It’s a minefield out there…
We have had mixed experiences with our landlords and agencies and have found that there appear to be two extremes. Our first flat in Rustington, West Sussex, was fine. It wasn’t over described and had been decorated well, needing nothing when we moved in. Our relationship with the agents was cordial, though with the exception of moving in and moving out, we never needed to contact them.
Our second property though appeared to be right at the other end of the scale.
This property in Sherborne, Dorset had been described as a spacious three-bedroom semi with garage and front and rear gardens that had been well maintained and was our last property to see before relocating to Dorset for work.
When we got to see the house, it didn’t appear to be in as good condition as it had been described and it was quite a shock to see the real thing.
As far as the garage was concerned, contrary to being big enough for two cars, it wasn’t even big enough for one. Sure you could get a car in, but then you couldn’t open the car door to get out, unless you were driving a roller skate.
The grass in the gardens hadn’t been cut in ages and leylandii had been planted as hedging in the garden between ‘our’ house and its neighbour and due to neglect, had become huge. The rear garden was just a mass of dandelions and brambles.
The interior of the house was appalling and despite telling us that the place would be professionally cleaned before we moved in, we arrived to find the property hadn’t been touched since the last time we were there.
The carpets and paintwork were grubby and the gaping hole in the stud wall above the sink in the bathroom, where someone had presumably punched it, still hadn’t been addressed. The lino flooring in the kitchen was disgusting and the bright red paint on the walls of the master bedroom had still not been neutralised as promised. More distressingly, an entire pot of light-coloured paint had been spilt over the carpet, leaving a hard stain.
The metal-framed window in the smallest bedroom was bent out of shape, which meant it didn’t close and the pink vinyl paper in the hallway and up the stairway was peeling – hanging off in places. According to the landlord, this was all supposed to have been sorted out, but alas it had not.
It seemed it was down to us to keep prodding to make it happen and believe me, it was a headache.
Despite numerous attempts, we got nowhere with the landlord or the agency and unable to tolerate the bedroom décor any longer, we took it upon ourselves to decorate. It wasn’t expensive since it was only paint and I repaired and made good the hole in the bathroom wall. We vacuumed the stair carpet repeatedly and eventually brought it back to something near clean.
Several weeks after we moved in, the landlord replaced the bedroom carpet, the lino in the kitchen and then sorted out the central heating – which stopped working.
We were expected to maintain the garden, but I argued that it was the landlord’s responsibility to get the garden to a condition where maintenance was possible. He duly arrived months later with a chainsaw and made a complete mess of the trees, but that was down to him not us.
When we completed the purchase on our current property, we left ourselves a week or more to come back and clean, to leave the house in a decent state, but found we had been locked out as the landlord had been round and changed the locks – even though we still had time left on our contract for which we had paid rent.
Needless to say, there was a complete difference in the property when we left compared to what we moved into and when we asked for our deposit back, the agency said they were keeping it as there was a light in the garage that didn’t work; that she was sure had been before we moved in.
I pointed out the work we had done and suggested that unless they wanted me to get in touch with my solicitors as we had been locked out of the house prior to the end of the tenancy, they had better rethink.
The cheque arrived shortly after that.
Nowadays, things have changed.
It seems that during the intervening time between us moving here, restrictions have popped up that make renting more difficult that I have ever known.
These have always been required, but now include background checks as well and can cost from £50 per person, to £150 and don’t forget the VAT on top of that. This is money you won’t get back.
There is also the security deposit which is usually six weeks rent – or a month and a half. There is no VAT on this and providing you give the property back in the condition it was give to you, there should be no issues.
Sometimes, agencies will also charge you for the contract, which can often be as much as £100.
No Children, No Pets, No Smoking
This is a no-no just about everywhere now.
Pets in so many properties now are another no-no.
One more thing you’re not allowed in many places if you’re renting.
Why children, pets and smoking?
Prior to this prospective move to a rented property, I would have expected this to apply only where the property was furnished.
There’s a lot more to damage, a lot more to wear out and a lot more risk, but in an unfurnished property?
It doesn’t seem logical, after all, we are only talking cosmetics aren’t we? Surely, they can be rectified. I agree, carpets can be a bit of a pain, but are easily cleaned. Paintwork too can be clean or refreshed with paint to bring the quality back and remove any traces of pets, children or smoking, so why the fuss?
Regardless if you have no children, no pets and don’t smoke, you will still leave a mark on a property if you’ve been in there over a six month contract. If you’ve extended and are into a second or third term, that’s not just likely, it’s a certainty.
Even if you’ve hardly been there, sunlight will change the colour of the paintwork on walls and if pictures are hung, this will leave areas less affected and a different tone. Furniture would also cause this to happen, since very often it is pushed against the walls in rooms to give more space in the middle.
Smells will also be present, especially in bedrooms. Even if you’re not there regularly, the lack of airing will cause the rooms to become dusty and take on a musty odour. Otherwise, it’s likely that you would smell basic living smells.
This means that carpets would likely as not need cleaning, the paint refreshing and so forth, which is no more than you would expect if you had pets, smoked or had children.
So why all the fuss?
Smoking is looked upon as a fire risk, so that might explain that one, but why ban it?
Why not just ask that if the tenants are smokers, they provide their own insurance to cover the building as well as clean before they leave and remove all traces?
This is more understandable in flats than houses as children can be noisy – as can some pets, but that’s life. Surely that shouldn’t preclude them from living somewhere. If the house or flat was sold to someone with a family, pets and a smoking habit, you’d be able to do nothing, so why should it differ as a tenant?
Children and animals can cause damage.
So we’re back to decorating and making good.
You’re probably going to have to do that anyway, so what’s the difference?
Anyway, you can’t fight the pink.
Regardless on the restrictions placed upon prospective tenants, we still have to live somewhere however, once you are in your new house, flat, cottage or whatever, here are some tips that might be of useful:
- You would be well advised to take photos before you take possession as the condition of the property will likely as not, be argued over when you try to get your deposit back.
- Ensure that the oil tank or gas tank for the central heating is full – if one exists – before you move in, because it will be expected to be refilled upon your departure.
- Before signing the contract, ensure that the taps all work; hot and cold water runs as it should, toilets flush and that the central heating works, if it’s installed.
- Ensure that the garden, if there is one, is in a condition where it should then just be a case of maintaining.
- Ensure that imperfections in carpeting or other forms of flooring are noted and that the agent is aware, so that it’s not blamed on you when you leave.
- Ensure similar with paintwork as it’s not unusual to see evidence of the previous occupant’s wall-hangings, furniture etc. Don’t let them blame you for those.
- Go through any inventory that is provided and make sure that everything listed is present or you may be expected to replace the missing items.
- Make any repairs to damage that you caused however small. It’s much more sensible for you to buy some filler and a few tins of paint to make good, rather than lose the security deposit – which you will need to move to your new home, whether rented or otherwise.
If you are a smoker or have friends who smoke that like to visit, you could offer to repaint where necessary and have the carpets cleaned before you leave. You might also arrange your own insurance, therefore safeguarding the property. The landlord might well be agreeable to that.
Remember too that renting need not be an unpleasant experience, but don’t expect it always to flow smoothly.