Q. I am a Landlord with property in the UK but I currently reside overseas. I decided to manage the property myself to save some cash, however I having left the tenant in the property for the last 3 years I now want to sell. Having visited the property I was appalled to find the apartment in a terrible state of disrepair and generally not clean and looked after. I thought as they were paying the rent and they assured me they had a weekly cleaner I had nothing to worry about. Can I pursue the tenant for negligence of the apartment and deduct damages from their deposit?
A. Owning investment property can be a real accomplishment and a great nest egg for the future if you let it sit to get the most out of your capital growth and appreciation. However, it must be handled correctly if you are going to protect your asset. First of all I would NEVER advise an overseas Landlord to manage the property themselves. It’s so easy to be fooled into convincing yourself everything is fine just because the rent is paid on time every month.
Routine visits every six months are imperative if you are to keep a close eye on the condition of the property and make sure that the tenant is looking after the place as they should. A visit after the first six months will flag up any issues that may have arisen and the tenant can then be told to put these things right, whether it means leaving a window open to ventilate the rooms after showers or cleaning a bit more thoroughly to prevent lime scale building up, all these little observations prevent long term damage.
As long as you have an AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement) there should be a clause in there somewhere that reminds the tenant that they have a liability to report any leaks, possible problems to prevent long-term damage to the property. The tenant will be liable for any leaks/damage that should have been reported but has not done so to the Landlord or their Agent and has allowed deteriorating rather than letting you know so that you can send in a contractor to repair.
You will need to obtain quotes for the damage and also get proof from the contractor that the damage has been made considerably worse by not being reported /attended to sooner if you are going to pursue the tenant for damages. General wear and tear is acceptable but complete negligence of the property is not.
For future reference do find yourself an Arla/NAEA Licenced Agent to look after the property management of the property for you if you are not able to have a ‘hands on’ approach and be able to carry out routine inspections every six months. Management fees may seem a little expensive but they do prevent any major disasters such as this, so in the long run you will actually be better off – remember prevention is far better than cure. And being a Landlord will be a far more stress free experience than it is right now.