Private landlords in the UK are being warned against missing their periodic property inspections. Missing these inspections leads to missing any tell-tale warning signs of damage to their rental property. Periodic property inspections are also key to keeping communication open between landlord and tenant to ensure that if any issues arise they are reported quickly so they can be dealt with before they escalate.
Periodic inspections are an essential part of running a successful buy to let business. By landlords keeping check on the overall condition of the property they not only ensure that the tenants are not neglecting their responsibilities or breaching the terms of their tenancy agreement, but they also provide the opportunity for the landlords to ensure the general condition of the property is kept to the desired standard, and any repair issues are identified, and dealt with quickly – this can be the difference between expensive remedial works or a costly landlord insurance claim, rather than a simple and swift minor repair.
In the long term this is much more cost effective for the landlord to carry out regular checks and stay on top of minor repairs, rather than having to carry out more significant works between tenancies, at a time when the property is not generating any income.
Ideally landlords should visit their rentals in person or arrange for their letting agent to attend the property on a regular three month basis. Landlords have the legal right to carry out these inspections for good reason, but they should outline their intention to carry out the inspections in writing to the tenant providing at least 24 hours’ notice.
Warning signs landlords should look for whilst carrying out property inspections
- Water stains on ceiling, walls, floors – pay attention in rooms below bathrooms and water tanks, and around windows and doors.
- Mould stains and black mould growth – this can be found anywhere in the house, but look in corners and around windows and doors, behind curtains, in bathrooms. (Note: mould is most often a sign of damp and condensation which in many cases can be attributed to the way the tenant is using the property and they should be reminded of their responsibilities with regards to preventing damp and condensation to prevent further damage.)
- Damage to flooring, carpets, skirting – this could be due to water leaks, rough furniture, pets in the property. Hardwood floors could be protected with additional varnish.
- Window and door frames should be checked for rotting, flaking or leaking. Single glazed windows can be a particular problem with regards to condensation.
- Vermin infestation can be checked by looking behind kitchen cupboards – a clever way to check this is by removing a draw or kick panel in the kitchen near a food store cupboard and check behind it for droppings. A vermin infestation can cause a great deal of damage, including damage to electrical wiring.
- Guttering, drain pipes and fasciae – dripping from the guttering, water backing up in the guttering (where a blockage means the water drains the wrong way during heavy rain) and blocked drain pipes can all lead to serious damage of the external walls, which if left untreated would risk even more costly internal damage.
- Tenants are not always quick to report problems as they happen during the tenancy, some are worried the landlord will blame them for the problem, and some just aren’t concerned about the damage being caused because ultimately they are not responsible for the repairs, whilst others may just leave the problem until it becomes so serious that the property becomes inhabitable and then move out! Either way, the onus is on the landlord to carry out relevant checks to make sure no untoward issues are developing.
Dealing with damp and condensation
One of the most annoying maintenance issues landlords have to deal with are those brought about by damp and condensation. It is important that if landlord finds damp, condensation, black mould or any other signs that the property is not being kept reasonably warm and free of condensation, then the landlord should issue the tenant with written guidelines and practical information to ensure damp and condensation is kept to a minimum.
Without regular property checks, maintenance issues and property damage are often only revealed as the tenants check-out because of a lack of communication between the tenant and landlord or letting agent. This means potential problems are allowed to deteriorate further, increasing the overall cost of a full repair.
Water damage left unreported
In one recent case, water leaking from a first floor bathroom had been spotted by a tenant who had not reported the problem back to the landlord’s managing agent, until the ceiling had begun to fall down. The tenant said that the leak had been getting consistently worse over the last few months, but hadn’t bothered to mention it as they were due to move out within a few weeks.
The resulting repair meant that the landlord had to claim against their landlord insurance policy for the ceiling to be repaired, however they were able to successfully argue that the tenant’s negligence had exacerbated the damage and a proportion of the tenant’s deposit was retained by the landlord as a result.
Significant property damage beyond what could be considered wear and tear
Unfortunately there will always be tenants who, either accidentally or intentionally, cause unnecessary damage to your property – by this we mean damage way beyond what could be considered general wear and tear. If the property damage is extensive and non-accidental then the landlord may want to consider evicting the tenant and applying for a money order to cover the costs of the repairs (if these are not covered by the bond / deposit).
You can get help evicting tenants for causing property damage here.
Article kindly provided by Evictions South East.