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Landlord Advice: What You Need to Know About Property Damage

May 16, 2019

This is a featured article

As a landlord, it is important to know the in’s and out’s of what to do in the event of damage to your property by those renting it. This ranges from malicious damage to accidental scuffs and scrapes. When is a landlord required to pay for repairs, and when is this the duty of the tenant?

Each year, landlords in the UK lose £4.5bn every year due to damage to rental properties. This subsequently makes up 43% of all disputes, making it the second most common cause of tensions. This handy guide from CIA Landlord Insurance may prove helpful in laying out the foundations for avoiding these disputes about who is responsible for paying out for these repairs.

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The tenancy agreement

Although it will not ultimately protect your property from being damaged, your saving grace in the event of damage is your tenancy agreement. This will clearly set out who is responsible for what, resulting in less chance of there being a falling out with your tenant. The tenancy agreement serves as a reference point throughout your tenancy, detailing what is expected of both parties.

It is highly advised to draw up an inventory, backed up with photographs, at the start of your tenancy to ensure you have a record of the condition of everything in the property. This will then give a reference point to determine what goes beyond fair wear and tear which will prove crucial when deciding if deductions from your tenant’s deposit are required.

The law

If more clarity is needed, you can refer to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 for the correct information on who is responsible for fixing any damage. Section 11 states:

“Make good any damage to the property caused by the behaviour or negligence of the tenant, members of his/her household or any other person lawfully visiting or living in the property.”

In basic terms, if the tenant or anyone invited into the property causes damage, for example, spills a glass of red wine, it is the tenant who is legally required to pay for or repair it.

Simply put, if the tenant you are renting to or anybody invited into the property causes damage such as spilling a glass of wine, for example, the tenant is legally obliged to pay for repairs or repair it themselves.

While varying from tenancy to tenancy, anything which was in the property already before tenants have moved in is ultimately your responsibility to maintain. This typically includes the structure and exterior of the property (roof, walls, windows, furnishings and exterior doors etc.) and any furnishings (baths, pipes, electrical wiring and heating etc.).

A small room

Safety first

It is highly important you keep a close eye on the safety features within your property as this is your responsibility to keep the smoke, accessible escape routes and fire-safe furnishings and fittings and carbon and heat detectors in good working order.

A maintenance schedule for your property in order to determine which checks need carrying out and when should be put together. If any issues around heat, safety and damp must be repaired as soon as possible as these can be a potential risk to your tenant. If your tenant is unhappy with your response time and decides to get the council involved, this can result in you facing prosecution and/or fines!

It is imperative you do what you can to keep your tenants safe, however necessary repairs are the only requirement from you. Home improvements, such as providing double glazing windows, are not an obligation, even if your tenants request them.

Fair wear and tear & genuine damage

Determining between fair wear and tear and what is deemed damage is one of the more difficult areas of property damage.

Fair wear and tear is defined as damage which will inevitably occur simply as a result of the property being lived in. This includes damage such as scuffs on the wall or worn carpets, and a tenant cannot be expected to pay this or have money deducted from their security deposits for repairs.

It is no longer down to the discretion as a landlord to classify between damage and fair wear and tear as there are laws which differentiate these. This is where your inventory, backed up with photographs, can prove highly beneficial.

Any destruction or damage which is more than simply a result of use, such as a broken chair or a burn in the carpet, this is deemed genuine damage. Accidents do happen, so this kind of damage should not escalate into disputes, but this damage is still deductible from your tenant’s deposit or in more extreme cases, legal action can be taken to seek compensation.

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Deducting from the deposit

Valid reasons must be given if you decide to go down the route of deducting money from your tenant’s deposit. Receipts or estimates for items can be requested by the tenants, as they are well within their rights to do so to ensure you are deducting the correct amount. Deductions can also be made for cleaning fees, missing items and unpaid rent. You can apply to a county court to file a claim if the cost of the damage is higher than the amount taken as a deposit.

If things have turned sour over damage between you and your tenant, you may have sufficient grounds to evict them. But make sure you take legal advice first, as it’s not something to be taken lightly.

You may have grounds for eviction if relationships break down between you and your tenant over damage to the property. Be sure to seek legal advice first, as this is not something to be taken lightly.

It is highly unlikely you will get through a full tenancy with little to no damage. These things occur and it is often not anybody’s fault. Be sure to keep communication between your tenant and yourself open to avoid disputes and clearly include consequences of any damage within the tenancy agreement.

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