Protecting a buy-to-let property from potentially damaging occurrences is a major priority for landlords, as it can lead to deposit disputes and financial loss. If you are lucky enough you might find the perfect tenant or tenants, that will maintain the property to the standard that it was originally rented in and inform you of any damage that might occur throughout the tenancy so that agreements can be made on who should pay for the damage. It is likely, however, that as a landlord you will encounter tenants that will refuse to pay for damage that they have caused to the property.
Always Take Full Inventories & Security Deposits
An inventory, along with accompanying digital media such as photographs, is one of the most important documents relating to rental properties, as they are a vital tool in legally benchmarking the condition of the property for reference. Without an inventory, you will be unable to demonstrate that any damage has occurred to the property. It should be signed by both the tenant and the landlord on the date that the tenants move in.
If you rent out your property on an assured shorthold tenancy, any security deposit that is taken must be registered with a Government approved deposit protection scheme. The deposit will be held if the tenants wish to dispute any deductions you want to make for any damages. If you don’t rent out your property on an assured shorthold tenancy, you can accept valuable items such as a car or watch, instead of money. These items won’t be protected by a scheme.
Make Regular Inspections of the Property
Even if you have performed thorough checks on your tenants before allowing them to move into the property, it is still vitally important to regularly inspect and evaluate the overall condition of your rental property. These inspections should be conducted every 3 months then reduced to twice a year after a series of positive quarterly inspections. During these periodic inspections, any issues that arise with the property can then be discussed transparently.
Remember, you must give your tenant at least 24 hours notice if you wish to visit the property for any reason, including an inspection and you must conduct the inspection at a reasonable time of the day.
What Can I Do if a Tenant Damages My Property?
When damage to your rental property occurs, there is no reason to escalate things unless necessary. The tenancy agreement should highlight the fact that the tenant is responsible for any accidental damage to the rental property. You can only hold your tenant responsible for damage to the property that could have been avoided and they are not liable for general wear and tear. Small scuffs on the walls or carpets showing signs of traffic would all usually be considered as general wear and tear.
Your tenant has a duty to inform you of any significant damage that they have caused to the property during the tenancy. If the damage was accidental and your tenant has a good history then consider simply talking to them to work things out. You might find that your tenant is willing to accept responsibility and has a plan to repair the damage. If the tenant cannot afford to pay to repair any damage that they have accepted responsibility for, then you are within your rights to deduct the cost of repairs from the tenant’s security deposit.
If you do want to make deductions, you will need to provide sufficient proof that the tenant has caused damage to the property, which is why you must take an inventory. If your tenant owes more than the amount of the security deposit, then you can try to recover your expenses through the courts.
Protect Your Interests with Landlord Insurance
It is of vital importance that you keep all evidence relating to the damage, along with the receipts for repairs. These documents will be needed if you are forced to pursue your tenant through the courts and if you wish to make an insurance claim.
Ashburnham Insurance provides flexible and comprehensive landlord insurance for freehold and leasehold buy-to-let properties. A strong buy-to-let insurance policy will cover a property owner’s liability and can also include contents insurance for any furnishings that you might want to protect from potential damage by the tenant, such as ripped curtains and stained carpets. The cost of your landlord insurance policy will depend on a number of factors including the property and tenant type, the types of insurance cover you choose, and the levels of cover that you need.
Contact us on FREEPHONE 0800 1696137 to find out more.