One of our Let Only Landlords – let’s call her Jo Jones – came in to see us this week for a coffee and we were chatting about how shocked she’d been when she visited one of her rental properties a few months before that she hadn’t seen for three years.
It’s ok, it’s not one of those horror stories that you hear where there was a cannabis factory in the loft, or there were four other people living in the property that shouldn’t have been or worst still the property was deliberately trashed, or is it …..
Jo owns a number of properties and used our services to provide our Let Only service. She didn’t need an Agent for management, agency fees are money for old rope, and she had plenty of time to manage.
The tenancy had been ticking along nicely with Jo rarely speaking to her tenants as, prior to move in, the property had undergone an £8000 refurbishment program, meaning there was little or no maintenance. Jo was confident that she would be able to manage a fifteen minute inspection of the property every three or four months, she’d got loads of time to check the rent had hit her account, ‘cos that’s the whole point right?,.. And she’d have no issue registering her deposit and dealing with the end of tenancy because there’s nothing to it.
The reality is that three/four months, became six or seven months, became ten or eleven months …. Until here we are three years later, when the tenant is moving out. When she pulled up Jo noticed that those bushes that she’d trimmed were now about ten feet high and she was sure the front garden was blocked paved, where had all those weeds come from? The front bay window glass was heavily condensated and looked unsightly. What must the neighbours think?
Inside the welcome from the tenant was a bit frosty but she tried to ignore that. She was more concerned that the walls up the stairs were a bit scuffed, the carpets needed a good clean and where had that crack come from in the bathroom sink? You get the picture, as she went through the property it was clear the £600 deposit was well and truly spent and the tenants would have to claim on their insurance for the broken sink, right? Of course but it’s not as simple as that.
The minute those tenants handed the keys back forget an accidental damage insurance claim, it was clear from the edges to the crack in the sink the damage was months if not years old – it should’ve been reported at the time. The hall stairs and landing would need to be redecorated and paid for by the tenants. Jo didn’t know where to start first, but works needed to be turned round quickly she had new tenants moving in, in a few days. The tenants had been great about access and had even agreed to show prospective new tenants round for her in the evenings, saving Jo the job.
Jo took loads of photos of the property so she could prove the damage caused ready for her deposit claim. She arranged to meet a contractor at the property to bring the property back up to standard. The quote came in at £1950, £1350 more than the deposit she had registered. She decided to deal with the shortfall later and get the £600 deposit reclaimed from the deposit scheme. She logged into the scheme website and processed her claim for the deposit. This was swiftly rejected by the tenants who weren’t prepared to give her a penny of their money. So started the dispute process. Jo printed off the 85 photos she had taken and sent this with the tenancy agreement and the ingoing inventory that her agent had prepared prior to move in. The inventory wasn’t signed though as on the day of move in Jo got called into work and couldn’t meet the tenants there, she’d asked us to release the keys for her, she never quite got round to popping by and sorting that out.
You can imagine how badly done to Jo felt when the deposit scheme adjudicator dealt with the dispute two months later… how long? Well once Jo put her evidence in then the tenants get 21 days to submit their evidence and so on & so forth… The whole claim was rejected as the inventory wasn’t signed and the photos taken at the end of tenancy weren’t date stamped. The deposit was released back to the tenants and Jo didn’t get a penny.
The unfortunate thing is most of the issues could have been addressed had the property been checked over regularly and Jo could have actioned the general maintenance issues as they arose. The bathroom sink could have been claimed for, she could have asked the tenants to trim the trees back and weed kill the drive. The tenants hadn’t noticed the weeds in the gutter and the really wet patch on the wall underneath.
There was worse to come, Jo hadn’t noticed that several months previous a rent payment had come into her account and bounced out again later that day. Her accountant bought it to her attention several months later when he prepared her tax return. The tenants and deposit were long gone – she was now £2450 worse off, hence our meeting.
The moral of the story if you want to “manage” a property yourself is to make sure you do just that, regularly visit the property, if you do this from the outset then it becomes the norm for the tenant and they are generally happy for you to visit. Keep a rental spreadsheet on your computer, read the deposit scheme rules and understand what you can and can’t reasonably claim for – depreciation & wear and tear has to be allowed for.
I hear stories like this all the time, this isn’t isolated ……. There are sooooo many stories, some worse than others – I’ll leave the sex slave story for another day!
As for Jo, we have agreed to take on full management of her properties for her – she simply hadn’t realised what was involved and we all know how quickly time flies.