This article originally appeared in the autumn 2017 edition of Telegraph magazine. Read it online now.
“My biggest challenge is keeping my tenants happy,” Brandon Taylor states.
Considering Brandon has been the Company Chairman of Taylor Properties for several decades, that’s quite a declaration. Having run the Lowestoft-based business for over 33 years, building a portfolio of more than 500 residential and commercial units along the way, he has seen tenants come and go, regulations change and the property market boom.
“Our aim is to always give good service,” he adds. “When someone moves into one of our properties, we go the extra mile. We make sure they’re registered with utility companies and the local council, for example. A lot of landlords will give their tenants the keys and a tenancy agreement and think that’s it. In theory it is, but we like to go further. If you keep your tenants happy, they tend to pay their rent on time and look after the property.”
We like to go further – if you keep your tenants happy, they tend to pay their rent on time and look after the property.
The family-owned business, which goes back three generations, now has four members of staff and an address book filled with local contractors, which helps keep things moving from a maintenance perspective.
“We have lots of subcontractors and usually have two or three plumbers, electricians or carpenters working for us on a daily basis. When a maintenance issue arises, we can make a call and normally have a contractor out within an hour or so. If something’s straightforward and we can get it done on the same day, we will. It makes sense.”
It’s hardly surprising that the company has so many connections and relationships, having established itself in the community several years ago and keeping its focus firmly on Lowestoft.
“Taylor Properties was started by my late-father in the late-1970s – although its origins go back to my grandfather – and now it’s run by my brother Jason and I,” Brandon explains. “My mother is still a director, but isn’t actively involved anymore.
“I came into the business full-time as general manager in 1984 and my father was then the Company Chairman. When I was 18 he said: ‘I’m away a lot of the time, so you can run it’. Three years later, my brother joined me, and we’ve continued acquiring properties and letting them out.
“We’ve grown to quite a substantial size and we have around 100 buildings, the majority of which are divided into flats. Everything’s in Lowestoft. We also have several commercial units, ranging from small shops to restaurants and public houses. We’ve kept everything in a nice radius so we can keep an eye on things.”
Because of Taylor Properties’ longevity and its reputation for providing the best possible service, Brandon explains that he sees generations of tenants renting from the business.
“We’ve had people come through the door and ask if we remember them,” Brandon laughs. “It turns out they were tenants 20 years ago and rented their first place from us. They liked it so much that they brought their children and grandchildren to rent their first place
from us too!”
He also credits the company’s high-street presence with maintaining its reputation. Having initially set up a small office in the 1990s, Taylor Properties moved into its current home at the heart of the Suffolk town in 1997.
“We opened it up as a bit of an experiment,” he explains. “I wanted to see what would happen if we had somewhere we could put adverts in the window and employ someone who could man the office on a part-time basis. We haven’t looked back. In fact, I’ve never had to advertise since.”
Prepared for every eventuality
Of course, it’s not all plain sailing. Inevitably things go wrong and tenants are not always satisfied. In fact, one of the properties on the verge of being rented is a flat that suffered a fire in 2016.
“It’s nearly complete and we’re sorting out the finishing touches. It hasn’t caused too much of an issue but, as a result of that, the insurers had to do a full survey of the property and made a few recommendations. I’ve forwarded these on to Steve Cox, our contact at Alan Boswell Group, to make sure he’s happy.”
The company has had insurance with Alan Boswell Group since the early-90s, when Brandon was introduced to insurance brokers based in Norfolk, Alan Boswell Group, by the Eastern Landlord Association.
Says Brandon: “They put together a portfolio landlord insurance package for us. They pointed out things we’d overlooked and recommended additional policies to make sure we were fully covered. It’s important to have really good insurance. That’s why we use an independent broker.
It’s important to have really good insurance. That’s why we use an independent broker
“I know you can do a lot online these days, but are you comfortable with the level of cover you’re getting? Whether you’re dealing with one property or 100, there are so many things that can leave you out of pocket. With a broker, we’re getting tailor-made insurance that covers our risks.”
Alongside the fire, Brandon states the company has been subject to a number of personal injury claims in recent years, in line with the rise of no-win-no-fee injury lawyers.
“Fortunately, with the [landlord] insurance policy we have, we were okay,” Brandon says of a most recent claim. “I spoke to Steve when I got the letter from the solicitor. He told us to not reply and they would handle it. I didn’t have to worry.
“Every year we have a review of the policy,” he continues. “Steve comes here and we sit and talk things through.
“A couple of years ago he asked if we had directors’ and officers’ insurance. He explained that, as directors, we could be sued personally. Our property is protected by our existing insurance but we, and our staff, could be subject to legal action. We decided to take it out just in case. I know the likelihood of these things happening is small, but you don’t want to be hauled over the coals and left out of pocket if you can avoid it.
“One of the things I like about Steve is that he always makes sure we’re covered.”