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Lizzy
15-09-2006, 18:14 PM
I am a landlord who is due to have my first tenant check out. Just wondered if anyone had got any useful advice. My tenant has been renting off of me for nearly 2 years. The house was in an immaculate condition at the start of the tenancy. I have carried out a few inspections throughout the tenancy, and although the cleaning left a lot to be desired, there did not seem to be any damage to the property. The tenant asked if she could sand and revarnish a solid hardwood floor that had started to show signs of wear, and i agreed. On a following visit, the floor was patchy. The tenant told me that she intended to get the floor re-sanded. This was never carried out. I telephoned the tenant and explained that on check out, i would expect the property to be thoroughly cleaned, and i mentioned, that if the floor was not re-sanded by the tenant, then i would need to have that carried out, which would result in a cost to the tenant. The tenant also informed me that she had lost an external door key and some window keys. Should i take the cost of these from the deposit? Is that petty? Not sure how strict to be when i go to carry out the final check. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

MrShed
15-09-2006, 18:15 PM
Perhaps a silly question but you do have a fully detailed inventory signed at moving in by the tenant yes?

Lizzy
15-09-2006, 18:20 PM
OMG, thanks for your quick reply! Yes i do have an inventory. It stated what was in the property (only fixtures and fittings, not furniture), and what condition everything was in (flooring, walls etc). I do get on quite well with the tenant, and that's probably going to be my downfall - agreeing to everything and then realising (financially) that i have made a mistake.

Ericthelobster
15-09-2006, 18:52 PM
Probably depends in part on how good a tenant they've been - if they've been really reliable for two years and kept the place well, then IMHO it would be petty to charge £2 for a new key (unless you consider it's necessary to change the locks as a result? which would be a different matter.

If you're going to charge her for putting right a trashed floor, then that will way outweigh the cost of a couple of keys!

You might want to check into replacing window keys - if you don't have an original to copy that could be expensive?

Lizzy
15-09-2006, 19:17 PM
Thanks for that, i didn't think of it like that, and it makes good sense!!

Have you any advice on how i should proceed on check out day? It's it just a case of walking round with the tenant and agreeing (hopefully) on what is ok? I know i've got to take meter readings. Do i need to get the tenant's signature for anything?

MrShed
15-09-2006, 21:11 PM
You don't have to get the tenants signature, but it would be beneficial to do so. If they are willing to sign about the condition of the property, and specifically sign for damages they agree to, it should save legal wranglings!

Bear in mind that you do not have to do the check out with the tenant there, but again it is probably advisable to do so....means you can discuss there and then any damages, and hopefully come to a early agreement.

P.Pilcher
15-09-2006, 21:46 PM
On checkout day you should check your property with the tenant against the inventory and get the tenant to agree to the reasons for any deductions you wish to make from the deposit. If you have to do this then a signed statement from the tenant is a good idea. Confirm that tenant has terminated contract with BT for telephone line. Check meter readings, agree these with tenant and then gain tenant's permission to pass their forwarding address on to utility companies for final bills. You also need this to send on deposit refund cheque. Finally discuss arrangements for any remaining tenants property, collect keys and see tenant off property.
That's what I do anyway.

P.P.

Surrey
16-09-2006, 08:58 AM
Re window keys, if you look in Yellow pages you'll find "double glazing repairs" rather than installation. I spoke to a company who told me to just take off one of the handles (and explained how to do it!) and that he'd have a look for some replacement keys which he'd be able to sell me. This means I don't have to pay £13 each for new handles in a house where all the window keys have been lost.

And I don't think it's petty to charge for a replacement key to be cut. Either that or suggest that the tenant gets a key cut herself so she can return the right number.

Lizzy
17-09-2006, 19:21 PM
Thanks for the advice everybody!!! I'm due for the big 'check out' tomorrow, so i'll let you know how i got on!!

Lizzy
18-09-2006, 16:25 PM
Went to check my tenant out today! Please could you offer advice on the following?

The tenant told me that the floor had been re-sanded and re-varnished. I told the tenant, that in my opinion, it was not to a suitable standard. The floor was still patchy in colour and the finish was not good (if you rubbed your hand over the wood you could feel grit). The tenant said that she would get someone to look at it (her father-in-law is a joiner/floorer), i said, fine, i will be happy to meet him here and discuss it.

The second thing is cleanliness. Just how clean should i expect the house to be? When i left it, it was immaculate. I have an inventory (that me and the tenant signed) to say so. But the inventory does not entail specifics about the actual cleanliness of the place, just that (room by room) it was in an immaculate condition. Today the house, to me, is not clean. Some of the things that i noted, and commented on to the tenant were - the oven (outside) and hob had clearly not been cleaned, nor did it look like the kitchen unit doors had. The tenant argued her case that she had washed them all down, but i could easily point out to her that it did not look as though they had been cleaned. She did not comment. A white radiator had scuffs on, that would have wiped off with some elbow grease and cream cleaner, a brass fire hearth, and brass light switch, looked as if they had never seen any brasso since the day i left the house. There were mucky, sticky marks on the white pvc of the windows. Am i being too unreasonable?

What should i exactly expect the tenant to clean?

MrShed
18-09-2006, 17:19 PM
Doesn't sound to me like you are being unreasonable on either count. Tenants often don't realise that to save a massive clean, things like ovens and hobs need to be cleaned weekly/fortnightly, otherwise it is a pretty big job. If you let the property in an immaculate state CLEANLINESS wise, then you are entitled to it back in the same condition - cleanliness/dust etc does not come under fair wear and tear. All that said, it does sound that at least the tenant has attempted to sort the place out, so I would try and solve the situation amicably if possible...but not to the extent where you bear the costs!

Lizzy
18-09-2006, 18:34 PM
Thanks for that. Cleanliness as always been a bit of an issue, but i thought, it's the tenant's home not mine! Today, the tenant did ask to keep the key and said that she would clean it again, but i refused, stating that the tenancy's expired from today. I said i would contact her at a later time. I do think she has cleaned the house today, in a fashion, but i think that throughout the 2 years the tenant has been in the house, she hasn't cleaned much at all. So basically, she has just wiped over muck. Before i rent the house again, it will need cleaning from top to bottom. I am considering contacting a cleaning company and sending the bill to the tenant. Otherwise, it would take me, say 3 full days to clean it. What do you think?

MrShed
18-09-2006, 19:18 PM
I would agree, and that is what most landlords would do. Just ensure that you take lots of photographic evidence in case of a dispute. You *could* give her the keys back for two days say, and tell her exactly what you want resolving, if you so wished. Do you have a tenant moving in soon? It may just be that this would be the quickest and most amicable way to resolve the issue. But, this is certainly over and above what most landlords would allow. If you did proceed with this, then make it perfectly clear to her that, should her new clean not be up to standard, then you will be hiring a proprietary cleaning company, and she will be liable for the cost of this. If she thinks that she wont manage to do this anyway, then she may just get you to go ahead and do it.

Ericthelobster
18-09-2006, 19:26 PM
There's actually no requirement for you to have let her accompany you on the 'check-out' anyway; provided you were happy you had all your ducks in a row with regard to proving the state of cleanliness now versus the state at move-in, you could have simply sent her a copy of the cleaner's invoice when you returned the balance of her deposit, having deducted the cleaner cost.

Surrey
18-09-2006, 23:07 PM
... you could have simply sent her a copy of the cleaner's invoice when you returned the balance of her deposit, having deducted the cleaner cost.

If Lizzy herself spends, say, 8 hours cleaning the place to get it back to acceptable standards, can she deduct a reasonable fee for her time from the deposit or would she have to provide an invoice for the work done by someone else? The problem is that if she does it herself does the court make allowances for that effort? If the courts don't accept a landlord doing something is the same as a "professional" cleaning company, she could end up out of pocket or at least she will have spent her time doing something that she wouldn't be paid for.

Answers please, in case the tenant decides to go to small claims to get back the deductions. (And I'm interested in the answer as well!)

MrShed
19-09-2006, 01:07 AM
Yes, she can charge for her own time. I believe the rate is set at £9.25 per hour or something around that.

johnjw
19-09-2006, 05:49 AM
I've had very good tenants who have left my property in perfectly acceptable condition. However I think that tenants moving on, are usually focussed on their next abode rather than on the one they are leaving and sometimes may be genuinely unaware of the requirement (wear and tear accepted) for "immaculate in-immaculate out".
Maybe the thinking is that the situation is similar to that in an hotel, where you wouldn't necessarily leave your room as you found it.
As Lizzy has discovered, friendly relationships dont help when you're put on the spot with the inspection - usually the tenant is in a hurry as well. It all boils down to how much discount you want to give to your ex-tenant. If he/she has been with you for a couple of years you might let a few things go but if you have to employ cleaners and decorators you will be paying out several hundreds of pounds and this should be deducted from the deposit.
It sounds like you have been reasonably assertive. I dont think it would be a good idea to allow the tenant back - her credentials as a cleaner don't sound too good.

Lizzy
19-09-2006, 15:10 PM
Thank you all for the advice, it certainly has helped, and just discussing things has made me feel more comfortable. The situation was left with the tenant contacting me, and as yet (2 days later), they haven't. Firstly, i am going to take some photos, secondly, i am going to get an estimate from a cleaning company, and one from a floor restorer. I do feel for the tenant, they're understandably concerned with the move to their new house, and just interested in the return of the deposit. Likewise, i have to think of my investment, and what i need to do before i can rent again.

In answer to the question, have i found a new tenant? I have just advertised, but obviously i want to get the place sorted before i rent it out again. There would be no way that i would just re-let the property before it's spotlessly clean, and i live in the hope that the next tenant will appreciate that, and live/leave the property has they had found it.

I'll let you know the next installment!!

LMT
19-09-2006, 20:34 PM
Hi Lizzy
Here's what I've found from my experience:
1) tenants who are not very clean when living in a flat rarely do a good clean when they leave. Their standards of cleanliness just seem to be generally lower, and sometimes I think they just can't see the difference - but your incoming tenant will - so it's always best to hand over an immaculate property. I keep my eyes half shut and am happy as long as they pay the rent on time whilst they are there and are pleasant to deal with.
2) When a tenant gives me notice I send them a letter which is an acknowledgement of their notice, and tells them what will happen next. This includes the point that they will have to show that they have settled all utility bills, council tax etc in order for their deposit to be returned. It also covers issues like post forwarding, meter readings on check-out and I attach a spreadsheet which is a ticklist of cleaning - I state that this was what was done before they moved in, so must be done before they move out. This makes it simple to see if they have missed something out. I also state within what time-frame their deposit will be returned.
3) On day of checkout I meet them, fill in 2 copies of a check-out form which has their name, date, address, meter readings, post forwarding address and ask if they would like their deposit returned directly to their bank or by cheque to the new address. They get a copy and I keep a copy. I do not mention them staying for the inspection nor what deductions I will be making, it is clearly stated in their check-out letter that deductions will be made for damages beyond normal wear and tear, no-one has ever asked if they can stay for the inspection, they've just smiled, said thankyou and gone. Usually they are in a hurry to get sorted in their new place.
4) I do the inspection in my own time at my own pace. You will always find things when you start cleaning the property that you hadn't noticed at first. I turn mattresses over, move sofas, open every drawer and so on. I take photos of everything as I go. It can feel awkward doing this with the tenant there and it tends to get into a discussion which seems like nit-picking, but when you add up all the extra bits of cleaning that need to be done to bring it up to scratch it can take hours.
5) I call in the meter readings to the utility companies and call the council about the council tax.
6) I return the deposit minus deductions within the specified time, and detail exactly what deductions were made for what damage. I have been landlording for 6 years with 10 properties and have only ever made deductions three times. Of those three I have never had a tenant contact me to say that a deduction was unfair. Seems to be working so far.....
7) Keep your contact friendly but professional at all times - this puts you in charge. Having pre-prepared forms and lists sets the tone for the tenant that you know exactly what you are doing and what they should expect. I view it purely as a business transaction so you can't let any emotions get in the way - disappointment, annoyance etc need to be put aside and just get on with putting it right and getting the next tenant in.

catcuddler
20-09-2006, 21:22 PM
Yes, she can charge for her own time. I believe the rate is set at £9.25 per hour or something around that.

Mr Shed, can you remember if a tax office gave this advice? Our local one doesn't seem to know anything. Thanks

MrShed
21-09-2006, 10:39 AM
AFAIK it wouldnt be anything to do with tax, it would be to do with the courts. But...I don't know where the information originally came from I'm afraid, it has just been mentioned on the forums several times.

Lizzy
21-09-2006, 12:03 PM
Next installment -

I contacted both a cleaning company and a floor restorer, the quotes are quite significant sums. I am definitely having the floor restored professionally, as this is a job that i would never even attempt to carry out. I thought about sharing the costs, maybe 60-40% or 70-30%, the tenant paying for the higher percentage. I thought that this would be fair, as obviously there will be wear and tear to the floor, but had the tenant not treated the floor, then there was a good chance that i would have got a few more years wear out of it.

I am still unsure what to do about the cleaning. The price is significant, and coupled with the floor, would make quite a dent in the tenant's deposit. Cleaning is definitely a job that i could do, and i do it very well! I would also be sure that it would be to my standards! The reason for not doing it is lack of time: work blah, blah.

As noted by a previous reply, i did notice things after the tenant left. Some minor damage and a quite large (what looks like) diesel stain on an outside area (the tenant had an item covering this when i went for the check out). These will also need putting right.

OMG, i feel like i am going on and on. Do other landlords let most minor things go and just concentrate on what could be a big/expensive problem? AT times, i feel like i have got loads to complain about and am adding to an endless list, and other times i feel as though i need to be this thorough.

Also, is it advisable for landlords to decorate when a tenant moves on? I think that with a good clean the property will still look in a good condition, i feel that the 'immaculate' look is sliding away, and i may have to adjust the wording on my inventory! I decorated just under 2 years ago, and as i previously said, my first tenant has just left.

MrShed
21-09-2006, 12:09 PM
How much are you talking about for each?

IMO, I wouldn't clean it yourself to minimise the costs - why should you put yourself out like that? That would be a major inconvenience to you, and although it is nice to help the tenant out, there is only so far you can go.

I probably would not redecorate after 2 years - but it is obviously up to personal taste, and the individual property concerned.

Lizzy
22-09-2006, 11:27 AM
Restoring the floor will cost £280. I only got 1 quote for the cleaning, and that was for £165. The bond i am still holding is £450.00. So, even if i pay some of the costs of the floor, the cleaning, coupled with the other bits will not leave much to return to the tenant.

Even though i believe strongly in my reasons for the complaints i am making, I am sure that if the tenant was to post a thread, they would be saying how clean they had left the place and that i (the landlord) was trying to rip them off.

johnjw
22-09-2006, 13:12 PM
The truth is that its really hard for both landlord and tenant to be objective and fair - the usual pressure (I think) is for the landlord to let things go but occasionally its the other way. I now use an Agent to inspect in and out and return the deposit accordingly. We agree not to bother about trivia - eg. dead light bulbs or the odd dirty mark on the walls. Its obviously much easier to operate at arms length but it does cost a little. I think the tenant will accept more readily from the Agent than from the Landlord, a suggestion like "the carpets need to be professionally cleaned". The difference between a thorough cleaning and a half-hearted hoovering, justifies the Agents fee.

Surrey
22-09-2006, 18:02 PM
The truth is that its really hard for both landlord and tenant to be objective and fair - the usual pressure (I think) is for the landlord to let things go but occasionally its the other way. I now use an Agent to inspect in and out and return the deposit accordingly. We agree not to bother about trivia - eg. dead light bulbs or the odd dirty mark on the walls. Its obviously much easier to operate at arms length but it does cost a little. I think the tenant will accept more readily from the Agent than from the Landlord, a suggestion like "the carpets need to be professionally cleaned". The difference between a thorough cleaning and a half-hearted hoovering, justifies the Agents fee.

You don't need an agent to do this, a decent inventory clerk is probably better, seeing as the agent IS supposed to be acting for the landlord...