Filthy properties presents problems, and lots of them. Firstly and most importantly, it breaks the basic understanding that a tenant and landlord come to when contracts are signed; that the property is fit for human habitation on day one of residency and that the tenant will maintain the basic upkeep of the property they have chosen to live in. If the problem of a dirty property is more severe, you have the prospect of vermin, infestations, and night visits from the local fox brigade.
As we know only too well, houses not fit for habitation brings with them a raft of potential issues for both for landlords and tenants. Tenants may suddenly renege on rent causing cash flow issues for the landlord and Landlords housing messy tenants have the unenviable challenge (come end of contract) of conducting new property viewings whilst packs of vultures circle the house outside. Oh and lets not forget the possibility of fines and having your name smered all over social media.
If only proofing a home for tenants that live like dung beetles was as simple as proofing a home for the damp. If only there were landlords out there as accommodating AFTER tenants sign the contract as they were before. Sadly the reality for both parties can be very different to the ideal, so if you’re a landlord make your peace with the fact that at some point you’re going to be accommodating someone with the hygiene standards of Albert Steptoe. If you’re a tenant, it’s likely one day you’ll do busines with a landlord resembling something from a Charles Dickens novel. This is just the reality of the world we live in. So, if and when it happens, it pays to be ready. Let’s look at five simple things both landlord and tenant can each do if and when the inevitable takes place.
Landlords, you're first up:
1. So firstly Landlords, attempt to strike the right balance with frequency of inspections from the get go. We recommend starting off once every four months and aim to offer the tenant the option of accompanying you when the inspection is taking place. If on the first inspection you find yourself walking in to the aftermath of a biblical plague feel free to increase the visit frequency to once every 3 months following a straight forward Landlord-Tenant coversation. Property visits should never be overly draconian, however the mere thought of a scheduled visit may provoke some tenants in to maintaining something resembling order. At the same time it’s worth remembering that barring the threat of a public flogging, some tenants just simply don’t care what in store for them following a bad inspection.
2. If your property is suffering from a pest or vermin infestation you need to firstly understand what you’re legally responsible for. Here’s a great article from the Landlords Guild that goes through this very thing, check it out here.
3. The book ends of a concise Tenant-Landlord agreement revolves around the living state of the property. As a landlord you must ensure the property is in a fit state to live in as soon as the tenant enters. Likewise, tenants must ensure the property is in a fit state to live in once they’ve moved out. If you’ve not done so already, make sure the contract comes with an entire section that outlines EXACTLY what state the property was in when the keys were handed over. We recommend images with accompanying descriptions. There can be no misunderstanding for both parties.
4. Remember that in the case of a property inspection, remember the tenant has a legal right to refuse you entry, however if the tenant continues to refuse entry then they will be in clear breach of contract. If this happens seek legal advice. Find out EXACTLY what you’re allowed to do and how you should go about gaining access step by step. The individual circumstance here are important.
5. The end of clause contact is key for any landlord trying to turn their beloved investment-turned pig stye back in to something that doesn’t generate its own methane. What we’d advise is adding in a cleaning clause at the end of the tenancy to cover any damage caused. However be careful in this regard as many landlords get greedy and try to claim unreasonably using the clause as an excuse. If a puddle of beer has found residence in the pile of the oat coloured carpet you had laid down before the tenancy began then it’s time to call out the cleaners and charge the tenants for the privilege. If it’s a case of some water stains on the draining board or some carbon deposits on the inside of the oven…consider a sponge and doing it yourself. Remember that in the age of social media you have to be extra mindful in how you treat your tenants. Always be reasonable and fair, and in so doing you’ll ensure that if any lines are crossed it’s not your feet that doing the crossing. If your good name is still sprawled over the walls of social media then you’ll have a fair comeback in the bag, and if it’s backed up with images you’re well and truly vindicated. All hail you.
Then we come to tenants!
1. If you’re reading this as a tenant, the likelihood is you’ll be at least 18 years of age and maybe a student. Sadly, many tenants despite age or education still can’t distinguish between something designed to house cattle and something designed to house humans. It really is no big ask to keep food in bins and malted hairs from out of plug holes. As an estate agancy, we’ve seen it all. Strands of hessian rope blocking up pipes only later turning out to be a semesters worth of human hair, and boxer shorts hanging off roof top aerials (still trying to work that one out). Tenants, remember...some landlords would screw over their own wheelchair bound grandmas if the opportunity arose, so whatever you do don’t make their job easier. Keep your house clean and fungus free.
2. Your first day in your new property should consist of one thing and one thing only…documentation. It’s time channel some Sherlock Homes and make sure that what’s been outlined in the rental agreement rings true. Let’s not get too picky here, some dust on the mantle piece doesn’t really constitute breach of contract, rusty tetanus tipped nails sticking out of your mattress however, does. Go round your property and make sure that what you’re walking in to matches what the landlord has outlined (even if they have'nt be smart and do it anyway.) If there’s any discrepancies that cause you concern, take photos and make some notes.
3. Mould, especially in winter can be a real issue for both tenant and landlord, so we advise that you do what you can to keep your apartment well ventilated. Creating your own wet room with 30 minute hot showers with no ventilation will as sure as the nose on your face cause mould. Again, don’t make life hard for yourself. If at some point you have a legitimate claim for a mouldy interior, you need to make sure it’s not through your own negligence.
4. If you live with other tenants why not create a cleaning rota. It’s not rocket science and it spreads the load. If you live by yourself just make sure you get in to the habit of having a cleaning day each week. For a quick hoover and surface wipe down you’re talking 30 mins a week.
5. Sometimes despite your best efforts you find yourself victim to a landlord just looking to make a quick score. Whilst you should always be diplomatic and ready to talk through a dispute, make sure the landlord is in no doubt early doors that you’re no push over. Bad landlords will test boundaries early on to get an idea what they can and can’t get away with, and you need to be ready. Make sure you know the contract as well as you can and get familiar with your basic rights as a tenant. A simple google search will do this but if you’d like to talk with someone in detail we always recommend the Citizens Advice Bureau.
As an agency we always make sure the landlords we take on are fair and reasonable and we’ll always use fairness to try and resolve a dispute. Legal action costs both sides time and money and is rarely worth the hassle. If you're either a tenant or a landlord and you’d like to talk to us about anything mentioned in this post feel free to contact us on 0116 270 6699. We’re always here to help and advise and we’re proud to say that we put a collective 75 years of experience in to all our clients.