One of the biggest discussion strings on any landlord forum including our own is how far tenants are allowed to modify or refurbish their property, with many users claiming some renters go too far.
This was brought into focus this week when London’s Metro newspaper published a story very much from the tenant’s perspective, interviewing renters who had - to one extent or another - given their rented home a complete overhaul, and portraying landlords as being ‘against’ such changes.
Landlord sentiment swings from one extreme to the other. Some are keen to let their tenants make their rented property ‘their home sweet home’ in the belief that they will treat it better, while others want the property returned in the same state of décor and repair as the first day of the tenancy.
But whatever the attitude, crunch time comes when tenants move out and want their deposit back.
From a legal and regulations perspective, it’s a grey area except in Northern Ireland where the tenant’s responsibilities include looking after the décor during a tenancy.
Elsewhere in the UK tenants are expected to ‘maintain and keep the property in good condition’ but this does not extend to redecoration.
I spoke to Suzy Hershman (pictured) of the Property Redress Scheme, who deals with disputes between landlords and tenants of this kind on a daily basis.
She says cases do sometimes highlight the work carried out by tenants, who believe they have ‘improved’ a property but the check-out report then reveals patchy paintwork or dodgy and uneven patios for example – i.e. poor workmanship.
“The most common dispute is nearly always about the décor, when the tenant has not asked for permission to decorate or has used a completely different colour to the one recorded in the check-in inspection,” she says.
“Where landlords fall down is not making any permission they do give conditional on how it needs to be left when the tenancy ends.”
- Tenants should always ask for written permission to alter the property in any way and wait for a written response (this will provide an audit trail for any future discussion)
- Landlords (or their agents) should always consider the tenants requests and if agreeing, make permission conditional and stipulate that the property must be returned in the same condition as it was in at the start, allowing for fair wear and tear. The exception would be if the landlord agrees to keep the property as altered by the tenant.
“Most interesting case I had in the past was a couple who painted ‘neutral walls’ to red and the central staircase black and were claiming this was an improvement and disputed the landlords claim for their deposit to repaint the living areas,” adds Suzy. “Needless to say, the landlord was awarded the full deposit.”
Main image pic credit