In this blog post by LettingFocus.com, we explain why smart and insured tenants can cut a landlords repair bills, especially repairs due to damage caused by leaks of water.
It’s that very cold time of the year when landlords are always pretty busy.
As soon as the weather gets cold, the inevitable boiler breakdown will occur and it’s then that it is imperative that you have a good local heating mechanic (or engineer as they are called in the UK) to come out and affect repairs, fast.
And if you have a dopey tenant, it’s often around this time of year that they decide to forget to tell you about that small leak that keeps making the kitchen floor wet. Their delay will cause even more damage to decorations, carpets, walls and ceilings in the rest of the building.
On top of that, the cool, wet summer of 2011 has meant that condensation problems are very bad this year. So tenants who fail to air their homes, will be seeing the characteristic spotty, black condensation-related mould appear on the inside of exterior north and east facing walls.
Get Smart Tenants
Landlords’ best bet to manage issues with damp and leaks is to ensure that they choose tenants who are clued up and practical in the first place.
This is because clued up tenants are a landlord’s first line of defence. So when they discover a leak the occupiers should always know how to turn the mains water off. (All landlords should give their tenant customers a guided tour and leave them with a laminated guide which points out where the water stop valve, gas cut off switch and the electricity control unit is.)
And, next, the tenant should be straight on the phone to you or to your people who can fix the problem permanently as soon as possible.
I try to select tenants who have some of what my grandmother used to call “gumption.” And whether they have gumption or not, often becomes apparent before you let, when you are still taking references.
The smart ones (the ones with gumption) always decide whether they like a property quickly, and they don’t delay in getting hold of the references and documents you need to see. (The really smart ones – less than one percent of all applicants – have references with them when they go out to view a place!)
These kinds of people are my tenants, though occasionally, as is the case now, I will end up with one with little gumption who has somehow slipped through my net.
At the tenancy inception, along with the House Guide, I always write to my tenants to “strongly advise them to take out contents insurance and to ensure that this also includes accidental damage cover.”
Of course, I can’t force them to take out suitable and extensive contents insurance, but if they do so, it should mean that things like carpets are covered if, say, they drop a hot iron on it or spill wine on the carpet. And I won’t have to go to the trouble of making a deduction against their deposit, if it was their fault – which I hate doing.
If tenant negligence and delay has made damage worse than it would have been, a landlord is fully entitled to make a deduction from the deposit. The reason is that a tenant has a duty to behave in a tenant like manner, which means he should take the same reasonable precautions as any other householder would.
Right now, I unfortunately have a set of tenants whose negligence in not sorting out an obvious leak quickly (either by fixing it themselves or calling my plumber) will mean that they will have to pay the bulk of the cost to fix the decoration that’s been damaged.
Though damage to walls and ceilings is a claim on the buildings insurance, as is typical of most buildings insurance for let properties in blocks these days, the excess is a whopping £500, so I’m looking to the tenants to make up this excess cost.
Importance of a Good Inventory
Of course, I had a thorough independent inventory done at the outset of the tenancy with photos, and the tenants have already admitted negligence, so there is not likely to be a problem.
It’s just a shame that tenants who lacked “gumption” managed to slip through my net. And it’s a shame, for them, that come of the cost to fix the problem will have to come out of their deposit.
And unless they start to show some gumption and common sense, I may not offer to extend the tenancy at the end of the fixed term.
Shop Around for Buildings Insurance
Our final observation is that landlords should look carefully at the excesses on buildings insurance claims.
Many insurers now impose very high excesses for claims for damage caused by water leaks. As ever, the best advice is to shop around for the best insurance deal – and that means both premium and level of cover.
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