Taking care of rubbish is generally be the tenant’s responsibility. The assured shorthold tenancy agreement we have available for download in our forms and guidance section contains the following clause:
“[The tenant agrees] to keep in a clean and tidy manner the garden of the Property and to keep the Property free from rubbish or offensive matter.”
This isn’t fool-proof, however, and at some point you might come across a few dozen stinking black bags in the hallway of your once-immaculate maisonette. The problem is that, though disposing of the rubbish should be the tenant’s responsibility, it is you as the property owner who will be held accountable should environmental health become involved.
So what do I do with a big build-up of rubbish?
Your first step should be to issue your tenant with a notice asking them to clear the rubbish as soon as possible, and advising them that they’ll be held accountable for the removal costs if they don’t.
The time limit you give is up to you (and might depend on whether or not an environmental health officer is breathing down your neck!), but seven days should be the minimum. You shouldn’t let your property remain a tip for too long, though – particularly if it’s an eyesore or a health hazard for the neighbours. If matters are severe, remove it at your own expense and seek to recoup the costs later.
If you did remove it at your expense, forward the bill to your tenant with a further time limit to pay it. Advise that if they don’t, you will seek to withhold the cost of the removal from their deposit when the tenancy ends.
Remember that both antisocial behaviour (which severe rubbish and fly-tipping can qualify as) and breach of the tenancy agreement are grounds for eviction under a Section 8 notice, so if your tenant persists in letting rubbish build up to intolerable levels, you can threaten them with eviction.
Do I need a waste carrier’s license?
Before you cart a vanload of rubbish to the tip yourself, ask yourself this question. Rubbish from a buy to let property might class as commercial waste, which means you need a waste carrier’s license to get rid of it (or to employ a contractor who has one).
If you’re disposing of rubbish after a tenancy has finished, it’s very likely to be classed as commercial waste. However, even during a tenancy, you might be asked where the rubbish came from. If you’re in any doubt at all about waste disposal, it’s best to err on the side of caution and either get a license (for the cost of £154 in the UK or £132 in Northern Ireland) or hire a professional waste carrier.
You can read more about business and commercial waste on the Gov.UK website. It’s not what you’d call riveting stuff, but I do recommend section five on Waste Electrical or Electronic Equipment (which they refer to by its acronym) very heartily.
A final tip
If, in the course of disposing of waste, you find that you incur any expenses you can’t recoup from your tenant, remember that they’re tax-deductible. Keep hold of the receipt, and you can offset it against your rental income when you’re filling out your Self-Assessment form.
For more information on tax, see our expert guide.
This story in the Express shows a particularly harrowing example of a rubbish build-up.