For a letting agency, maintenance can be a real problem as there are always arguments between landlords and tenants as to who is responsible for certain maintenance. The rule of thumb is if the tenant breaks it they fix it if it breaks from wear and tear the landlord is responsible. This is not applicable for all maintenance problems but it is a good way of explaining to the tenant the necessary repairs at the tenant’s cost.
The first step in making sure there is no dispute regarding who is responsible for repairs is your lease agreement. All leases have a maintenance clause and it is here where it is stipulated who is responsible for certain repairs. Ensure when your tenant signs the lease he/she is made aware of the exact responsibility in order to avoid any arguments should maintenance problems arise. In easy understandable terms, which broadly cover the legal stipulations in the lease, the tenant needs to leave the apartment in exactly the same condition as he/she received it. If there are problems with the condition of the property when the tenant moves in, there will be problems regarding to his/her maintenance responsibility when he/she moves out.
Ingoing and outgoing inspections are very important. Ensure your agent inspects the property together with the tenant on occupation. Every single item that may be a defect or a breakage and the full condition of the property must be noted and kept on file until the tenant is ready to vacate. On the date the tenant vacates, the agent together with the tenant will again do a full inspection of the property. This outgoing inspection is compared to the ingoing inspection and if there are no differences and no maintenance problems, the tenant will receive the deposit. If there are maintenance problems, the tenant has till the 7th of the following month, after they have vacated, to rectify. If the tenant does not want to take responsibility for the maintenance, the landlord or letting agent will fix it and payment will be made from the deposit. Also ensure the property is inspected every six months, and if the tenant is neglecting the property the agent becomes aware of this and will do reparations at the cost of the tenant. This will also play a factor when the lease is up for renewal, if the tenant is not maintaining the property the agent can decline to renew the lease.
Another problem we come across, when tenants live in the same apartment for 5 years, they might be under the impression the landlord was supposed to paint the property inside during this time. The tenant would like the property to be painted because, by now, the walls are very dirty, the bathroom is mouldy, etc. The same rule applies here: The tenant needs to keep the property in the same condition as he/she received it. Therefore, if the property needs to be painted inside, the tenant needs to do it.
If a dispute arises between the tenant and landlord as to who is responsible for the maintenance and no agreement is reached, then the dispute has to go to mediation. This can be via an attorney or the Rental Tribunal. This can take time so it is beneficial for the landlord to get the maintenance done in the meantime so the property can rented. The deposit will remain in the trust account of the letting agency or transferred to the trust account of the attorney handling the mediation. Once the dispute has been settled the deposit can be used either to pay for the maintenance or be refunded to the tenant.
There will be times that the cost for the maintenance is going to outweigh the deposit held. If this happens, as a landlord, please get the maintenance done and paid for. A property that is in a poor condition will never get rented. We understand it is frustrating to sometimes have to pay when a tenant neglects a property but this is your property and it needs to be kept in a good condition at all times.
There are many landlords that assume letting agents and agencies should take responsibility for the cost if a tenant damages the property and we have had many an argument about this. An agency can do numerous credit checks and make sure that a tenant can afford the rental but there are no fool proof checks to ensure that a tenant does not mess up the property. A referral from a previous landlord is always good but just because the previous property was looked after does not mean the tenant will give your property the same courtesy.
If a tenant has damaged something in your property they can only be held liable for this specific damage. For example, if a tenant dirties a wall and it needs painting but the colour cannot be matched, the tenant cannot be charged to paint the entire room only the damaged wall, even if the colour is different. The same goes for a broken tile, if the tile cannot be matched the tenant is only liable for replacing the tile that is broken. If the tile cannot be matched again the tenant cannot be held liable to tile the entire floor. It is normally where a dispute arises.
Lastly if a tenant is prepared to rent a property in a poor condition you are guaranteed that this tenant will only neglects the property further, so please, as landlord, keep your properties in good condition.
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