For the millions of UK landlords who operate just a handful of rental properties, the take-up of tech to manage their bricks and mortar, financials, tenants and compliance has been slow.
Most get by with a simple spreadsheet, a few Outlook reminders and keeping an eye on their bank account.
But Buckinghamshire landlord Richard Jackson (main image), who has built one of the leading digital management platforms used within the sector, says tech is now becoming a necessity rather than a nice-to-have for landlords of all sizes, but particularly those with medium to large portfolios.
He launched Alphaletz two years ago and the platform now has 1,200 landlords using its service, which can be accessed via a laptop or either Apple or Android smartphone app.
“Our landlords range from a few properties up to the largest, which has just over 100 units on Alphaletz,” he says.
“Quite a few have 70 or 80 properties and it’s also popular with HMO landlords – they might have only ten properties, but each one will house five or six rooms so they’re managing 50 or 60 ‘units’. We also have a few build-to-rent operators using us too.”
Jackson says Alphaletz, which is also used by letting agencies, was born out of his own need. As his portfolio grew, he gathered an increasingly large and disjointed array of tools to run it.
Out of control “It became apparent that I needed a single system in place because things were getting out of control – I couldn’t remember where everything was and, although doing it that way was OK in the early days, the increasing complexity of being a landlord in the private rented sector demanded something more sophisticated,” he says.
“It became obvious that many landlords like me were cobbling together their own systems – task and financial management widgets, spreadsheets, supplier databases, insurance reminders, all bolted together.
“But they didn’t talk together and could be only run off a home computer and not a smartphone – so you couldn’t update or view data while you were out and about.”
Efficiency is not the only driver of landlords using Alphaletz and platforms like it, though.
Red tape The increasing red tape that the sector has seen (deposit protection, EPCs, gas safety certificates and electrical checks) and the looming extra regulation within the Renters Reform Bill (landlord registration, periodic tenancies, pets rights and the Decent Homes Standard) all mean landlords will be required to face a lot more compliance responsibilities and, if they trip up, fines.
“On top of all this you have HMRC’s looming Making Tax Digital rules which will require landlords to keep digital tax records of everything pertaining to their properties and submit their tax return quarterly rather than annually, which is going to be a pain in the backside for everybody,” he says.
“I understand that many landlords see tech as an optional extra – but they are going to need some sort of digital platform to help them as a ‘must have’ when all this kicks in.”
Jackson also says that the market is slowly moving towards a more ‘professionalised’, larger-portfolio form.
Punches “There are still a lot of people with one, two or three properties who have bought them as a pension pot and, consequently, just want them to break even until they retire and, therefore, they’ll remain in the market and roll with the punches,” he says.
“But the ones who will really thrive are the larger portfolio operators. I think the government will eventually incentivise that end of the market, which includes build-to-rent operators too.”
Alphaletz recently became LandlordZONE’s Official Technology Platform Partner.
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