Forty Years A Landlord: A Kensington Story

updated: 24/05/2024

A row of Victorian-style terraced houses on Phillimore Gardens, South Kensington

One of the greatest privileges of working as a professional move-out cleaner is the chance to meet truly wonderful and exceptional people – tenants and landlords alike. Charles Townsend stands tall among them. With over four decades of leasing the second floor of his Victorian-era terraced house to tenants, he has become a walking authority on the subject. Today, we want to tell you more about this distinguished gentleman and share his insights on tenants, end of tenancy cleaning, and the changes in Kensington properties throughout the last four decades. The following interview is an extract of our long, fruitful conversations (we’ve served Charles’s tenants on three occasions).

What Made You Lease A Part Of Your Home?

My family has owned this townhouse for generations. In the late ’70s, when I found myself the sole custodian of this beautiful W8 property, the idea to lease the second floor came naturally. It wasn’t merely about income. I thought it would be a waste to keep this great place half-empty. Besides, I wanted someone to keep me company.

Do You Think Tenants’ Expectations and Requirements Have Changed Over the Years?

When I began renting out the second floor, the emphasis for tenants revolved around the charm of the period features—high ceilings, ornate cornices, and those magnificent sash windows that offered a view over the street. They sought a sense of history and grandeur, often willing to compromise on certain modern conveniences for the allure of Victorian architecture.

I observed a preference shift in the Private Rented Sector probably after 2000. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about architectural aesthetics but functionality and efficiency. The demand for state-of-the-art amenities grew steadily – from updated heating systems to energy-efficient appliances (the birth of the need for EPC certificates, I guess). Tenants began prioritising practicality alongside the charm of the property. High-speed internet became a necessity rather than a luxury, transforming it from a mere ‘wish-list’ item to an absolute requirement. The trend of working from home was gathering pace.

The concept of “comfortable home” itself underwent a redefinition. The need for open-plan layouts gained traction. Tenants were seeking fluidity in design, allowing for seamless movement between areas. The era of compartmentalised rooms slowly gave way to interconnected spaces. Instead of a kitchen and a living room, younger people prefer one spacious room with a kitchen corner.

Sustainability has become a significant factor in tenant choices over the last five to six years. Especially during and after Covid. There’s a notable inclination towards eco-friendly features such as solar panels, smart thermostats, and energy-efficient lighting. Tenants are now more conscientious about their ecological footprint and prefer residences that align with their environmental values.

Security has also become a paramount concern. With the advent of smart home technology, tenants seek properties equipped with advanced security systems, video intercoms, and keyless entry for enhanced safety and peace of mind.

Have You Encountered Differences in Tenants’ Behaviour or Attitudes Towards Property Maintenance?

Yes, indeed. Awareness of maintaining a clean and presentable living space has grown. Nowadays, tenants seem more proactive in ensuring the upkeep of the property, which is quite commendable.

How Have Professional Services, Such as End of Tenancy Cleaning, Influenced Your Experience as a Landlord?

The evolution of professional services, especially in end of tenancy cleaning (also carpet cleaning) has undoubtedly changed my experience as a landlord. Ensuring a thorough cleaning between tenancies was nearly impossible in the early years. Let’s call it how it was. You had to keep your fingers crossed that the tenants would fulfil their obligations under the AST and that you wouldn’t have to brush and scrub yourself. However, the advent of professional cleaning services has been a game-changer.

Arguably, the most positive interaction I’ve had with a Kensington cleaning company was booking you guys for the first time. The transition between tenants was imminent, and I sought the services of a professional cleaning business to ensure the property was spotless for the incoming occupants.

I heard you are reliable and meticulous, and your performance exceeded all expectations. The cleaning team arrived promptly, equipped with state-of-the-art cleaning tools and impressive professionalism. What struck me most was their attention to detail. They meticulously cleaned areas that I would have overlooked. There was no corner-cutting, as per my previous experiences with different companies. From scrubbing the hard-to-reach corners to restoring the lustre of the wooden floors, their dedication to perfection was evident at every step.

The cleaners’ understanding of specific cleaning requirements for different areas of the property was impressive. They tailored their approach, using eco-friendly solutions for delicate surfaces while ensuring a thorough cleaning throughout the premises.

Their efficiency was remarkable, too. They completed what would have taken me days to accomplish in a fraction of the time without compromising quality. Their professionalism and commitment saved me a bunch of time, I must admit. The property was left in pristine condition, ready to welcome the new tenants.

The impact of such professional services on my experience as a landlord has been significant. It’s not just about convenience and efficiency. A well-performed end-of-lease cleaning allows me to find new tenants much more quickly. In short, you’ve made my life easier, and I appreciate it.

Could You Recount Any Memorable Experiences or Interactions with Your Tenants Over the Years?

Oh, plenty! I’ve enjoyed hosting tenants from diverse backgrounds – artists, bankers, and students. Each brought their unique energy. There was this one artist, Samantha, who painted a stunning mural in the hallway. It added a vibrant touch to the house and became a talking point for visitors. (The mural still stands, and I must say – it is stunning!)

As a Seasoned Landlord, How Do You Balance Preserving the Historic Charm of Your Property and Meeting the Evolving Needs of Tenants?

The most important thing is to try and stay true to yourself. I’ve strived to maintain the original architectural elements while introducing a few modern upgrades. Preserving the heritage is paramount, but ensuring a comfortable living space is essential for tenant satisfaction.

Considering the Ongoing Changes in Societal Preferences and Technological Advancements, How Do You Foresee the Future of Renting in Kensington?

Ah, the crystal ball question! Kensington will continue to attract tenants no matter what. Call me biased, but the area is too attractive and nice to live in. Technology will undoubtedly play a more significant role, be it for efficient property management or catering to the tech-savvy tenant base.

Have You Got Any Words of Advice for Owners Who Are Considering Letting Their Property?

Be patient and take a deep breath when something with the property angers you. Listen to your tenants’ needs, maintain open communication, and invest in the property’s upkeep.

Image Source: Colin Smith

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.