Damage to rental property is an expensive problem
In October last year, I blogged about rent arrears and how to avoid them. You may recall that a survey at the time had revealed that 28% of landlords had experienced rent arrears within the previous 12 months. In fact, according to a survey by Access Legal, in 2015 rent arrears accounted for £900 million!
Whilst I don’t want to alarm you, arrears aren’t the only challenge faced by landlords, with damage to property costing them an incredible £4.5 billion a year, according to the same survey.
Of course, as a landlord, you have to expect a measure of wear and tear. But in the face of such an enormous annual cost, what are the most common areas of damage and more importantly, what can you do as a landlord to avoid them?
Common damage to rental property
The research doesn’t really reveal any great surprises and the most common damage and disputes include:
- broken appliances
- damage to carpets and internal decor
- cigarette burns (even when smoking is not permitted)
- dirty premises.
Minimising the risk of damage
It is not possible to completely exclude the chances of damage but there is much you can do to minimise the risk!
- Get your property in order and be a good landlord
It may sound trite, but if you treat your tenants well and with respect, they are much more likely to reciprocate. That starts with ensuring the property is in a clean and respectable condition before they move in, with suitable, working appliances.
It also means responding fast if something goes wrong and keeping the property in good repair. After all, if the property is cold and damp, it’s going to be hard for the tenant to keep the décor clean and fresh. Fix the cause of the damp as quickly as possible if you don’t want mould on your walls or damp stains!
- Prepare a proper inventory and tenancy agreement
When it comes to damages, you will stand or fall according to the quality of your inventory and tenancy agreement.
Your inventory should be nothing short of your proof of the state of the property before the tenant moved in. It should be detailed, comprehensive, descriptive and include good quality photographs.
You are unlikely to be able to deduct money from a deposit unless you can prove the damage by reference to the inventory and it is well worth getting it prepared by a professional.
Equally, your tenancy agreement needs to be crystal clear. It should spell out the tenants’ obligations and allow you or your agent reasonable access to inspect and or repair the property. It should also be quite clear about what is not allowed, such as smoking, pets etc. and tenant obligations.
- Vet tenants
I can’t stress the importance of vetting your tenants enough. There are legal checks that you have to carry out in any event, but make sure you also check references or ask previous agents or landlords about a potential tenant.
At EweMove, we even visit potential tenants in their current premises and that can reveal volumes about how they will care for the property they live in.
- Have an effective check in and check out process
I generally recommend that you use an agent to check your tenants in and out at the beginning and end of the tenancy. This is the point at which you use your inventory and any other necessary reports or information to accurately record the state of the property.
A professional is often more experienced when it comes to a tenant leaving and will know where to check to avoid unexpected surprises. If damage is not noted at this stage of the process, you’re unlikely to be able to withhold any monies in respect of it.
- Carry out regular inspections
Regular inspections by you or your agent are a must and I recommend inspecting your property at least every quarter. Your agent can do this for you if you’re not available.
If there is damage it needs to be properly recorded in the presence of the tenant and repaired promptly. But do make sure you give your tenants proper notice of visits and call at a convenient and reasonable time.
Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking
He’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.
Multi-award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.