My Landlord Life: Joanne Ryan

This week we met landlord Joanne Ryan, who works with housing associations to rent out her properties and support people who are in desperate need of a home.

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How to take your first step onto the landlord ladder? 

I got some money from the sale of a flat I shared with my ex-partner in Maida Vale in 2002. I was gutted we had to sell the flat as it had a fantastic roof terrace, but we made a decent profit over two years. I managed to reinvest my money in a smaller property just off Portobello Road. I think I bought it for around £150,000 and within three months I had renovated it and rented it out. 

I did a lot of the work myself, this was before Homes Under the Hammer, social media was in its infancy and Rightmove was barely off the ground. It really was a lot harder to get knowledge back then. House prices in that area were rising pretty quickly and before I knew it, I had re-mortgaged and pulled all of my money back out. I still have that flat, it’s been rented out all these years. 

Have you had any nightmare landlord-tenant experiences? 

Oh, yes! I have my fair share of nightmare tenant stories. However, the incident I’m going to tell you about is actually about a builder. 

I replaced the bathroom in one of my properties in Newham. I arranged a builder via the letting agency I was using and paid him a 10% deposit upfront and then agreed to pay the rest of the money upon completion, once I had viewed the works. 

The builder called around 7pm one evening to say he had completed the work. I explained that I couldn’t get there till first thing in the morning, but I would be there by 9am. He called back half an hour later to say he wasn’t happy with that and proceeded to force himself into my flat, ripped out the bathroom – and I mean the whole bathroom. 

He smashed off the wall tiles; he even took the floor joists and of course, kept the deposit I’d paid him for ‘disposing’ of my original bathroom. The tenant then refused to pay rent for the next month and even tried to get me to pay for their meals out, compensation for time off work, medical bills, the list was pretty extensive. 

This was after I got a brand new bathroom installed within three days and the kitchen was fully functional the whole time. I ended up taking the hit on the month’s rent, but of course didn’t pay anything extra. It was a hard lesson in picking the right letting agent and vetting builders personally, even if they have a track record with the agent.  

What’s been your best experience in your landlord career? 

Getting to a position after a few years where I was able to hand over my properties to a housing association as temporary housing for homeless and vulnerable people. I’ve housed a lot of women who have had to leave desperate situations and it makes me feel that as a landlord I am actually giving something back. I’ve been doing it for a long time now but it’s still one of the lesser known strategies, they don’t give much airtime to those kinds of landlords in the news now, do they?

What do you need to become a landlord?

If you really want to get into property there is always a way, but you will probably need to step out of your comfort zone and learn to think a little differently. First and foremost, invest a little in yourself, get educated, read books, listen to podcasts and learn everything you can; I would then say focus on the area that’s most likely to work for you.

YouTube is a great place to start, but you never stop learning. If you are seriously thinking about it, get yourself to some networking events and talk to people who are already doing it, I can’t stress that enough.   

Would you change if you could do it all again? 

I would scale quicker and take advantage of the low deposit mortgages in the early 2000’s. It was easier to buy back then too. I would learn how to joint venture with people and how to outsource most of the process.

Areas of London that were absolute dives back then, have now been completely gentrified and are unaffordable. If only I had a Delorean with flux capacitor, eh!   

Where would you like to be in 10 years time? 

I will be adding some value to my existing portfolio; I’ve got loft conversions and a couple of one bed to two bed conversions to do. I also intend to focus on larger scale developments, repurposing rundown buildings and creating decent homes for people. 

If I can keep a couple of the units from each development for my own portfolio and rent them out, that would be ideal.  

If you could have any tenant, who would you choose? 

As I mentioned, I’ve been working with housing associations for around fifteen years now. I lease properties to them on a long term basis.

It makes me happy to think that I am helping to create a home for someone who otherwise, may not have somewhere decent to live. It’s good to know I’m making some sort of positive contribution to someone else’s life. I intend to continue doing this wherever possible, this type of tenant works really well for me. 

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