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Meet the landlord spreading festive cheer this Christmas

Many landlords go above and beyond when it comes to their tenants and their local communities.

George Munns is a landlord and a farmer in Chatteris, close to Cambridge. He works hard to build a strong community with his tenants. Here, he tells Victoria Barker about how he balances his busy job as a farmer with being a landlord, and why his tenants are the crème of the crop.

Main picture caption: George with some of the rapeseed oil he produces at his farm.

Lights are twinkling ,the shops are packed, and there’s a distinctive chestnut smell in the air.

The season of good will is nearly here-not that you need to tell farmer and landlord George Munns that.

Not only is Christmas time one of Westmoor Farm’s busiest periods of the year (the farm is renowned across Cambridgeshire for its Christmas geese) but here, ‘good will’ isn’t something that is reserved only for the festive season.

Every year, the farm entertains in excess of 200 people at it’s annual hog roast.

It’s a chance for George to catch up with friends and family and say thank you to all the people who play a part in keeping the farm running smoothly throughout the year.

As well as the contractors and loyal customers who are all invited, there are also seven other very important people on the guest list.

George’s tenants-most of whom live on the same estate close to the farm.

“We’ve been organising the hog roast on the farm for a very long time now”, begins George.

“In the early days we invited maybe a dozen people but now it has turned into this big community event-hundreds come along to it”. It’s not about paying people back, it’s more about acknowledging the help and support they have previously given us.

“I always invite my tenants because everyone’s so busy so it is a good chance for me to catch up with them and their families, and all be in one place together. I think that’s important”.

In fact, it is through regular meet ups like the hog roast at the farm, that George’s tenants have all become firm friends.

Buying his first rental property

George has been a farmer for all of his working life, inheriting the family farm over thirty years ago.

His award-winning farm consists of more than 500 acres of arable crops, and supplies many of the restaurants and cafes in the local town of Chatteris.

It was twelve years ago that George and his wife spotted that a former council house just a couple of miles away in the market town of Chatteris was up for sale.

“In 2007 I became quite disillusioned by pensions. The farm had expanded a lot, and I was keen to invest my money in a different way. I bought a former Council house in Chatteris.

Despite working seven day weeks on the farm and being up at the crack of dawn most days, George now had a new project that demanded his attention-and so a new seed was sown.

“The house needed quite a bit of work doing to bring it up to a standard I was happy with”.

“I had to strip the kitchen and replace some of the units to modernise it. It took several months, partly because of my existing commitments at the farm but also because I was doing the property up to a very high standard, I wanted to take my time”.

Around a year later, George’s first tenant moved in, and over the course of the next five years renovating properties to let them out became George’s other passion. He bought a further six properties all on the same estate, and let these out.

Juggling being a busy farmer with being a landlord?

“There’s never a day where I’m not busy”, laughs George adding: “I manage to balance it all because I like to keep the lines of communication with my tenants very open. That way, as soon as any issues arise we can nip things in the bud before they get worse”.

George’s commitment to providing high quality homes and being approachable, is already reaping rewards.

He has never had any issues with his tenants being unable to pay the rent, and has never had any trouble with damage to his properties. On average, his tenants stay in his properties for eight years.

So-what does he attribute to his success?

For a start, George charges around 20% less than the typical rent other landlords charge on the same estate for similar properties.

He has also never taken a security deposit, opting instead for his own ‘rigorous selection procedure’-something he attributes to his properties being kept in mint condition.

“Some landlords may find it risky to not take a security deposit, but for me because I am very selective about the type of tenants I let to, that risk is reduced. If the property is left in an absolute state then often the security deposit wont cover the cost of putting things right anyway. Then there are people who deduct from the deposit for little things like holes in the wall and I just think to myself, I’ll just fill that in myself with a bit of polyfiller”, says George.

George also arranges meet ups with his tenants, and because they all keep in touch, they can all rely on each other.

“We all got to know each other properly through the meet ups, and because my tenants are all tradespeople and are all friendly with each other, often they are able to help each other out when it comes when it comes to minor repair work that needs doing at the properties.

“A few months ago, one of my tenants had an issue with a blocked toilet. Thankfully another tenant of mine is a plumber and they already know each other quite well, so he was able to pop round and sort the issue out. We can all rely on each other”.

Community spirit

Back at the farm, and it comes a little surprise to find out that the annual hog roast isn’t the only thing George has done to bring the community together.

In 2014, the Somerset town of Bridgewater was stricken with torrential flooding. Much of the country watched in horror as aerial shots of water-logged farms, football pitches and gardens were the first item on the news.

After watching some of the footage of Bridgewater, and how livestock farms had all but run out of feed and bedding George felt compelled to help.

He quickly set up a Facebook campaign group to drum up support for the farms affected by the flooding.

Initially a neighbour volunteered to haul 30 tons of George’s sugar beet free of charge straight to Bridgewater livestock auction, so that the farmers who were worst hit could pick up much needed animal feed. Later many more hauliers came forward to help transport free of charge more than 30 articulated lorry loads of feed and bedding donated by the farmers of Fenland.

Such is George’s generosity and excellent reputation both in the community as a landlord, that he rarely has to advertise for tenants.

In fact, some of his previous tenants have come back to him years later, asking to rent off him again.

“When I first started out being a landlord obviously I did have to advertise but now people tend to come to me through word of mouth. One lady who used to rent off me recently moved back into the area with her new family, I contacted her as soon as I heard and offered her a recently renovated property , she’s now my tenant again”.

“All of my tenants take very good care of their houses, they are all very contented and we are all very happy together.”


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