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families in private, rented homes

(89 Posts)

following several threads this week on "am I being unreasonable" regarding disputes between tenants and landlords please could Mumsnet HQ consider a campaign to protect the interests of families in the "squeezed middle" who are renting long-term in the private sector?
I'd particularly like to see some regulation of agents fees, the availability of long term contracts, (indefinate, with a minimum of 2 years where tenants should feel at liberty to decorate (but not make structural changes) with a three month notice period. A reasonable shedule of landlord inspections... Personally I'd be quite happy for landlords to have more powers to swiftly evict tenants that do not pay rent promptly...anyone like to suggest additions?

silverten Tue 07-Aug-12 14:44:58

As a LL I inspect for one major reason: is there any damage and do I need to do any repairs? EG: if my tenants aren't cleaning and the carpet is getting unreasonably knackered then I have a quiet word. If some local yobbo has kicked off the downpipe on the front wall so the rain is starting a damp problem on the lounge wall behind the shelving unit then I can get it fixed before their books go mouldy.

^that is one of the things I would like rid of, actually.
it's quite de-moralising going through regular inspections. if the tennant is a good tennant he/she will point out things that need repairing without ll/agency wandering in regularly. if he/she is a bad tennant, no amount of inspections can change that.^

If as a LL you have a good tenant who tells you that the guttering is leaking and causing a damp problem, you have an opportunity to have a look at the place when you're sizing up the repair. So there's no need to arrange an 'official' inspection cos you've seen what you needed to see and why make more work?

If on the other hand you have a bad tenant who doesn't give a stuff, or just one who is a bit dippy and doesn't realise that a quick repair will save a wealth of problems, you get to fix the gutter before you have to re-plaster and re-decorate the room(s).

Gatorade Tue 07-Aug-12 14:47:16

I don't think we will ever agree on that point MM, an inspection in the past led to me evicting a tenant (last resort) for structurally damaging a property. If the inspection hadn't been carried out I would not have been aware of the problem and the implications could have been huge.

I have personally been subject to an inspection when I lived abroad for work for a few years, I understand that some people may find them intrusive but I personally didn't have an issue with this, maybe the issue is more with the way in which some LL's or agents perform the inspections.

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Tue 07-Aug-12 14:56:50

But the mortgage company doesn't inspect - a mortgage holder's house is their investment too. What is the difference?

Gatorade Tue 07-Aug-12 15:03:32

Not everyone who owns their home has a mortgage Fruit Salad, also, a 'mortgage holder' usually has a hefty deposit (not always I admit) and therefore this protects/gives security to the mortgage company. I am sure that a renter wouldn't want to put down a deposit for at least 20% of the value of the house they are renting to protect the LL. Unfortunately the small deposit paid by renters doesn't always cover the damage that can be made (a lesson I unfortunately learnt quite early on).

Trills Tue 07-Aug-12 15:07:10

Why families in particular, why not just "people in privately-rented homes"?

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Tue 07-Aug-12 15:17:52

Ok, so shall we agree that if you have put down a small deposit, or your deposit has been eaten by house price falls, then the mortgage company has the right to inspect. Because it is their investment, you know.

Gatorade Tue 07-Aug-12 15:24:22

Yes, I do agree with that FruitSalad, if the mortgage company wishes to do so (which I doubt they would want to given the volume of mortgages that they hold). There is a bit of a technical difference, the house is actually security for the loan, its not actually owned by the mortgage company, but I don't want to completely de-rail OPs thread!

Trills, I think families with children still living at home are particularly vulnerable because stability is very important for children's emotional wellbeing and development. Frequent school changes for example can have a significant negative impact on children's behaviour and academic success. It concerns me that this choice to give stability can be taken out of parents hands by being a private tenant and potentially having to move on a regular basis. Adults are generally a bit more resiliant and able to determine their own futures.

No reason to restrict the debate to families, though.

Trills Tue 07-Aug-12 15:45:01

If when you are asked to leave your house the nearest suitable one is one where a child would have to move schools then it's likely that it would be disruptive to an adult's employment as well - no longer on the right bus route, need to buy a car, etc.

IMO the need for better conditions on renting (for tenants and landlords) in this country is not about families, it's just about people.

Tee2072 Tue 07-Aug-12 15:45:57

Except, as a parent who rents, I'm going to do everything I can to stay near my child's school.

Granted, being in NI, we have no catchments, so it makes no difference if we move across town or not. But I still will do my damnest to stay in the area we are in now, for ease if nothing else. Even if it means downsizing or something, if we have to move.

We are about to sign a 2 year lease, just as my son starts school and I am relieved to even have that.

Trills Tue 07-Aug-12 15:48:50

A 2 year lease? Lucky you. Is this in the same house that you moved to recently (recently ish?)

I'm very interested in gatorade's point about how inspections are carried out. Anyone like to suggest what would be reasonable?

For me, I'd find it less stressful if the inspection was specifically concerned with structural items provided in a checklist both parties had sight of. I stress about things like the carpet, which my deposit would more than cover replacing that's been puked on once too often by a child. Although I've done my best, renting an industrial carpet cleaner every six months and getting the vanish out promply when such a disaster occurs. Hands up everyone who's had a toddler draw on walls to the point that you need to repaint?! I consider it very much my responsibility, but I wanted to not feel that our future in the home depended on my dealing with it to a deadline, and if I did repaint, that Icould enjoy living with the results for as long as I damn well wanted to.

Anyone else?!

Tee2072 Tue 07-Aug-12 15:52:58

Yes, Trills, same house. Our current lease is up in September and I just spoke to the agent who spoke to the LL who has agreed to 2 more years, with a rent increase. Don't know how much the increase is, but we're going to stay unless it's millions!

It can be very hard to find houses in this area which is why I put the ball in motion so early to find out about renewal.

I don't stress about it, struggling. I not only have a toddler who pukes all the time (well, used to, he seems to have outgrown it!) but am myself a klutz. I have never had a landlord or agent comment on the state of things like carpet on inspection and I've been renting for nearly 30 years. I just give it a good clean when I move out. Of course, I also don't worry about holes in walls and hang all the pictures I want etc. It is my home for the duration, as far as I am concerned.

Trills Tue 07-Aug-12 15:53:50

Fantastic - well done! Fingers crossed the rent increase is only nominal.

Tee2072 Tue 07-Aug-12 15:54:19

I'm hoping! Thanks!

Gatorade Tue 07-Aug-12 16:16:52

To answer your post about the extent of the inspection struggling I really wouldn't be concerned if my tenants were a young family and the DC's had added a bit of individual wall art! As far as cosmetics go it is the condition of the property when the tenant leaves that is of concern to me, not in the middle of the tenancy. I probably won't be immediately repainting my own walls if my DD decides to 'decorate' when she gets a little older and I wouldn't expect my tenants to either.

I think a 'checklist' type approach would be a good idea. Simple things like checking all the internal walls are still in place (!), the condition of the sealant around the bath/shower (incase I need to get it replaced) etc. I wouldn't want draws/cupboard doors to be opened and I think the extent should be standard and agreed up front.

Trills Tue 07-Aug-12 16:18:26

I think that's a good idea - a list of what it is reasonable to inspect on an ongoing basis (generally things that need sorting or else they will get worse, relating to damp or water or mould) and what just needs to be returned to original condition (minus wear and tear) on checkout (like painting walls).

Tee2072 Tue 07-Aug-12 17:41:48

I would agree that a list of what can/should be inspected would be a great idea. Also, a better inventory system.

This house I'm currently in the inventory is practically non-existent, to the point where they managed to miss an entire WC, including some things that were stored in a cupboard in there and an entire garage full of things like a lawn mower! I could walk out of here at the end of my lease with entire compliment of gardening equipment and they'd have no recourse. I offered to re-do it for them when we moved in but was told not to bother. hmm

Trills Tue 07-Aug-12 17:44:23

I have a ridiculously detailed inventory for the house I've just moved into. It lists the colour of the bit where the ceiling light goes into the ceiling, and states the colour of the biro marks on the wooden chests of drawers.

But the garage was locked so the inventory man couldn't see it, so it's just listed as "there is a garage" (which is full of crap).

internationalvulva Tue 07-Aug-12 20:35:38

Lucy, I don't know if this will be useful, it depends where you live, but you will often find landlords whose houses are part of a larger estate (ie they have estate workers in tied cottages and then some normal cottages available to rent for general public) are slightly more flexible with dates of rent payment, and looking for longer term tenants. We have a couple near to us and although they have not admitted it to the landlord when signing up for a rental they have had to be a little flexible with payments and the landlords have been very reasonable about it! they can afford to be because usually the houses are owned outright.

internationalvulva Tue 07-Aug-12 20:40:05

We are currently in a property where we can have the house for the next few decades should we wish to. I tell you, estate lettings are the way to go. As in landlord owns bit country estate.) properties tend NOT to be sold in hard times as they reman rented and there is the desire to pass on the whole estate to the next generation etc...they are not just out for a quick buck like a lot of more modern BTL landlords.

Tee2072 Tue 07-Aug-12 21:08:31

I was actually offered a house like that from my previous landlord, internationlavulva, but the house is in the middle of no where, on their estate, and we don't have a car so need to be in the city. Otherwise I would have snatched it up!

HidingFromDD Tue 07-Aug-12 21:37:29

I think there should be a distinction between 'professional' and 'accidental' landlords. After divorce I rented somewhere for me and my DDs on the basis that I was assured it was a long term rental. I would have quite happily signed up for 3 years to provide stability for the children. After the 6 month rental period ended I again stressed that I wanted a long term and was assured that the ll did too. 2 months later I was given notice as they had decided to sell, despite me offering to pay 12 months rent up front. Apart from the major stress involved (I ended up moving 4 days after a serious operation when I should have been resting), it also cost me £1k in removal fees.

I ended up buying a property in a rush as I couldn't allow the children to be stressed by yet another move in the middle of GCSEs/A levels. I'm very lucky I had that option.

I must confess to feeling somewhat pleased when the house remained on the market for 12 months before it sold (at a significant reduction, it was overpriced anyway)

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Wed 08-Aug-12 08:28:16

So how do you go about finding an estate letting? I guess they are rather few and far between!

goingundertheradar Wed 08-Aug-12 20:42:13

As a landlord and tenant lawyer my experience has shown that landlords are often happy to sign up to longer tenancies but that the difficulty in evicting a problem tenant puts them off.

Even with rent arrears you could be looking at 6 months to evict and if you have a tenant that pays the rent but causes a "minor" discretionary breach you can end up with much long delays and a suspended order. That's not to mention the fees that can be run up.

That's why section 21 has been so helpful for landlord. It provides themwith the safety of knowing that they can seek possession relatively easily if they encounter problems with tenants but of course this will have no effect in a longet term tenancy.

With over 15 years in the business I can say that landlords have it easier now than ore 1997 - which I believe has been part of the reason why there are more indivdual buy to let landlords.

IMO the best thing to do though is to rent through a professional landlord with a large stock of properties - they may not be happy to sign leases for longer than 12 months but they are usually keen to retain good tenants.

I've also found that communication, or lack of it can cause a problem. Many the time I have been told that the tenants simply left at the end of the term as they thought they had too. Good practice from the agents/landlords would ensure that the options were provided towards the end of the tenancy.

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