This week’s blog post features Ellie Garbett, licensed ARLA letting agent, book keeper, landlord and owner of Habitat Lettings. Read Ellie’s top hacks to help take the pain away during end of tenancy inspections.
Ellie says: “We are fortunate that we haven’t had many absolute horror stories. The majority of tenants are good and leave the property as they found it. But standards of cleanliness differ. You can’t be judgemental, you just have to accept that some people will be comfortable with a lower standard of cleaning than you would be.
“Damage is always a lot easier to prove when it comes to disputes over the deposit. But it is very important to have a good inventory at the start, preferably with photographic evidence of the condition of the property.
“A failure to clean properly is not the same as ‘fair wear and tear’, and tenants need to understand that. Clear communication is essential.”
Here are Ellie’s top six tips for property rental survival.
1. Let it go – emotionally speaking
We find that there are three types of landlords:
• Portfolio landlords who view the property as a business and will see the costs of paying for cleaning or damage repair averaged out across the properties,
• Single property landlords who have proportionally more invested in that property,
• Homeowner turned landlord, a person who has previously lived in the property and is now letting it out.
The third type of landlord is the most emotionally involved with the property and will take any cleaning or damage issues personally. They can find it difficult to accept tenants’ changes.
To survive as a landlord, you have to be able to view the property as a business asset. It generally takes a couple of tenancies before this kind of landlord can let their emotional attachment go.
2. Focus on ovens, extractor fans and bathrooms
If there is a cleaning issue, it will almost always be the oven, the extractor fan or the bathroom – things you don’t necessarily see and can be easy to miss.
A grease build-up in an extractor fan or oven is a fire hazard, as is mould in a bathroom that hasn’t been ventilated regularly.
Explain to tenants clearly at the start of the tenancy that they are required to leave these clean. Take photographs. And show tenants a list of prices charged by commercial cleaners to clean ovens and kitchens.
3. Use the same decorating scheme in all properties
No matter how good your tenants’ cleaning is, it is inevitable that you will have to repaint scuffed walls and freshen up key areas such as the kitchen and living room. New paint makes a property look fresh and clean and makes it easier and quicker to re-let.
If you own multiple properties it is much simpler to use the same neutral colours through each property and keep spare tins of paint. Then when it comes to touch-ups, you will always have the correct colour paint. The same goes for carpets. Keep off-cuts, not least because of the next point —
4. Hair straighteners are the leading cause of damage to carpets
We are waiting for a return to the big hair of the 1980s so hair straighteners will go in the bin. But until then, tenants can cause a lot of damage to carpets and furniture with their heated straightening irons.
Occasionally, if the burn is not too deep, you can literally ‘shave’ the top of the carpet to remove the burnt fibres. More likely you will have to patch it by cutting out the burnt section and inserting a new piece of carpet from your stash of off-cuts (see above), sized to fit.
If this is not possible, you will have to re-carpet the room.
Checking the carpets is one of the reasons we wait until the property is completely empty before making our final inspection.
5. Ask for a higher deposit if there are pets
We tend to ask for a higher deposit if tenants have pets and the majority of people are happy with that. They understand that dogs and cats can cause damage, including scratches on floors and doors. Dogs and cats can also spread fleas through the property which then have to be eradicated by professional pest controllers, and in the worst case, they may not be fully toilet trained.
More importantly though, allergies to pet hair can be very serious and can make people severely ill. If your tenants have kept pets in the property, you will need specialist anti-allergy cleaning services and air purifiers to protect future tenants who may suffer from allergies.
6. Find a spectacularly good commercial cleaning company
A really good commercial cleaning company will have access to chemicals and techniques that are not available to the general public. They will achieve an extremely high standard of cleaning. And they will be able to deal with everything from squatters to dead bodies.
A commercial deep clean may prolong the length of time a property can go without redecorating. And specialist cleaners will carry out emergency cleaning. It’s always useful to have their contact number in your phone.
Finally, it is useful to compare the cost of a commercial clean with the cost of having a property sitting empty. A property that is not sparkling clean will fail to attract tenants, whereas a commercially cleaned property can be back on the market and let within days.
About Habitat Lettings
Habitat Lettings is a young, vibrant agency fully focused on the priorities and needs of the modern day Landlord. Unlike estate agents, their loyalties aren’t divided by dealing with property sales and mortgages. Put simply, they’re a lettings agency which offers great service both to tenants and to landlords.
Habitat Lettings is registered and accredited with major schemes and bodies relating to the property rental industry. They strive to offer a fantastic, friendly, flexible service supported by in-depth knowledge of the property rental market.