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Protect Your London Rental Property From Tenant Damage: Essential Tips

Updated: May 9

As a landlord, protecting your property from potential damages is a high-ranking priority. This is your livelihood, after all, and it is a big leap of faith to find tenants to occupy the home that will treat it right. There are always cases of tenants mistreating houses that they rent, and while some damage is unavoidable, steps do exist for landlords to mitigate the risk factors. This guide will discuss just how to protect your London rental from tenant damage, and what you should be doing as a responsible landlord to minimise the potential.

Inventory Documentation

The inventory is an essential document that is often overlooked, as it is not necessarily a legal requirement to have one. However, it is sensible in the context of protecting yourself from future claims of landlord neglect, monitoring furnishings and features, and assessing the property once a tenancy has ended compared to when it starts. If a problem arises in the future after the tenant vacates, it is a reliable point of reference for the decision-making process and will dictate which side is awarded compensation or left alone. The following key factors should be included in any property inventory:

  1. A section in the document for each room or area in the house.

  2. Written acknowledgment of any pre-existing damage around the property. This is aesthetic (peeling wallpaper, scuffed paint, watermarks, floor scratches) and for features too (any furniture or fittings like curtain rails).

  3. A complete list of landlord owned furniture and possessions in the building.

Addressing repairs quickly can prevent minor issues from escalating into significant damages.
Promptly Address Maintenance Requests: Respond promptly to maintenance requests from tenants.

You can download a template, create your own or ask a letting agent but the document should be reviewed, viewed, and signed by both parties on the rental agreement to validate it. If you don’t have one and the tenancy comes to an end, there is no real proof that what you’re claiming is true.

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Security Deposit from the Tenants

The security deposit is another protective measure for both the tenant and landlord. It is usually capped at one month’s rent plus two weeks and exists as a security blanket for any damages caused by the tenants that may require repairs when they move out. If you do not reply to a return deposit request within the legal timeframe, as explained here by UpperKey, you lose your right to claim compensation in this way.

Damaged carpets are a perfect example here. If a carpet is not properly cleaned or is left in a state beyond repair, a landlord is able to charge the tenant the full cost of replacement flooring for the room in question. Instead of waiting for payment, the money can legally be deducted from the deposit, after the tenant has been notified and given the opportunity to contest it. Here is a list of further reasons that landlords may make a claim on a deposit:

  • Rent arrears

  • Unpaid bills

  • Broken or missing furniture listed on the inventory

  • Dilapidated décor with no attempts to tidy or spruce up

Therefore, if the tenant wishes to retain the full amount of the deposit put down at the start of their tenancy agreement, they agree to maintain a certain level of acceptable standards over the course of their time as residents.

Landlord Insurance

Landlords have various options when it comes to insurance for their rental properties. What you chose will depend on how much you want to pay out per month, and how much coverage you want for the property. There are three main types that lead the market of smaller options. These are:

  1. Building Insurance

  2. Contents Insurance

  3. Liability Insurance

Building insurance covers your property from damage as a result of external factors like the weather or internal factors like a building fire. Most mortgage companies stipulate this as a prerequisite for any agreement on a rental property, so most landlords have it. Even so, if there is no mortgage, it is still a smart investment for the purpose of protection.

Contents insurance covers everything else inside the building that is not structural. Carpets, curtains, curtain rails, kitchen cupboards, bathroom mirrors – basically anything left in place in the makeup of the interior. This is fewer subscriptions to contents insurance but is still worth exploring.

 Liability insurance protects landlords from legal claims or lawsuits related to property-related injuries or damages
Landlords have three main insurance options for their rental properties: Building Insurance, Contents Insurance, and Liability Insurance.

Liability insurance is for any accidents that happen at the property that may be the fault of the owner. Since you, the landlord, are the owner, you are technically liable if something happens to a tenant, and it is because of a structural fault or similar. So, while this doesn’t cover tenant damage, it covers you financially if a claim is brought against you.

Vet Tenants Through an Agency

One way to limit the potential risk factor of having tenants in your rental offer is to enlist the services of a letting agent. UpperKey discusses the advantages of choosing an estate agent management method over doing it yourself, and there are some clear benefits. This is especially true in the area of ensuring the prospective tenants are legitimate, have validated references and there are no major red flags that would be otherwise missed like a substantial history of defaulted payments. A letting agent can also handle the finding process and create a list of viable candidates for you to select from when the time is right. They have fixed methods and procedures in place to vet tenants against a compatibility system and ensure that anyone entering the agreement is of low risk to your property.

A favourable tenant profile may look like this:

  • A couple with a dependable salary

  • A good credit score

  • Positive past references from employer and previous landlord

  • A history of paying rent on time and in full

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Regular Inspections

Property inspections are a standard part of a tenancy agreement that most seasoned tenants will be accustomed to. These can take place every six months or yearly and exist to ensure that property maintenance is not slipping. Between the tenant and the letting agent, an ongoing DIY schedule and expectations about appearances can be upheld. While the landlord has a responsibility to repair and resolve any reported issues, the tenant must make the agency aware of the issue before it becomes too costly or insurmountable. Inspections can avoid this eventuality altogether.

Take note that the current law dictates landlords are not allowed to just turn up with no agenda or forewarning to a property with tenants living inside it. There has to be written notification in advance of the visit and there also must be a clear reason for the proposal. If the tenant does not receive this, they are within their rights to refuse your entry without further reason. So, don’t forget to do this bit if you want to pop round and inspect how things are going.

 Landlords must provide written notification in advance for property inspections
Property inspections are essential to ensure property maintenance and address any issues in a timely manner.

Be Fair and Legal

If you do your job as a landlord, your tenants are more likely to do theirs and therefore property management in London becomes much easier. For large cities, it is more difficult to sift through the potential candidates. Furthermore, given the demand is so high for rental properties owing to the current state of the housing market, it becomes harder still. Yet the same is true in reverse and securing a dependable and fair landlord can sometimes feel like a real struggle. There is heavy regulation in the industry, but it is not always adhered to and even harder to combat when the scope for replacement tenants is still apt and competitive. So, while it is a bit of a game of chance, there is an opportunity to forge a long-term investment opportunity if you fulfil your obligations correctly and amicably.

Some property owners that let out their buildings like to have a formal relationship with their tenants, whereas others prefer to stay anonymous. Wherever your preferences lie, it is important to maintain integrity with your practices in whichever context. Keep up with maintenance and repair requests, ensure building standards and legal requirements are met on all levels and don’t commit any illegal evictions. These are all basic rules and ethics landlords should abide by. If you do your bit, the tenant is more likely to look after the space as well as, in this housing model, it is a reciprocal process that requires collaboration from both sides of the agreement.

London rental properties are scattered all over the city. Landlords may not even live close by or even in the city itself, but they still have a duty of care to their properties. They want peace of mind that the building is not being damaged by malicious tenants, and to ensure that the person or persons they are letting to is a credible prospect. It is a business arrangement primarily, and the majority of landlords rent property to generate additional income.

Therefore, it has to be a viable arrangement and the fear of a property being damaged is very real and needs managing. Take the above steps into account when considering ways to combat the risk factors and ensure the agreement is upheld on both sides of the coin.

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