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Andrew McCausland
Andrew McCausland
Managing Director
4819  Profile Views

About Me

After 12 years as an army officer I went into business as owner / manager of a chain of health clubs. After project managing some conversions for our new clubs I got the building bug and started residential property renovations.

I started investing in property in 1994 and, after doing quite well at buying and renting, I ended up setting up a lettings agency to manage them, and a building company to complete the works. We got more local investors placing their properties with us to manage and my building company was carrying out all the associated repairs and renovations. The early years were great fun, as Liverpool was made Capital of Culture and the whole area underwent a renaissance.

Most of my efforts at the start went towards growing my own property portfolio. However, the management side of the business was becoming an important and interesting aspect of my work. I enjoy meeting novice investors and talking through their ideas - trying to find the ideal property based on their aims and aspirations.

The lettings business ended up being based in a small retail unit we owned in Wallasey; we simply moved in when the previous tenant didn't renew their lease. It was not in the ideal location, was too small almost from the start, and was not a great advert for what we could do. I thought it hardly mattered as we were rarely there. We were too busy on the ground with building sites and dealing with tenants.

After much soul searching I ended up buying the Cleveland Hotel, an 1847 built pub and hotel that had been let go to rack and ruin. It was on the corner of Hamilton Square, Wirral's original professional and commercial centre. The Square has one of the highest concentrations of Grade 1 Listed Georgian buildings outside of central London. It is a fantastic place but, like much of the local area, had suffered lack of investment over the past decades.

We seemed to buy at the right time as the area is now undergoing a rapid transformation, with chic apartments being formed in the Georgian square and lots of local improvements. The plans for Wirral Waters, potentially Europe's biggest building site, put Hamilton Square firmly in the centre of all the redevelopments.

We rebranded as Hamilton Square Estates Ltd on moving into the new premises. We now have large offices and plenty of space for the building business in a great location right in the centre of things. A big car park helps as there is a lack of free parking locally.

I made the upper floors of my building into a 7 bed luxury HMO, so the income from this offsets all the office costs. We positioned ourselves as a hybrid agency - a great local base but charging internet prices for the whole range of estate agency activities. My team now source investment opportunities for other investors, project manage the redevelopment works as required, rent and manage the properties on an on-going basis. Our clients range from the person struggling to raise finance for their first house purchase through to a corporate client selling 120+ properties prior to moving off shore.

I have been doing this a long time now and still bounce out of bed ready to attack the day! I love the whole property business and the many and varied people I meet. I have made more mistakes over the years than I care to remember, but hope to have learned from them. I am very lucky to have a great office manager and a fantastic site manager who do most of the work for me. This allows me more time to deal with investors, and gives me the opportunity to sit on a number of local Council committees and homeless charities.

my expertise in the industry

Buying, selling, investing, taking lease options, building and enjoying all aspects of the property business since 1994.

Andrew's Recent Activity

Andrew McCausland
Dear Mr Jagota, I note your stance on deposits but am unable to support your view.  Many of the properties we manage are occupied by tenants on a range of benefits and landlords would never be able to access insurance for them.   People often come to us with no job, no money for rent in advance, limited money for deposits, and no-one who can stand as guarantor for them.  This is not untypical for many areas outside London and the South East.  Despite this lack of cash they still need to be housed, and we do our best to help them into decent accommodation.  Most of these tenants act responsibly but quite a number do not.   We try and mitigate the risk by asking for direct payment of the housing element of Universal Credit (UC) to us rather than the money going to the tenant.  Even then, the landlords can sometimes take 6 to 8 weeks before they get their first rent payment.   If we do not get direct payment of UC our experience is that the level of rent arrears increases further.  You may say this is a failure on our part to chase rent arrears efficiently but it is an experience borne out by every other agent working in this sector, and by the RSL's now that they are no longer guaranteed direct payments either.  If the tenant's circumstances change during the tenancy (break up of a relationship, children leaving home / education / taken into care, deductions for Court fines, etc) the whole UC payment claim is stopped for reassessment and the landlords must wait again for payment to be reinstated.  We have 1 on our books now where the landlord has had no rent for 11 weeks because of changes by “the system”.  When can this ever be acceptable?  The landlord still has to pay his mortgage in the interim and is effectively subsidising the state. It is not unreasonable for landlords to take repossession action when debt levels rocket, but they get vilified by the press (and organisations like Shelter) when they do. Maybe in an ideal world the state would own all the housing and everybody could access a good home at a low and affordable rent.  Unfortunately, this is not how life is and the tax payer cannot afford to supply all the housing the country needs – hence the rise of the private rented sector.  Landlords will only continue to use their own money to house low income families if they can limit the risk, and they do this by taking deposits. Tenants with good jobs and a steady income, a good credit history and someone to act as guarantor probably should not have to pay a deposit.  If they came to us we could certainly organise this.  The insurers would gladly take their money knowing that the risk was minimal and it is, frankly, an easy profit for them. But what about the people at the bottom of the financial heap?  Who is going to offer them insurance?   So Mr Jagota, unless you can answer this question I will continue to take deposits. PS.  The first, and simplest step, to reduce risk to landlords and therefore reduce deposits would be to reintroduce direct payments of LHA and UC to landlords.  Over to the new housing minister for a quick and effective crowd pleaser?

From: Andrew McCausland 05 July 2017 13:22 PM

Andrew McCausland
Following on from last post, so what is the solution? My I be so bold at to make a few suggestions: 1. Scrap Section 24. Yes, it raises tax revenue but it is killer blow to future PRS investment and is simple wrong. Duhh!!! as my 8 year old daughter would say. 2. Keep the SDLT additional homes surcharge. Controversial within the sector, I know, but it is a progressive taxation policy and helps level the field between owner occupiers and investors. Any investor knows the score before they buy so, doing the maths, they know what they are getting in to before they buy (unlike S24 which is retrospective on those who bought, sometimes decades ago). 3. Don't ban agents fees, but do include a cap on fees. The increasing amount of work in starting a tenancy has to be done and someone has to pay for it. An outright ban of these costs being applied to the person who incurs them (the new tenant) means rents will rise for everyone including long term tenants. Anyone who says this will not happen has no idea how tight the margins in the sector can be, especially if you are dealing with LHA tenants where the time taken to establish the tenancy is often longer. I don't often say this, but anyone who claims rents won't rise as a result of this policy is just plain wrong. 4. Introduce a compulsory code of practice for letting agents. There are too many crooks in the industry - it is in everyone's interest to drive them out. 5. Simplify existing housing legislation. I often see demands in the media for more regulation, often on matters that are already covered by existing laws. Even the experts often find it difficult to wade their way through the plethora of existing laws to find a solution. Now is the time for a massive simplification of the law, bringing them all under one Act. This will leave no wriggle room for the rogues and also ensure the good landlords and agents don't get things unintentionally wrong. Now that is off my chest I can get back to work. Comments and other suggestions welcome.

From: Andrew McCausland 18 May 2017 10:48 AM

Andrew McCausland
The law of unintended consequences. The Government were told by pretty much every body representing the PRS that the effects of their housing and taxation policy towards private landlords would result in fewer homes available to rent and higher rents for everyone. Now those policies decisions are doing exactly what we said they would; and things will only get worse in the short to medium term at least. The promise is that RSL's will solve the supply side problem of the housing market by an extensive government funded building programme. A great idea, socially responsible and a progressive taxation policy (reducing the bill for LHA over the long term). But will it work in 5 years, by the end of the parliament (any governments seeming event horizon). On one hand we have an ever greater demand from an increasing population, a change in the make up of many families altering the housing provision required, a flawed planning process hindering new build through the "localism agenda" and NIMBY'ism, and a lack of funding because as a country we are already living beyond our means. On the other we have private individuals willing to fill this funding gap and provide the quality homes the country needs, but who are discouraged form doing so by the very government who need their support. The Conservative Party manifesto promises 100,000's more "council houses" but these won't suddenly appear the day after the election. Until these extra units become available the onus will remain on the PRS to meet the growing need. Instead of supporting the sector government policy seems set to greatly restrict it. Will someone in the Conservative Party (presumably the next government) explain how they intend to square this circle?

From: Andrew McCausland 18 May 2017 10:20 AM

Andrew McCausland
I have to agree with Barry. I have put up all my rents to cover the additional costs of the changes to legislation introduced over the past 2 years; the first rise some of my tenants have had in 5 years. Homelessness is an increasing issue in my area of Merseyside. Many agents and landlords want to help but the Government's policy seems disjointed. The government want the PRS to house low wage tenants and keep the rates of LHA down. They then insist we pay substantially more tax to central government due to s.24, more money to local government in the way of licensing fees and compliance costs and higher purchase costs due to the SDLT changes. Government cannot afford to build the hundreds of thousands of extra houses the country needs. They certainly can't afford the costs of renovating and improving the existing poor quality stock that is the target of much of the PRS investment. The country therefore needs a functioning private sector that sees investment in housing to be a worthwhile use of their time and money. All the recent changes do nothing but drive investment away from the sector. We are long overdue a grown up discussion of the issues around housing affordability, home ownership and the relationship between government, landlords and tenants. There is so much that can be done to improve "the system" to decrease homelessness, whilst still making the concept of BTL attractive to investors and without bankrupting the state with excessive LHA payments. I had some useful meetings with Frank Field MP, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee. He seems receptive to many of the ideas put forward by the PRS representatives and I am hopeful he can carry forward some of these ideas in the next parliament. Despite being a long time Labour man he is not stuck toeing the party line on housing issues. His committee can help with many of the things that discourage landlords from letting to benefits recipients: late payment of UC, rent guarantees, direct payments and safeguarding, credit / fir and proper person checks, etc. Housing is one of the hot button issues in the election. Please, all you politicians, don't make any more silly promises on housing. We don't want to be stuck with policies after the election that will make it substantially less attractive to invest in the housing stock that the whole country needs.

From: Andrew McCausland 10 May 2017 14:13 PM

Andrew McCausland

From: Andrew McCausland 27 July 2016 11:22 AM

Andrew McCausland
Sorry Charles, but this research only shows that the majority of landlords in the UK are either unaware of the affects of the planned changes or are deluded. Section 24 of the Finance Act is a game changer and the sooner the PRS faces up to the challenges of this the better. Many smaller scale landlords in the lower tax band will be pushed into a higher tax bracket. This change to their marginal rate will have an affect on the tax they pay on BTL or dividend income from elsewhere. The addition to their "apparent" pay of adding in the gross rental income from their property may push them past the thresholds for working tax credits and family allowances. For the first time in UK business history people will be asked to pay tax on money they have not made. Often paying more in tax than the income they have made from their property. I know of a number of landlords in my area who have a number of properties and will be pushed to the edge of bankruptcy by these regulations. They can't roll their existing stock, owned in personal names, into limited company structures as they would have to pay higher rate SDLT payments and CGT on transfer. They are being forced to sell their investments as a direct result of this. However, the timescales involved mean they can't do so in an orderly manner over time and so will get hit by excessive CGT payments. As long term investors they have taken further advances on their mortgages over the years. Therefore they can't sell the property, repay the mortgage and pay the CGT bill without effectively paying cash into the deal - whilst losing the income from the property once it is sold. They have to pay if they keep the property and they have to pay if they sell it. If you are in the lucky position to be mortgage free then you are in the clear. For the majority of landlords, especially the small scale investors who are the backbone of the PRS, this can destroy their investment plans. If you are in your 40's or 50's and plan to use your existing BTL investment to fund your retirement then think again. This Conservative government has attached the people it says it wants to help - the aspiring, hard working individuals, who want to supplement their income by working additional hours as a landlord, who plan ahead and save for their retirement. Those on middle incomes, not the super rich. If you have an investment property on a mortgage you need to be fully aware what these changes mean to you. Despite the survey results quoted above, it will change things for you Mr and Mrs Landlord. We need to fight these unfair tax changes now.

From: Andrew McCausland 01 April 2016 09:30 AM

Andrew McCausland
We have the same problem in my local area of Wirral and Liverpool. The advice of both the local Councils and CAB is to stay until after receipt of a court order or until the bailiffs physically put them out. The result of this is to increase costs and delay repossession claims for landlords. The courts system is creaking under the strain and dates for possession hearings are being delayed further than ever. It is pointless to complain as a landlord in the current climate - we are seen as the devil's spawn and can do nothing right. However, this approach also disadvantages both the tenant and the taxpayer. The tenant is unable to get another home in a timely manner and is often left in emergency accommodation. This leaves the taxpayer to pick up the bill for the emergency accommodation, which is many times more expensive than the local housing allowance rates that were probably being paid prior to repossession. There is also the time and cost to consider of the various Council officers and other agency staff involved in rehousing families under these circumstances. A conservative estimate of these costs would be £750 per move. If the aim of this policy is to avoid having to rehouse families then it will obviously not work - they are going to leave the current property at some time so delaying this decision achieves nothing. The same number of families are still in the housing system, just at an earlier point along the journey. If the aim is to save money, then it is failing miserably. It adds costs at all points of the process and landlords and taxpayers all lose out. The law of unintended consequences?

From: Andrew McCausland 12 January 2016 10:33 AM

Andrew McCausland
Sadly this is all too common. As agents we take up references, secure deposits and get rent in advance. We hold out for guarantors - although not everyone can get one. We even do social media checks on prospective tenants (and you wouldn't believe some of the things that come up on this). This system works well for the majority of tenants. However, there are a substantial minority where they simply do not have the money or support required to achieve this. They have no savings and no one of suitable standing to act as guarantor. They still need to live somewhere. There are also far to many toe-rags out there taking advantage of a system that seems, at times, to work in their favour. The Councils refuse to pass on information about a tenant's history, quoting data protection concerns. Dodgy tenant lie repeatedly and concoct webs of deceit that take hours of our time to unravel, giving false details for previous addresses or landlords. Tenants take benefits money given to them for rent but don't pass this on to landlords (surely one of the worst decisions in PRS history was to make LHA payments direct to tenants, even when they didn't want it) . The agents go for safeguarding (direct payments of LHA to them), but by that stage the landlords have lost at least 1 and probably 2 months rent. The Councils were slow to enact safeguarding, but things have become substantially worse under Universal Credit. We check properties regularly and any problems quickly come to light. However, it is impossible to get a bad tenant out quickly. The courts are slow to act, even in cases of anti-social behaviour where the tenants are making life hell for their neighbours. In my area there is now an 8 week wait to even get a court date, assuming the courts don't lose or incorrectly file the papers (which they seem to do about 50% of the time). When problems are identified, the police or Council don't want to know saying it is a civil matter. The Council's standard response is "keep a diary of problems and get back to us in 12 weeks". We have had cases where there have been criminal damage, even drugs cultivation, and the police have to be cajoled into action. In our latest case we had a marihuana farm in a large flat along with all the associated £1,000's damage to the property. We told the police as soon as we had our suspicions (bypassed electricity meter, strong smell of drugs from the flat, tenant refusing to let us in and threatening us if we tried to do so). Despite this, the police took a month to act by which time the drugs crop had been harvested and more damage had been caused. It took another 4 weeks, numerous phone calls from me, a visit to the police station and finally a call to our local newspaper before the police even arranged to take a statement from me. This may sound like an exaggeration but unfortunately it is not. The upshot of this is that a small number of individuals are going around wrecking rental properties and there seems little in the way of deterrent or sanction for them. The "system" such as it is, is creaking under the strain. The government want us to house the people it can't. There are nowhere near enough rented properties for the decent people in this country, never mind the idiots. The RSL's do not have the capacity to take up the slack despite changes to their remit allowing them to act commercially. This leaves the PRS. The recent announcements about tax changes affecting landlords will potentially have a serious effect on the sector. There is a misconception that landlords are a group of people milking the poor tax payer for everything they can get. Yes, there are bad landlords. However, I would suggest there are many more bad tenants. One of the many reasons rents are so high is the need to offset losses from these bad tenants. "The System" needs to change; better passage of information, much swifter action, effective sanctions and penalties. Until these things change a small minority of tenants will continue abusing landlords - and the rest of the communities in which they live. I am aware that my whole posting comes across as very negative. However, in 22 years I have not experienced the confluence of issues now heading our way. Whilst supporting the austerity programme, I would like to see central Government more aware of the affects of all the changes they make, in poorer areas particularly. Police budgets are cut, Council budgets have been decimated, social services are barely coping, the NHS are under pressure, the Courts system is failing. All this means there is less money to put towards interventions to support (or in my opinion preferably jail) these dodgy tenants. The article above highlights one bad case. I feel very sorry for the landlord concerned. However, it will not be the last case of this sort we hear about. If the Daily Mail want to contact me I would be delighted to spend a week with them showing what we "dodgy landlords" have to put up with.

From: Andrew McCausland 02 December 2015 11:21 AM

Andrew McCausland
This is not news for those of us living in Merseyside. We have been marketing lower value properties to Southern based investors for some time now and have on average 5 groups a month visiting our offices in Wirral to view a range of options. There is a huge amount of inward investment into this area (Liverpool 2 deep water port, Wirral Waters £4 Billion development, the new conference centre and show venues, increasing work for Cammell Laird ship yard, Liverpool airport being the fastest growth airport in UK [according to the CAA], Burco Bank wind farm, the Golf Coast concept [anchored on the new Jack Nicholas course beside Royal Liverpool at Hoylake], Liverpool Waters and the £5 Billion redevelopment of Liverpool water front, the £200 million revamp of Europe's oldest Chinatown [in Liverpool] - the list goes on and on). All this is affecting trends in the local residential and commercial property markets. Those in the know are aware of all these changes and the benefits to the region. The old image of Merseyside based on events of 30 years ago (when Militant Tendency almost destroyed the city) no longer holds true. We have decent houses for under £60,00, many with sitting tenants giving investors an instant 8% yield. We have HMO's at under £150k giving a straight 15% gross. We have sourced, redeveloped and let properties that have given investors 30%+ ROI within the past 12 months. You don't get these sort of returns many places elsewhere. We all know the Chancellor has changed the dynamics for buy to let investors with his recent announcements. Despite this, maybe even because of this, the North West is still a great place to make a sound residential or commercial property investment.

From: Andrew McCausland 26 November 2015 14:29 PM

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