SELF-made Yorkshire millionaires Andrew Dyke and Alan Lee Ogden, better known as The Property Boyz, have been described as ‘Britain’s nicest landlords’. As their new show comes to our TV screens, they talk to Sarah Millington

Wiltshire Business Online:

IT’S fair to say that Andrew Dyke and Alan Lee Ogden are not your typical landlords. For one, they dress more like playboys than those accustomed to dealing with giros and, for two, they’re actually nice. Not just while the cameras are rolling for one of their TV projects (more of which, later), but genuinely solicitous of their tenants.

“I think we’ve been successful because we’ve broken the mould and done things that landlords wouldn’t normally do,” says Andrew, 47. “You’ve got to be compassionate and caring, but also quite firm and go the extra mile.”

Since starting out in 2001, the Boyz have created an empire comprising more than 70 of their own properties and around 600 that they manage as part of their business, 2 Let 4 Sale. They’ve also become celebrities, appearing on all three series of the cult TV show, Britain’s Benefit Tenants, showing the dark underbelly of the rental sector. But what is most striking about the pair – and what, no doubt, attracted the show’s producers – is their appearance. Their style is, to put it mildly, distinctive, and they have the lifestyle to match.

“Basically, the freedom of having the properties gives us a very flexible lifestyle,” explains Andrew. “We’ve got a really eclectic group of friends.” “When we’re at work, we look like tramps,” laughs Alan, 44. “One day, we can be cleaning flats and scrubbing loos and the next day, we can be flying into Royal Ascot by helicopter to watch our racehorse,” says Andrew. “It’s nice to have these luxury things in life, but you have to remember that we’re grounded as well,” Alan adds. “We’ve got millionaire friends and celebrity friends, but somebody once asked, ‘What does it feel like to be a celebrity?’ and I was just like, ‘I don’t feel like a celebrity. We’re just Alan and Andrew.’”

The Boyz’ partnership is personal as well as professional – “We’ve been together quite a long time and we’ve both got different skills, so we both have different roles,” explains Andrew. They live in Andrew’s parents’ former home, in Hemingfield, South Yorkshire, also spending time at two or three other properties, including one in Whitby. They first met aged 17 and 19 in their hometown of Barnsley, when Andrew was employed by the Royal Mail and Alan was working up to 55 hours a week at a pub and a petrol station. Andrew felt there must be more to life and set his sights on making money from property.

“I’m quite good at finances. When I was working at the Royal Mail I wasn’t on a fortune, and I just did the sums one day on renting a house out,” he says. “I thought, ‘If I can get ten of those, that would replace my salary. If I had a hundred, it would be even better’, so that’s what I set my mind to.”

It might sound straightforward, but anyone thinking of investing in property had better think carefully. According to Andrew and Alan, it comes with many pitfalls – including the difficulty of turning a profit. “People think you’re making all this money, but they just don’t see,” says Alan. “I always say that if I knew when we started what I know now I’d go all commercial because you don’t seem to have half the problems. Because we’ve done it for that long, it’s not as much fun.

“One of the biggest things with universal credit is trying to get your actual money – the stress is not only for tenants, it’s for landlords. Landlords have committed suicide. There are loads and loads who are selling.” “Everything has really tightened up,” adds Andrew. “The government are slowly eating the property market away and making it less and less lucrative.”

But by far the biggest headache is not financial, but human. With properties mainly in the North and a focus on the lower end of the market, Andrew and Alan have up to 80 per cent of tenants on benefits. Though careful to avoid stereotypes, they paint a bleak picture. “We have tenants from hell,” Andrew admits. “I think that’s why Channel 4 approached us for Britain’s Benefit Tenants. Every day there are problems with anti-social behaviour, alcoholics, burglaries, paedophiles – we have everything. The programme followed us for three months and there was a lot they didn’t show because they either couldn’t get permission or it was too sensitive. There’s never a dull moment. There’s always some drama going on. It is enjoyable, but we see all aspects of people’s lives – we see some really sad cases.”

“A lot of the time, you feel more like social worker,” Alan adds. “On occasion, we’ve taken tenants to hospitals,” says Andrew. “We’ve taken people who’ve never had a holiday before up to Whitby for a few days, all expenses paid. As we come across things in our everyday lives, we give stuff to tenants. We’ll occasionally carpet a tenant’s house free of charge or give them a fridge freezer. We sort of build relationships with the tenants, hence why some of them have been with us for nearly 15 years.”

There might be issues – Andrew says suicides, and even murders, happen every year – but there are also rewards, like being asked to be godfathers to tenants’ children. It’s hard not to censure those who bring about their own misfortunes, but mainly Andrew and Alan are sympathetic. “The system is a little bit set up for people to fail,” reflects Andrew.

The TV work is a welcome diversion from the daily grind, and when the Boyz were asked to take part in a new BBC series, The Customer Is Always Right, they jumped at the chance. “It’s totally not business-related – it’s a cross between Gogglebox and Dragons’ Den,” laughs Andrew. “Entrepreneurs give us a product and we have to film testing it and then we have to score and review it and the winner gets a contract with a national company.” Whatever this may lead to – and with a daily primetime slot, who knows? – a career change seems unlikely. “There’s a lot that goes into making a success of this,” Andrew says. “Anybody can buy a house, but it takes a certain type of individual to stick with it.”

W: thepropertyboyz.com

  • The Customer Is Always Right is on BBC One, weekdays at 11am.

ANDREW AND ALAN’S TOP TIPS

1. Location, Location, Location

It really is important. Find your target market and buy property to appeal to them.

2. Look for added value

A property which can be extended, or a small parcel of land attached which can be developed or sold.

3. Keep renovation costs low

Shop around for suppliers, use loyalty cards, use friends, be prepared to buy secondhand/recycle. A combination of these will heavily reduce the cost to renovate.

4. Use a reputable agent

A long-established company, a company run by landlords, a pro-active company recommended by other landlords. We now all have social media, use it!

5. Keep things simple

Clean lines and simple colours, use quality paints (scrub-able), whites which stay white. Basic contemporary kitchens and bathrooms. Appeal to the largest market and be flexible with rent. Allow tenants to pay weekly/ fortnightly or monthly to suit their circumstances.