlewood: There's a membership as well. Yeah, there's a membership fee. So the helpline and the weekly email, et cetera, is available to members whilst we're not for profit. We obviously do have costs to run. And so that, that's how we do it. So the membership fee is 75 pounds per annum tax-deductible.

Where can you get a year's worth of legal advice for 75 pounds in very held?

[00:22:11] Andy Masson: Yeah. That's what I thought when I was on there. Cause I, I was sort of looking through and seeing all the advice and Sam, I know Sam sent me some stuff on I'm not, I'm not, I'm a current member and so I couldn't get access, but I've seen some of the stuff is very good.

I would say. Yeah, it's really helpful. I've, I've read through some of the stuff that Sam sent me and as well worth the the small fee for for getting that advice and that security of someone else give it, like fighting your corner.

[00:22:37] Peter Littlewood: Yeah. I mean, I'll give you a small example. Since we've had COVID, the eviction process has changed, well considerably changed I think four times now it's going to change again. on October the first we have told our members and when the new forms come up and there's new forms as well. So if you use the old form it probably get thrown out at court. So again, that's the kind of thing that we do.

So in October the, the ministry, which they've just renamed themselves, but the housing ministry have shown us what the form is gonna look like, but not, they're not in the correct forms. They always make them available on the day. I don't know why they do that, but that was back in vitamins a day. So on the day we will put it on our website and that's what we do for our members.

And we will tell our members don't from here on him, don't use the old one that you may have. That's just a small.

[00:23:32] Andy Masson: Yeah, but it's a, it's a small example, but it's a, it's a pretty, pretty huge impact on somebody. You know, somebody that's maybe like you say, very busy with all their properties to get an email drop in that says, do this right now, then it's, it really takes that stress out of it.

So yeah, it's definitely worth, worth looking into that front of our listeners are thinking that they need a little bit more help with their property. All right, well, we'll finish up there, I think. But thank you. I'll make sure that all the links have anything relevant and, and your site and how to get in touch with you all and the descriptions that will be on YouTube and Spotify and Stitcher and all the other places that we've put the podcast.

But thank you so much, Peter, for joining us really appreciate it.

[00:24:11] Sam Ghosh: Thank you very much, Peter.

[00:24:14] Andy Masson: Cool. All right, guys. We'll see you next time for episode four. But for now his goodbye from all of us bye!

[00:24:21] Peter Littlewood: bye!