Spring is here – with cold winds and icy showers, but spring nevertheless and the time for a good spring clean! Landlords are not expected to visit their properties with dustpan and brush in hand, (though many will often wish they could) but they can ‘spring clean’ their property portfolios.
Begin with the paperwork. Is the tenancy agreement safe? When did the tenancy start? Is it continuing as a statutory periodic tenancy? How long has it been since the rent was increased? Has it stayed at the same level for a lengthy period and if so, should you think of increasing it? When does the gas safe inspection need doing? Make sure that you are aware of all relevant dates, including recent tenancies – does the tenancy continue as a periodic tenancy, does a new tenancy need to be issued or do you need to serve notice to evict?
The next step in the spring clean is to inspect all properties – an ideal opportunity to check whether there has been any damage caused by winter weather, perhaps lost tiles or fence panels being loosened. Are there repair issues which couldn’t be tackled in gale-force winds, but should now be addressed?
Landlords fully understand that tenants have a right to ‘Quiet Enjoyment’ of their homes, but perhaps they are a little too reticent about pointing out what is acceptable, tenant-like behaviour. It is a sad truth that in many places, in an avenue of privately-owned and privately-rented properties, the privately rented properties are distinguishable by the items of litter, left to breed, in the front gardens. Landlords should not hesitate to mention to tenants that such distinguishing marks are not welcome and lead to complaints from neighbours and disrepute of the private sector.
Take a good look at the roof area. Are there any indications that the gutters need clearing? Green plants are lovely to look at, but should only be a ground level, not in the gutters. Over-flowing gutters can lead to fears of damp where, once the gutters are cleared, walls can have an opportunity to dry-out. Displaced tiles, as well as the possibility of roofing leaks, can also be a safety hazard, so landlords should ensure that loose tiles are repaired or replaced; tiles hanging in an unsafe manner pose a risk of their being blown out and hitting a passer-by.
Check the rear area, whether garden or yard, is not being used as a rubbish tip which spoils the view and can attract vermin. If it is important to you that the garden is kept tidy, make sure the tenant is aware of that and will do at least the minimum so that it can be used for leisure, if and when the sun appears again.
It’s a spring clean, so spring clean your relationship with the tenant. Are there any repair issues they would like to discuss? If they have been tenants for many years, does the property need decorating? Does the furniture still seem fit for purpose? Replacing old and shabby furniture with new encourages tenants to stay in the tenancy and make efforts to keep the property the way you would wish it to be kept.
You cannot tell your tenant that they should vacuum on a daily, or even a weekly, basis, but if behaviour is causing deterioration in the property, it is quite acceptable to have concerns; an example would be the presence of pets (whether allowed or not) which have been allowed to defecate in the house; carpets would need replacing and, if the problem is very bad, the smell will penetrate decoration.
The same applies to heavy smoking in a property – if the property has been inhabited by a heavy smoker for a long time, the walls would need stripping and washing down to eradicate the smell. You can remind tenants that their deposits are at risk and a change of behaviour may be called for.
So, that’s the spring clean done. Now to prepare for a hot and peaceful summer with happy tenants and even happier landlords.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon