The Weakest Link

Wednesday 11th March 2020 08:25 EDT

I had a call from an agent with whom we have worked with many times, for sourcing property. This time he had a request from me. He had an overseas buyer aggressively looking for hotels in London, he was flush with money and had already purchased a few buildings.

Coincidentally, I was aware of a client, for whom we arranged finance for a hotel many years ago, who is selling up. His aim is to upgrade and purchase larger hotels.

A viewing was arranged for the buyer and his wife. What was very strange to me was he did not know the area at all, and was asking about the vicinity of the train stations.

After interrogating the manager of the hotel, it was clear there was interest. This increased once he took a walk around the location; the next day he was very keen.

The hotel is located in Hammersmith, on the borders of Fulham. It was once a snooker hall. I remember it well. When it was purchased, I had a slate snooker table out of the deal. I kept it for all of 3 months, after which I got bored, and missed the space.

I managed to fish out some interesting information from the experience.

Coincidentally, we are purchasing a shop and uppers just down the road from the hotel, on behalf of another client. The property already has planning for a 7 room HMO. However, the current owner has had a pre app for an apart-hotel. This allows one to short let the property, renting it for as little as one day. The apart-hotel would dispense with the need for communal spaces and minimum room requirements. Therefore, you could now fit for example 14 rooms into the same space.

In truth I could not get my head around the concept, and was unsure how one would test whether there was demand there. This is unknown territory for me, both from whether the demand exists and logistically on how this would operate, as essentially you’re running a hotel, albeit a mini one.

This point was addressed by the general manger, who said the demand for this type of accommodation is extremely strong and his hotel’s occupancy is running at about 90%, assuming you take out the current Coronavirus episode.

He was also well able to help with the logistics of how this would function. The project needs to be considered by looking at the weakest link and addressing this.

This was the missing piece of the puzzle, which will take this investment to another level. The aim was always to refinance, taking out most of the investors’ money and keep this as a cash generator. This plan, if implemented and run correctly, would serve the investors very well.

If this works well it could serve as a model to replicate.

The problem with property is there is too much information available. From a privacy point of view, whether some of the information should be made available publicly is actually questionable.

With this level of information anyone can work out whether a flat in a block of flats is a deal or not. It’s not rocket science.

When you’re purchasing a development deal, you can know what you hope to sell the flats for, and roughly the build costs.

Here’s where people who have their own build team can save the margin on the build.

The point being, with this level of information out for everyone to see, one needs to dig harder to find how to further enhance a deal.

Then you can develop an edge, otherwise you are simply playing with the same tools everyone else is.

­Agony Agent Is Here To Help!

Q. My tenants have split up, what should I do?

A. Break-ups can be a mess and as much as your tenants might try and get you involved in the nitty-gritty of the split, don’t. It is not your place to do so. Stay professional. Find out what the tenants want to do. Does one of them want to stay on? If so, are you sure they will be able to afford the rent, plus bills?

If they can afford the rent and bills, you can let them stay on, but you may want to change the tenancy agreement. If you do choose to change the tenancy agreement then you will have to refund any deposit taken and ask for a new deposit, which you’ll then have to re-protect. Please don’t miss out this step. It is very important to ensure any deposits taken from tenants are protected in one of the Government approved tenancy deposit schemes.

If you think the tenant who wants to stay can’t afford the rent on their own, and you have no legal right to chase the former tenant for rent, then you may be better off issuing a Section 21.

If they both want to leave, then you can accept notice from them, and end the tenancy in the normal manner. If there is still a fixed term to wait out, then they are contractually obliged to pay rent until the end of the fixed term agreement. You may wish to negotiate with the tenants on this point though, because really your new focus now should be on getting new tenants in.

If there is a history of rent arrears or persistently late rent, then you may be able to use a Section 8 to get them out. However, if you know the tenant can’t really afford to live in the property without the second income, but there have been no arrears in the past, you may have to sit and wait until the rent is sufficiently late to allow you to issue a Section 8, or until their fixed term ends. If you can’t issue a Section 8, then issue a Section 21 as soon as you can, and as soon as you believe there may be a problem. Whatever you do, always keep the lines of communication open between you and your tenants.

Do get in touch if you need any assistance.

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