When a woman complained on Twitter that her landlord had charged £150 for ‘dust on a lampshade’ when leaving a property, hundreds of other aggrieved tenants sent their tales of woe.
They complained about withheld security deposits, black mold, filthy bathrooms, broken showers, faulty appliances and skyrocketing rents.
Reading their endless grumbling, you might think that the country is made up of horrible, indifferent landlords who exploit their poor tenants at every opportunity.
In fact, from my experience, it’s just as likely the other way around. While there are bound to be some bad landlords, there are plenty of bad tenants as most of the rights are on the tenant’s side these days.
Testing tenants: Although the government has just announced plans to give landlords the power to evict violent tenants within two weeks, the majority of rights belong to the tenants
And while the government has just announced plans to give landlords the power to evict violent tenants within two weeks, the majority of the rights belong to the tenants.
As a landlord for over 25 years, I’ve been mostly lucky with my tenants, but I’ve had my fair share of disasters.
One managed to break all appliances including the toilet and shower. Although I kept the deposit it barely covered the £7,000 renovation cost.
On another occasion, I received a call from a building management company to say that there was a terrible smell coming from my rental apartment and that the hallway was full of rubbish.
In theory, tenants can be evicted for unpaid rent, breach of lease, or anti-social behavior, however that is defined.
But then try to get them out. You can’t just throw their belongings out on the street and change the locks. You can, but then you commit a criminal offense.
Instead, you must follow a strict procedure by serving a Section 8 notice to request possession or a Section 21 notice to stop.
If they are not vacated by the due date, legal proceedings must be organized, and as a last resort bailiffs will be ordered to remove the occupiers and their property.
I couldn’t believe my eyes – or nose. The place was filthy, full of rubbish and the smell was indescribable
While this is happening, the tenants may go months without paying rent. Or they can just disappear after destroying the place.
Landlords must have all kinds of current certificates such as a Gas Safety Certificate, Electric Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate.
In addition, there must be smoke detectors in every room and all furniture must comply with fire safety regulations.
By all accounts, the landlord has much more to lose than the tenant, who may only be there for six months.
Now let me go back to the flat where the management company complained about the smell.
As a conscientious landlord, I gave my tenant the legal 24-hour written notice that I was coming to inspect and couldn’t believe my eyes – or nose. The place was filthy, full of rubbish and the smell was indescribable.
I used legal process to evict him and then had the flat fumigated. He disappeared without paying city taxes or other bills, and also left behind a few months of unpaid rent.
He was a bad bunch in every way, and yet he had passed the rental agents’ reference procedures.
Other tenants have snuck in a cat or a dog in direct defiance of the lease, and some have even snuck in an extra human.
If you’re an absentee landlord, like most of us, you often don’t know about these violations until other residents alert you.
The departing tenants of my flat in London sent an e-mail asking if they could stay four more days after the agreed departure date.
I said yes but that I would have to charge them four days rent to which they begged, “Unfortunately we can’t handle the extra rent.” Can you just be nice?’
I pointed out that while I tried to be fair, I didn’t mean to be nice. Some tenants seem to think you are part of social services.
And also when it comes to repaying the deposit, the law is on the side of the tenants. It must be held on an accredited schedule, for which the landlord pays, and any deductions must be supported by written accounts. These can be challenged by tenants using the deposit scheme.
As far as ‘sky-high’ rents are concerned, there are two sides to this issue.
On the one hand we can only charge what the market wants, on the other hand it costs a lot of money to be a landlord.
The rent received is by no means all profit. We may need to pay a mortgage and service charges, pay rental agents and also keep the property in good condition.
If a washing machine breaks down, it’s up to the landlord, not the tenant, to replace it. A flood in a neighbor’s rental condo can wipe out an entire year’s rent.
We landlords are not asking for sympathy, but for some balance please.