Hi everyone, I have been lurking around on and off for a few months and decided now is the time to post! We are reluctant landlords because despite buying a new house before selling the old, we thought we would be able to sell the old house and whack off a load of the mortgage on the new house (we just did it the wrong way round). Well, as you all know this will now be impossible for some time to come, and the signs were evident last year when we had no viewings, so we made the difficult decision to rent out the old house, rent taking up about a third of what our new mortgage is. But that's by the by, you live and learn etc and we won't be making that mistake again! (sorry, I ramble). Anyway, we used an agency just to find the tenant, which they did very quickly, the tenant paid her deposit and then proceeded to hang around and do nothing for a few weeks, then just before taking up the tenancy, admitted she had a dog (we said no pets). We reluctantly agreed to the dog, otherwise we would have had to look for another tenant and money was getting tight, but we stipulated that she not let this animal use the garden as a toilet.
To cut a long story short, the tenant, a single mother with two children and a supposedly well paid job as a teacher, was always very cagey about letting us enter the property to check it over for maintenance issues, inspect, or even collect a couple of things we left in the loft. It was never convenient for us to visit, so we left her alone to her "quiet enjoyment". She never defaulted on the rent, always paying up on time, but seemed a little bit "dim", for example she drilled the garage door lock out without checking for a key (there was one in the house), she let her boys stick posters on the freshly painted walls with blu-tack, she never cleaned the place, never did the garden AT ALL, let the dog perform its toilet duties in the garden and covering the garden with urine burns, let the shower head clog up, let the outer porch door swing open so it broke the frame, burned something in the gas fire so there is now a sooty flash point around the fire SURROUND, and let so many cobwebs form that the place looks like a haunted house. The stair carpet is ruined, there are dirt and scratches on the interior doors from the dog(s) and the toilet cistern handle is broken. She moved another dog in without asking, she'd had the banister off and not put it back on properly (??). She never reported any problems and if we had to speak to her about anything she was always keen to get off the phone and always said everything was fine. DH did manage to do an inspection once when she had a problem with the heating (she'd just been turning it on and off with the main switch instead of using the timer programmer), and he noted it was dirty but that was no concern of ours so long as she left the place clean when she vacated.
I'm sorry this is long but I'm just trying to set the scene!
Anyway, after seven months, tenant vacates and all the damage mentioned above is plain to see. She has breached many clauses in the tenancy agreement and while we were aware of some of these breaches during the tenancy we decided to let sleeping dogs lie because she was paying the rent on time, and we assumed we wouldn't need to do to much to the house other than tidying up a bit. How wrong we were!
The tenant is now denying that the place is dirty (it is filthy) and wants her deposit back! It is protected under a TDS via our agent. With so many breaches of the agreement and so much cost to put the place right, how can she have a leg to stand on? The agency is in the process of getting quotes for the cleaning, decorating and gardening and it is going to run into considerably more than her £800 deposit. It will no doubt be referred to an arbitrator, as she is not agreeing she has done anything wrong. Would any arbitrator in their right mind tell us to give her her deposit back, given the above? We even wrote a report, included before and after pictures, and gave it to the agency on CD and hard copy.
I have heard also that if we go to Small Claims Court for the remainder of the costs over and above the deposit, they often find in favour of the poor tenant because of the nasty landlords. How true is this? Is it just a rumour?
Sorry for the long post and I promise not to make subsequent ones so long, you must all be asleep by now.
Eagerly awaiting comments ...