Well, that’s Xmas over for another year. The festive lights will gradually go out, Xmas cards will be taken down. Many will wonder why it was thought necessary to buy so much cheese, so many mince pies, so much of everything that it was found was unneeded, but now must be disposed of.
Private sector landlords will be grateful if there have been no bursts which required attention over the festive period, no calls from inebriated tenants who have lost their keys and cannot get into their properties without the aid of the landlord, roused from sleep and having to venture out in the dark and the cold.
However, even an undisturbed Christmas from the landlord’s point of view may not leave the property unscathed. Many good landlords will have visited their tenants before Christmas, perhaps taking a bottle of wine, selection boxes for the children. They may also take the opportunity then to discuss how you expect them to affix decorations, dispose of rubbish and generally, look after the property so that a new year does not bring unnecessary expense as issues from the Xmas period are rectified.
But, even if you did have those conversations with the tenants, the beginning of the New Year is a good time to visit, to discuss any works programmed for the coming year and to make sure that despite the quiet telephone, there have not been incidents which would cause you concern.
What am I talking about? It may seem trivial, but holes in doors for hooks to hang wreaths, will look a mess when the wreath is taken down.
Have Christmas cards been hung on walls? Has this left marks which may mean it needs re-painting?
Are there any questionable stains on carpets and rugs? Spilled red wine is a particularly bad one, if not treated immediately with white wine.
Has over eating and over drinking led to even worse stains, accompanied by the unpleasant smell of vomit?
Has rubbish been disposed of properly, or is it in a mountain of black bin bags in the yard or garden? Obviously, if the tenant has no vehicle, they may struggle to dispose of it, but they then need to speak to refuse disposal. It cannot be left outside indefinitely, providing hospitality for whatever vermin may be attracted.
It is sometimes difficult for landlords to know how they should react if they do find that a riotous party has left damage or even just the tenants’ efforts to bring Christmas into the home have left seemingly tiny bits of damage, but which, taken as a whole, can turn a well-decorated and well-kept property looking decidedly shabby.
Some minor marks and slight damage you as landlord may be prepared to view as fair wear and tear, but other things you will feel are not your responsibility. In that case, discuss them with the tenant(s), and do it before they have forgotten what the property looked like before. Do it pleasantly, but firmly. It may not mean them spending money to rectify – immediately after Christmas is never a good time. However, it could mean them being made aware that rips/holes in wallpaper may mean a deduction from their deposit at the end of the tenancy.
If this is what is agreed, put it in writing and get the tenant to sign that they agree to this. Stains on carpets and rugs could be addressed by agreeing to have them professionally cleaned at the end, or perhaps loaning the tenant a carpet cleaner so he can clean it himself.
Accidents happen at Christmas whether you are an owner-occupier or a tenant. But as the owner-occupier would be expected to replace/repair/re-paint themselves, so good tenants should take responsibility themselves for anything which has had an adverse effect on the property – but you may need to remind them of that.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon