Whilst most buy-to-lets go smoothly, with tenants abiding by the contracts and paying on time, it can be extremely costly when things do go wrong. A survey by Access Legal showed that landlords in the UK lose more than £5 billion each year due to unpaid rent or damage to their property. Rent arrears account for about £900 million while damage is the costliest problem at £4.5 billion.
Broken appliances are the biggest problem, while ruined carpets and decorative damage are also major issues. More than one in three landlords also said that a lack of cleanliness is a concern too. Four out of 10 landlords said that they have had to deal with tenants not paying their rent, with the worst areas for rent arrears being Cambridge, Oxford, York, Newcastle and Manchester.
These issues leave many landlords out of pocket which is why it is so important that contracts are watertight and contain every small detail. Photographic evidence of the state of a house at check-in and check-out times can highlight any damage which cannot be attributed to fair wear and tear. Although wear and tear can be a grey area, if all issues are identified in the rental contract then there is no margin for error. For example, you could indicate that minor scuffs or scratches to paintwork come under wear and tear while more extreme damage such as large scrapes along the paintwork or burns in the carpet will be classed as damage and must be covered by the tenant.
It will mean longer check-ins and inspections but it is worth it in the long run in ensuring that you have proof of negligence by your tenants. This is where apps and software come into their own because you can log everything as you inspect the property as well as take photos to go alongside your written records.
If a dispute goes to arbitration or court at a later stage, you have the proof easily available. The more thorough your records, the better your chance of a hearing going in your favour. Keep all receipts such as cleaning bills, repair bills and invoices for new equipment, together with detailed inventories to put you in the best possible position to fully recover your costs.
Most tenants will want to live in a clean home and will keep it in a good condition. They will also want to get their deposit back as this is a great deal of money to lose. With both sides knowing what is expected of them, the relationship between tenant and landlords can remain positive.