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Failing to deal with problems in rental properties such as damp and mould can lead to hefty fines as well as put the long-term condition of the buy-to-let investment at risk. Landlords who do not act quickly could put their tenants at risk too, says the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks.

Failure to deal with the issue can also lead to a fine, the association warned. The landlord of a house in St Helens in North West England has been fined £2,500 with costs of £1,332.30 plus as a victim surcharge of £120 having failed to comply with an improvement notice to investigate problems with mould and damp at his property.

An improvement notice requires the landlord to carry out work and will contain information about the hazard, what caused it, the work that needs to be done and when the work should be started and completed. If no action is taken, the local authority can carry out the work and then claim back the cost as well as prosecuting the landlord for failing to comply with the notice. Common problems are dampness, condensation, leaks and an infestation of pests or vermin.

AIIC chair Patricia Barber said that landlords are putting their tenants’ safety at risk as well as opening themselves up to court action if they ignore improvement notices from the council or complaints from their tenants. She said that landlords should deal with these issues quickly so that it does not become an even greater problem.

Damp can seriously damage the property’s structure as well as affect tenant’s health so an early inspection is advisable. All correspondence and inspections should be kept in case evidence is needed at a later stage to confirm that action was taken. There are apps and software solutions available to deal with the back-office work of property letting so all correspondence can be kept in one place. Photographs can also be taken at the time of the inspection as further evidence of the problem and the agreed solution.

If it seems as though the problem could be attributable to the tenant as a result of a failure to open windows to allow ventilation or drying wet clothes on the radiators, then this should also be noted.

Using specialist software such as InventoryBase in order to manage buy-to-lets also means that correspondence or phone calls are not going to be forgotten or slip through the net. Everything can be logged immediately with a call to action. This information can also be shared with other team members if the landlord has delegated the work, either to a co-worker or a letting agency. As a result, everyone is aware as to what needs to be done and who is responsible for it.

It is always better to deal with a complaint before it gets to the stage of involving the local authority. It looks professional, keeps you on good terms with tenants and can save money as well as the embarrassment of ending up in court with the likelihood of a report appearing in the local media.