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Interview with a landlord…find out the tricks of the trade and how to avoid being caught out

March 2, 2012

When viewing house, what are the key things to look for? How might we recognise the tell-tale signs of a good or bad landlord?

  • If there’s any fresh paint…if it’s the whole room painted, including the woodwork and ceiling, then it’s the sign of a landlord who cares, if it’s not the whole room, particularly if it’s just the walls, that’s a sign that it’s been done to cover up a water mark and that the house is going to have problems with damp
  • Be sure to investigate any odd odours
  • Check around the windows for mould…even if they have cleaned off the mould, there will be indications (black marks) where glass meets frame. Check it out, but be aware it may not be due to a problem with the house, it could be because of the last tenant’s never opened the windows. This would lead to damp particularly if they were hanging wet washing about the house.
  • Inspect general maintenance of property… Things like broken sockets/light fillings/screws lose on door handles are all signs of a landlord that really can’t be bothered
  • Open the kitchen cupboard where water stop clock is. This is the most likely place you would be able to observe signs of water damage would be there
  • Sounds a bit random, and not the sort of thing you’d do when looking around a house, but actually a good thing to do is to go and turn all the taps on to see the water flow, and then to see if they’re dripping when you turn them off. You don’t want dripping taps as this will increase your water bill, and will also lead to limescale
  • Look for streaks in sinks or bath…this is another tell-tale sign for dripping taps.
  • Lift toilet seat to check if toilet is clean and toilet seat is securely fitted
  • Look up at the gutters…Is there stuff in them? If so, this will cause them to overflow and it will drip down the brick work and make house damp inside
  • Check if the garden is neat and tidy…if it’s not it shows the landlord doesn’t care. Plus, if you then leave it as you find it, the landlord may try and blame you and charge you to have it sorted

Is there any paper work we should ask to see, that might not necessarily be shown to us?

Yes, ask to see an up to date gas and electric certificate and also an energy performance certificate . The energy performance certificate should give you an idea of how much your bills should cost, which should be something you really think about when deciding whether to move into a house.

Is there anything important to remember the day you move in?

Make absolutely sure you do an inventory. All good landlords should initiate this anyway. Make sure everything goes down on the inventory. Things like stains and smells in carpets and little marks on the walls, to ensure you won’t be blamed and consequently charged for them when you move out.

It’s also a good idea to take pictures of any damage as a rogue landlord will try and make you pay for it when you move out.

What do you look for when deducting a deposit?

Fair wear and tear is ok. What is considered as fair depends on how long you’ve been living in the house. Say you’d been living there for a year and new carpets had been put in and the house newly decorated just before you moved in, we’d expect to get it back pretty much that was. Particularly as a newly refurbished and clean house is easier to keep clean than a house that starts off dirty. The odd mark on the wall is ok, but the general expected state after a year would be that decorations and carpets should be 80% of what they were when you moved in.

Whereas after five years, we would expect to redecorate and re-carpet.

A common example of something we might say is ‘when you moved in the grass was cut the hedges were trimmed, and now they’re overgrown and there is dog poo on the grass. You need to tidy it all up, or we will have to hire someone to do it, and bill you for their charge’

Where should someone go to for help if they are having problems with their landlord?

Citizens advice bureau or a solicitor. [Note. There is a free solicitor service for all university students located on campus]

We don’t actually have many rights as landlords. It used to be the other way round but now tenants have all the rights, so definitely pursue your case if you don’t feel you’re being treated fairly.

What should happen to deposits?

Never pay them directly to a landlord. Make sure they are paid into a landlord society, and that you have a receipt of confirmation that this has been done.

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