80% of tenants believe that the landlord is responsible for damages they leave at the end of a tenancy. This will be no surprise to landlords, fully aware of the state in which their properties are left, but will almost certainly be an enormous shock to Shelter and the Citizens Advice Bureaux, who campaigned so vigorously for tenancy deposit protection, which they achieved in 2007. Their arguments had been that 50% of tenants were not having the deposit returned to them. This hardly seems either justified or necessary, when the statistics are examined.
The survey found that over 90% of tenants say they have tried to hide damage, with 1 in 10 admitting to causing more than £500 worth of damage. The argument could be made that tenants think the landlord is responsible for their damages because they are in ignorance of whose duty it is to bring the property back into its’ original condition. However, this cannot be the case if 90% of tenants have sought to hide damages. There would be no need to hide them, if they saw it as a job for the landlord.
It is startling to see that though tenants usually believe themselves the hard-done-to and will almost certainly underestimate the extent of the damages they cause, that 10% of tenants believe they have caused damages that would cost more than £500 to rectify. It is not surprising to see that 72% of tenants said their tenancies ended in disputes with the landlord over damages to the property. Given statistics like this, is it any wonder.
There was a varied range of damages and the percentages that reported them were as follows:
– Stains on carpets from food, wine and paint – 69%
– Pet damage to curtains and floor coverings – 51%
– Cigarette burns to soft furnishings and carpets – 47%
– Damage to kitchen cabinet doors – 33%
– Scratches and dents to doors, door-frames and skirtings – 28%
– Burns and marks to kitchen surfaces – 19%
The readiness with which tenants seem to volunteer the information about the damage they have left belies the fact that they will also lie about it to landlords and dispute it with the Dispute Resolution Service, when the landlord attempts some recompense through the deposit taken at the start of the tenancy for just this eventuality. What is even more worrying is that this lack of respect for private rented property is a growing problem.
On 1st October 2014, 28% of landlords had tenants damage their properties in the previous 12 months. By 17th July 2015, approximately 29% of 400,000 landlords had properties damaged in the last year. This eats into profit margins and leaves properties void for longer periods than should be necessary, simply to bring them up to a rentable standard.
There is no easy answer, no magic words that can eradicate this problem, but it may be improved by extra management; by doing regular inspections, challenging tenants when issues are apparent and notifying Guarantors that a situation may be developing that will cost them money.
Eventually, tenants will learn that they must live in an appropriate manner; that they must accept responsibility for the behaviour of their children, their pets and their guests if they want to live in the good quality of property that the private sector (usually) provides.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon