Less Tenant Damage Means Lower Costs and Higher Buy-To-Let Profits
Tenant damage is any damage that you would consider over and above normal wear and tear. It includes any damage caused by a tenant’s children, guests or pets. When this occurs, a landlord’s rights include keeping an amount to cover the damage from the tenancy deposit.
While you may be recompensed for any damage out of the tenancy deposit, repairing damage takes time – and any delay in letting your buy-to-let property results in longer and more costly void periods. That’s money down the drain that you will never see again. It’s far better to avoid tenant damage to your rental property. Here are seven ways to do so.
1. Don’t Shortcut Tenant Vetting
When referencing your tenant applicants, don’t take shortcuts. Make sure that you contact previous landlords and ask them about your applicant’s rental history: their rental payment record and any damage they caused. An extra tip here is to beware of references from the current landlord – the landlord may give a five-star rating for your tenant because they are desperate to see the back of them.
2. Write a Watertight Tenancy Agreement
The tenancy agreement describes your obligations and your tenant’s obligations. You should include any behaviours that you would deem unwelcome. For example, you might include details of what the tenant should do if they plan to be away from the property for an extended period. You should also include clauses that describe how you wish your tenants to treat your property – prohibiting smoking indoors, the keeping of pets, and the requirement to tell you about repair needs promptly.
3. Talk Your Tenant Through the Tenancy Agreement and Their New Home
Just because your tenant has received the tenancy agreement and signed it, does not mean they understand it. You may have left instructions for the washing machine, but this doesn’t mean they will read them.
Discuss the tenancy agreement with your new tenant. Show them how to use all their appliances. Point out the water stopcock and electricity box. Some of the worst damage occurs shortly after a tenant moves in. Spending half an hour with the tenant on the moving-in day can save you a whole lot of heartache, aggravation and cost.
4. Carry out Regular Property Inspections
Regular property inspections are key to reducing tenant damage to your property. Any small scratches and scrapes will be identified sooner and can be repaired before they become expensive.
5. Remember High-Maintenance Properties Mean High-Maintenance Costs
You may be tempted to refurbish a property with high-grade quality finishes. That’s great if it is your own home, but it’s not. Carpet wears faster than tile or hardwood flooring. A £300 washing machine does the same job as a £900 machine. A countertop is a countertop.
Your aim should be to provide a quality, damage-resistant finish at a reasonable cost. Your rental property must look good, and last well. Whether an adult spills coffee on a carpet or the spillage is juice from a toddler’s beaker, the spill will still cause a stain.
6. Don’t Neglect Your Long-Term Tenants
Accidental tenant damage is just as likely from long-term tenants as it is from short-term tenants. While our mission is to allow landlords to ‘Set and Forget’, we never recommend that landlords take the same approach with tenants. Build a good landlord/tenant relationship, carry out regular property inspections, and never neglect maintenance and repair needs.
7. Do the Regular Maintenance Work Regularly
There are lots of maintenance jobs that need attention throughout the year. Clearing out gutters ready for winter, for example. Regular central heating servicing. Checking the roof for leaks. Don’t forget to check paths and driveways for dangerous cracks. And never neglect the loft – check the water tank, water pipes and insulation.
There are also maintenance tasks that you can ask the tenant to take care of – such as watering plants during dry summer months, and ensuring that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working.
Maintenance of your property should be a collaboration between you and your tenant. You can avoid most tenant damage by ensuring you know your new tenant is someone who takes care of their home and making sure they start the tenancy on the right foot.
It’s your responsibility to make sure the tenant knows how to work all the appliances, and that they understand their tenant responsibilities. Carrying out regular property inspections is key to keeping on top of accidental damage before it becomes an expensive repair issue. Regular maintenance will help keep the property in peak condition and confirm to your tenant that you care – not only about your property but also about their welfare.
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