Nightmare Tenants – Slum Landlords

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It was a typical August afternoon – rain coming down in sheets and a dark and dull day. What to do? You guessed it – Nightmare Tenants – Slum Landlords.

Though I greatly dislike the description ‘Slum Landlords’, most of whom are respectable and decent men trying to make a living whilst housing some of the poorest in society, I enjoy this programme because it often shows that the landlord is more sinned against than sinning, and nightmare tenants are certainly out there.

This episode of Nightmare Tenants – Slum Landlords certainly showed an extreme example of this. The tenant was several thousand of pounds in arrears. To actual get to the point of the tenant realising that they would be evicted and therefore vacating the property took a full year. 

Far from being a slum landlord, this landlord had thought he was helping someone who needed it and had moved out of his home so it could be let to the tenant. The full extent of the help the landlord had given was not revealed until he arrived with a Bailiff, to find they had (finally) gone.

As is always advisable, the landlord had a locksmith in attendance to change the locks and leave the property secure. Unfortunately, it was very much a question of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The landlord had expected to move his family back in but his good nature was his downfall. The nightmare tenants had left the property in a dirty and damaged state. There was rubbish and pieces of broken furniture. Carpets were stained, walls left with wallpaper hanging off. What was not there was a £1,000 television, a fridge-freezer, a fire, good wardrobes. 

The landlord felt aggrieved – he had tried to help them, and this was how he had been repaid. Yes, they were gone, but without any means of contacting them and an awareness that benefit dependents, even if they were traced (at cost to the landlord), would not have the means to replace the furniture stolen or make-up the rent arrears which had accrued.

Is it possible to avoid this sort of situation with nightmare tenants? First thoughts must be: never leave expensive items in a property. It is more cost effective to pay for storage than risk theft. Items that are left should be covered by the deposit but as in this case there were also rent arrears, it would not be legal to ask for a deposit large enough to cover arrears and damages/theft. 

For preference, rent the property unfurnished. The tenant most landlords should be looking for will have some means to furnish the property themselves. If they’ve not, provide second-hand furniture (that meets safety standards!) which it will not be a great loss to lose and then replace.

Practice good management; as soon as the tenant is 2 months in arrears (generally after 5 weeks if the rent is payable monthly in advance), contact the DWP and ask for the rent to go direct to you. This should also trigger repayment of arrears to the landlord. If the tenant is 8 weeks in arrears, you should issue a section 8 mandatory notice, using ground 8. You will be unable to take it to court if the arrears fall to below 8 weeks, but it will show that you are serious.

Landlords will always have my sympathy when dealing with Nightmare Tenants, but let it be sympathy, not pity because you have done something silly. Which is what this landlord did.

Don’t let your tenancy turn into a nightmare.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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