I was pleased to see that the government have published a check-list with advice and guidance on how to rent a property for tenants. To read their guide, click here.
The guide is great and provides tenants with the basic knowledge they need in order to rent a property. I’ve met too many tenants that do not know their rights when it comes to renting a property, especially with first time renters or those from abroad. There are an increasing number of tenants that I have spoken to who take the advice of a lettings agency without questioning them, and the guide published by the government gives tenants advice on what to look for when speaking with an agent. I’ve had situations with tenants where they are willing to hand over their money without really doing their own checks. Far too often I’ve heard the expression, ‘I love the property, I can pay a deposit right now’.
A property is a huge investment whether you are renting or letting a property out. For tenants, they hand over a huge amount of money over the course of their tenancy and it saddens me when I speak to some who have had terrible experiences in the past.
As I love to tell personal stories based on updates on the property industry, I’m going to share a story with you which illustrates the lack of knowledge that tenants have about their rights.
An applicant was completing their paperwork before their big move and we had started chatting about ther current home. They mentioned they were having problems with the landlord and the agent regarding the release of their security deposit. When they first moved in to that property, the check-in and inventory reported damp and mould issues in one of the rooms, and they were advised by the agent that they will inform the landlord with the view of getting it repaired.
However, the landlord failed to repair it and the tenants periodically reminded the landlord and agent that the mould issue hasn’t been fixed and it seems to be getting worse. The response was the same every time from the landlord – ‘no problem, i’ll get it looked at’.
They stayed at the property for 2 years and the landlord did not send anyone to look at the issue to get it fixed. As it was time to leave, they didn’t report it in the final few months of the tenancy and at this point, the mould had gotten considerably worse.
The tenants told me that the landlord was going to deduct some money off the deposit for the cost of the repairs for the mould issue. I thought this was strange but the tenants thought it was normal for this to happen as the mould got worse throughout their tenancy and they thought it might have happened because of the way they they were living there and assumed they were partly responsible. I asked if they had agreed to the deductions already to which they said ‘no’.
Now, agents have no obligation to offer tenants advice but they do have a duty of care towards them. Appalled at what I had heard, I advised them that they shouldn’t agree to the deductions. They had reported the issue to the landlord on many occasions and they had written evidence of this, so how can the landlord attempt to extract money from the tenant to repair an issue which is the landlord’s legal obligation? The health risks associated with sever mould are well documented and the tenants are lucky that they didn’t suffer any health issues from it.
The tenants were unsure of my advice, but I assured them that they had every right to contest the landlord’s proposed deductions. Reluctantly, they said they will try to contest it.
A week later, I received a phone call from the tenants who were extremely happy and grateful for the advice I gave to them. The landlord agreed to give them their deposit back without deductions for the mould.
The example I have given illustrates the need for more information and guidance for tenants. They are unaware of their rights because there isn’t much information out there for them, which is why the governments checklist is so important.