A Landlord’s fury as benefits family trash home during party to celebrate move to new council house*, highlights the growing problem of damage that housing benefits can cause landlords, reflects a worrying trend, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (Daily Mail, June 2014).
Landlord Sean Feeney found rubbish and rotting food strewn across his property in Blackpool. The tenants – a woman and her three children – are thought to have celebrated their move by hosting a giant ‘leaving party’, which wrecked the three-bedroom property where they had been living for two years.
The landlord had spent £5,000 renovating property before the benefits family moved in two years ago and faced a further £2,000 bill to repair the damage.
Recent figures show that there has been a sharp increase in the number of working people claiming housing benefit over the last four years (60%)*. This, combined with an influx of immigrants over the last 12 months, has put greater demand on landlords to allow benefit tenants in their properties. (*Source: Research for the
House of Commons Library, commissioned by Labour, May 2014).
According to the AIIC, landlords need to be wary of taking on housing benefit tenants. Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC commented: “You can’t tar all housing benefit tenants with the same brush. There are plenty of examples of benefit tenants that look after their property.
“However, we are seeing a trend amongst immigrants on benefits that have a total disrespect for a property and their neighbours. The problem lies in a difference in cultural attitudes to homes and community. For example, we have seen properties with all the curtain poles pulled away from the walls, as they have been used as drying rails for wet washing. We have also seen wet washing hung over fences to dry on a daily basis causing damage to the fence and annoyance to neighbours.
There can also be overcrowding and excessive noise as tenants invite friends to stay on a long term basis. Overcrowding brings other issues too such as serious condensation and mould problems in the property together with accelerated wear and tear.
“It is essential that landlords and agents check that tenants are treating the property as they should and no serious neglect or damage is taking place. If a problem is caught quickly, it will not exacerbate and cause a bigger issue with a higher cost to the landlord or tenant. Tenants are notoriously bad at reporting any problems during their tenancy. Since the property is rented, they always seem to think that it’s someone else’s problem.”
AIIC has put together some advice for agents and landlords who are considering taking on benefit tenants, or who are already letting to them:
– Carry out the appropriate references to ensure that the tenants are responsible and have looked after previous properties
– Visit the property regularly – every 2-3 months to check its condition
– Look out for common damage such as signs of mould; water staining to ceilings; burns and other damage to kitchen worktops; chips and cracks to bathroom fittings etc
For further information, please visit www.theaiic.co.uk AIIC has just released a new and very useful book for everyone in the lettings industry, entitled ‘Understanding Fair Wear and Tear’. The book costs £9.99 and is in a pdf format, downloadable from the AIIC website.