Other landlords advice needed

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    Other landlords advice needed

    Ladies and Gentlemen (this is a long one but please bear with me),

    We have an issue with our tenants and need some knowledgeable advice/suggestions from other landlords before we consider legal options, we are new landlords of less than a year, with no experience.

    We moved abroad and decided to let out our property via a managing agent who viewed the unfurnished 2 bedroom ground floor apartment, which is one of two apartments within a large detached house, which we occupied for 10 years with no structural issues internal and external, we maintained the property to a high standard and kept up with all the necessary paperwork and payments associated to the property. As we are not in the country we left the management of viewings and inventory with a managing agent to then fall into a fully serviced managed agreement upon rental of the property.

    Within two weeks (May 2014) of the property being vacant, the agent made an assessment and agreed a reasonable rental price which was conducive to the area and the state of the property inside and out which was advertised as well presented and clean. We understand that there were several viewings and were advised by the agent of two specific individuals who "fit the criteria" we requested, working couples thirty something’s with no pets and children, however we missed this on the contract which only stated no pets, when we asked to review the reference checks it was apparent one was only aged 21 (the female), upon questioning that we felt they didn't fit the criteria we were advised that they were "a very nice young couple, quiet and were both in employment, they would be good tenants", so we agreed on the recommendation of the agent.

    A month after they moved in, the tenants were complaining that the property was in a poor state, the boiler didn't work, an unused plug socket needed to be closed off, doorbell didn't work and a dimmer switch was hanging off the wall, and the oven emergency switch to turn off in the event of a fire was too high....for the tenant to turn off as she was heavily pregnant!! Minor issues, it was all sorted at our expense. When we found this out and protested to the agent that they hadn't informed us of the pending new-born they fobbed us off and had recalled a conversation where we had discussed bringing up our own child at the property and it not being an issue, so we left it, not happy, and unable to recall confirming that this was OK. , from a legal perspective as its not in the contract we don't have a leg to stand on.
    8 weeks on they made a complaint about mould, in our 10 years we never had issues with mould, a little condensation a few years ago was discovered so we called a damp specialist to test the property, he even took a window out thinking some debris may have fallen on an air brick but the report gave it good health conclusion, the one thing he mentioned was ventilation, did we shower/bathe with the bathroom door open without using the extractor fan?, which we were doing, we rectified it by closing the bathroom door and using the extractor fan, the condensation never returned.

    The tenant is claiming that there is mould all over newly purchased furniture including baby items, they want a reduction in rent and have been less than complimentary about our property and want compensation. Via the agent and going along with their advice we asked them to ventilate the property correctly, put an additional air brick in, had a surveyor test the walls and floor, the report was inconclusive and stated the facts only. I spoke to the surveyor and posed the questions, can pre-existing mouldy furniture spread into the property, he agreed, would the tenant (and we cannot prove this) fail to correctly ventilate by drying damp clothes, not heating and leaving the bathroom door open when bathing cause this problem, he also agreed, he also made an initial suggestion that we could take this further if we want and recommended a damp proofing specialist, but he also said it was a small isolated situation that wouldn't warrant the additional cost incurred.

    In the time that the property was left vacant (2 weeks) the tenants moved in and 8 weeks later it is "infested with mould" doesn't ring true, we asked the agent that when they viewed it before going to market was it in a good condition, the inventory came back with one recommendation, the seal the bathroom light, which we paid to have completed. We cant believe that in clement weather conditions in the UK at the moment and the tenant claiming they are ventilating correctly the property is in such a bad state, the agent said "sometimes these things creep up". We suspect the tenant has caused this in some way and is not being truthful but we cannot prove such allegations.
    The tenants have said they wish to leave and take the deposit, but also want compensation for damaged goods, they have now got the local council involved who visited, are we are awaiting the assessment back.

    What have we done wrong here and what can we do? The agent is constantly defending the tenant, we don't know who to trust and where to go next as this is costing us more than it would if we had left that property vacant whilst abroad.

    Would be grateful for any input.
    Regards
    S.

    #2
    What have you done wrong?

    Been a mug I think.

    Let them clear off, then visit the UK staying in the flat to see what renovations are necessary if any. Then get a new agent.

    Comment


      #3
      What agreement did the tenant sign (six months AST then rolling monthly, 12 months then rolling)?

      The tenant is responsible for behaving in a tenantly manner, they have to keep the drains clear etc.
      If you lived there and there was no issue with mould, the situation is obviously manageable and the tenants should be capable of managing the situation.

      However, it's surprising that if you felt that the property was in good condition, "the boiler didn't work ... doorbell didn't work and a dimmer switch was hanging off the wall".
      That they needed to be remedied at your cost would indicate that this was the case.
      A boiler not working isn't a trivial thing.

      I'm not sure what is meant by an "unused" plug socket and why one would need closing off.
      The oven emergency switch height issue sounds like a crock - presumably it was there when the prospective tenant viewed the property.

      I'm not sure what "legal" options you are considering, but you don't really have any - as no one is actually doing anything, just wanting things that you are entitled to say no to.
      If anyone is considering legal action it would be your tenants, and, until they do, you don't know what they're asking for.

      I'd wait to hear what the council have to say.
      Oh, and I'd remind the letting agent that he is (for now possibly) your agent not the tenants.

      However, as JK0 says, it might be sensible just to let them go.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

      Comment


        #4
        I suspect that they might be trying to get you to give them a section 21 so that they can get social housing.

        i would write to them suggesting that it appears the property does not meet their needs and offer them a surrender of tenancy. Put the surrender of tenancy deed in with the letter.

        Comment


          #5
          Thank you, for responding, I have been reminded that the agent is working on our behalf, your suggestion may be a good one.

          Comment


            #6
            Thank you for responding, I am most grateful,

            We did have tenants in previously but they left after 6 months as we gave them section 21 for not paying the rent on time each month, the previous agent (who was useless in chasing the payments) refused to send us the inventory on leaving, so we employed the new agent to assess the property within the two week period it was vacant and let us know of any issues, like the boiler dimmer etc. Before the new tenants moved in we had the boiler serviced under our BG service plan as the boiler is less than two years old, the service engineer switched a valve causing the flow of hot water only in the bathroom, when the tenant moved in they advised us, we organised through the agent for BG to come and rectify the issue which they did but it took two weeks on and off to fit around the tenants schedule, they still had water hot and cold but it was erratic, solved in the end.

            Before we left the UK last year we also had a new circuit board put in as the previous one was very old, it was associated to storage
            heaters which were removed and replaced with modern radiators, the socket never worked the 10 years we lived there, as for the dimmer etc. must have been the previous tenants and not picked up by the new agent.

            I am just concerned regarding the council report as they visited without our knowledge and have only the perspective of the tenant, which was evident in the first surveyors report, they changed it at our request as the allegations the tenant was making were false and could be proved. The agent keeps reminding us that there is nothing more we can do until the report comes in, this is a worrying time for us.

            According to the tenant they want a reduction in rent, compensation and the problem to be fixed, we agree with the latter and feel that they are not upholding their end of the agreement by behaving in a tenant manner by correctly ventilating, the AST is 6 months then rolling.

            What’s making us question the fact that we think they are not ventilating, in the 8 weeks they have been there, the agent assessed the property a week before they moved in, they were there for 5 weeks before making the complaint of "severe" damp, the surveyor mentioned it was minor mould, the weather has been warm and clement.

            The tenant has mentioned a reduction in rent several times before the mould issue because of the maintenance works they had to endure (at a cost to us), is 21 on a low salary and due to have a baby next month, my gut instinct is telling me that they now realise they can’t afford the rent, as after rent, utilities and council tax equate over £1000 pcm before you even think about food shopping and other living costs, when I mentioned my theory to the agent, they responded by stating that they have been making payments on time each month, but if my instinct is correct, once the baby is born, the mother who previously worked is entitled to less than three months’ salary, thereafter if she returns to work full or part time the salary will drop if part time and outgoings increase for nursery fees if full time (I have been there myself so can appreciate the changing financial situation new parents face).

            If we let the tenants go, we could be faced with damage to the property as we understand the tenant is not prepared to remove any mould and has advised it is spreading.

            Thanks for your opinions.

            Comment


              #7
              Thank you for responding,

              I think they are looking to be housed by the council and using us and our property as a quick entry onto their register.

              If we offer them a surrender of tenancy, where do we stand with the deposit?

              S

              Comment


                #8
                Regarding the deposit, I suggest you get a check out report, and charge for any damage, and any unpaid rent.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I'd dump your agent as well - they seem incapable. Mind you how to find a good agent is a minefield.
                  Agree with BGO about social housing.

                  Next time get a more mature tenant(s), ones with a better employment history of stability and one who is not pregnant. Get a previous history of where they lived and how that went.

                  Overall, depending on the rental value I might include a 'cleaner' or person know to you to inspect to verify what goes on regarding ventilation etc and only let on a 6 month shorthold with S21 in place early on.



                  Freedom at the point of zero............

                  Comment


                    #10
                    If it is the tenant causing the mould, once they leave it won't get too much worse.
                    Getting rid of mould is usually quite easy, unless it's damaging paintwork.

                    At the moment, while you are feeling some stress, you don't really have an actual problem.
                    The tenant is complaining about mould that you believe (credibly) is caused by them.
                    The tenant can't quit the property until the end of the AST without your agreement.
                    The tenant wants the rent to be reduced, and, again, that depends on your agreement.
                    The council haven't issued a report yet, and it could say pretty much anything.

                    You can wait for the report.
                    You can make a without prejudice offer to the tenant explaining that you do not think there is anything you can do about the damp,
                    it wasn't an issue previously and you cannot agree to reduce the rent.
                    You are prepared (assuming you are!) for them to end the tenancy early as you can appreciate that they do not want to live there and it's best to simply end things.

                    If they agree, you're going to have an issue about the deposit (because they won't agree that the mould should be cleaned at their expense).
                    If it were me, I'd simply return the deposit in full (unless there's other actual damage) and just write it off as a bad event.
                    Then get everything cleaned up, and rent the property via a different agent, making it clear that if the tenant doesn't use the extractor fan, they might cause some mould.
                    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Update!!!!!!

                      The tenants now want to stay due to "her condition"

                      Now we are stuck with them until next May!!

                      We resigned ourselves to them leaving, now we really want them to go, any ideas how we can get them out?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        As long as you haven't reduced the rent, simply collect the rent each month and "enjoy" being a landlord.

                        They'll leave the property in a poor condition now or next May or whenever.
                        May as well earn enough to pay for the mould clean up.
                        Presumably it was a 12 month AST - only do 6 months next time.

                        What happened to the council report?
                        Was the deposit protected and was the tenant given the Prescribed Information within 28 days?
                        Are you registered with HMRC as a non-resident landlord and are you being paid the rent less the basic rate of tax?
                        When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                        Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Hi there,

                          Thanks for your advice and guidance, according to the EA its a 12 month but we couldn't see it specified anywhere on the contract, council report not yet come through, EA protected deposit through a scheme, we don't know which one as its not mentioned in the contract, just verbally, I guess we should see scheme receipt from the EA.

                          Not sure what you mean by prescribed information within 28 days?

                          We are registered with HMRC as a non resident landlord, there is no income tax applied to declare annually.

                          Have arranged to inspect the property ourselves, apart from the mould issue which they have said that they are not willing to clear up and remove, potentially making the issue worse, have you any guidance as to what else we should be looking for, as they are clearly irresponsible tenants and we don't want to miss a spot of paint out of place.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            The contract should have the start and end date / duration of the Assured Period of the tenancy.
                            That's not an optional thing, it's a requirement, otherwise there is probably no Assured Period, it's a periodic (monthly if that's the rent cycle) tenancy from the start.

                            You have an obligation to protect the tenants deposit and then give a specific set of information about where the deposit is protected (the "Prescribed Information") to the tenant with 30 days of receiving it.
                            Obviously you're using an agent for that, but they are satisfying your obligation and if they don't do both parts of the process, you're responsible.

                            There should be some income tax to declare (does your agent deduct basic rate tax before they forward it to you or have you HMRC's formal consent for them not to)?
                            Either way, if you're receiving rent, there's going to be some income and therefore some tax documentation.

                            If you inspect the property, you should get the check in inventory from the agent, as that's what the tenant has to match when they leave.
                            The tenant has no real liability to maintain the property while they live there (whatever the agreement says about keeping it in good condition) but they do have to return it to you in the same condition that they found it less fair wear and tear.
                            When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                            Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                            Comment

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