Secrets of a Landlord – What to do when your tenants damage your property?

So your tenants are settled in the property. They’ve signed the contract, they’ve collected the keys and they’ve moved their belongings over the threshold.

But how settled are they? A few months in and they are beginning to get to know the property and surrounding area. And after your initial check in towards the end of their six month assured shorthold tenancy agreement, it may be tempting to leave them to it if they’re staying on.

They are paying their monthly rent – which means you as a landlord can pay your monthly mortgage payments. Everyone’s happy and there is nothing more to it, right? Well, yes – in most cases. But there is always one exception and this summer I had to face tenants who were doing some potentially serious damage to my property.

Last month, I turned up after a year’s absence to do an annual check with one of my rental properties. It was 18 months into the tenancy and until then, the tenants – a pair of 20-something males – had always seemed pretty harmless and showed no indication of what was about to come.

I had done an initial check at the end of their assured shorthold tenancy agreement and everything was fine. It wasn’t spotless, but it was acceptable.

However this time, I could barely step into the hallway as there were about 30 pairs of shoes scattered in the hallway. Once I had made my way into the living area, it became apparent that they didn’t own a vacuum (something that was confirmed once I managed to get into the hallway cupboard) or for that matter a cleaning cloth as there was dirt and cobwebs throughout.

They also never appeared to ventilate the flat, leading to thick black mold at the base of the living room windows, which incidentally were only 10 years old and had until that time been in mint condition.

Worse was to come when I ventured into the bedrooms where there were more cobwebs and coffee stains down the walls.

I knew the boys worked nights and it appeared they never pulled up the blinds as they slept during the day. Unfortunately for everyone concerned I did pull up the blinds on that visit, only to reveal that the black mold extended all around the windows in the bedrooms. Apart from looking unsightly, it was undoubtedly a health risk.

An expression of disappointment escaped from my lips, along with instructions about what the tenants needed to do to clean the place up before my return visit in a week’s time.

It is not a technically a breach of their tenancy contract to leave the property in a mess, meaning they are entitled to leave clothes on the floor and washing up out on the kitchen worktops as this is down to the tenants’ cleaning preferences and standards.

However, causing damage to a property is another story. If the tenant is leaving clothes out drying, this could cause condensation and damage to the property.

The moral of the story? Always check in annual with your tenants, however tempted you may be not to want to disturb them and just collect the cash. By doing so, it means you can spot any problems early and make sure they are addressed before they cause longer lasting damage that will eat into those all important profits.