Dasha Klyachko is chief executive of Livlet
Private landlords are feeling the pressure. With tenants reeling from the increase in the cost of living, landlords are facing pressure on rental rates and an increase in payment defaults. They are also being forced to consider improving the energy efficiency of their properties while facing the looming threat of increased interest rates.
There are approximately 1.1 million UK landlords* who fall into this broad group of small-scale, private landlords who own two to four properties. They range from the accidental landlord who held on to their first flat, to those with a small portfolio of properties.
These landlords have a tough choice: to self-manage their properties and shoulder the necessary responsibility or outsource to an agency with fees that can be between 5% and 15% of the rental contract’s total value. In addition, a fully managed property can rack up costs quickly because management agencies don’t shop around for the best prices. They tend to use expensive contractors on their approved supplier list for repairs and maintenance. Whichever option landlords choose, there is a trade-off: invest more in personal time and effort or pay more for a management agency, which means accepting a lower return on the property.
If they choose to manage their properties part time with limited support, they face the practical issue of dealing with the paper storm of bills, invoices, receipts, documents and legal records. They need to stay alert to changes in legislation, be on top of legally required checks and maintain a good overview of their finances to stay in control.
When so much of our lives has become digital, property management just hasn’t kept pace. There is a need for landlords to have an affordable, low-hassle way to manage the day-to-day activities associated with a rental property that helps them keep on top of their responsibilities.
This insight was one of the main reasons I developed Livlet, a smart home management platform that can centralise documents, invoices and details in one place, allowing users to keep track of maintenance and financial history. But it seemed short-sighted to stop with just storing files. We teamed up with top computer scientists to push it further, to intelligently connect all the details of a property together. This allows the platform to present cost analysis and forecasting, proactive maintenance schedules, and personalised recommendations on the latest innovations and eco-solutions to enhance the value and environmental credentials of the property.
We intend to expand the platform so that services can be bought directly from trusted home service providers who can carry out work quickly and for a fixed price. These services could include fixing boiler or electrical faults, pest control or other emergency repairs like leaks. Landlords could also benefit from having access to trusted providers who could offer regular servicing of appliances to make sure equipment is functioning correctly and within guidelines (e.g. issue electrical and gas safety certificates).
A filing cabinet full of property-related paperwork should be an anomaly in our digital world. But it’s one of the only areas still untouched by the potential of technology, presumably because catering to homeowners is too limited in scale or reach for the tech giants, too counterproductive for agents, and serves no purpose for utility companies. But empowering homeowners and landlords to take control of their properties – to have a comprehensive system of data held safely in one place, without the expense of leasing that capability from agents – is one way to help.