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A Tenant Asks: Can letting agents demand repairs and cleanup for previous tenants damage ?

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last updated: 16 Jul 2016 report a problem

This is a question from Linda Boocker, who asks:

Q: Hi my daughter is renting from Hunters Estate agents. They have recently put the property back up for sale. It was for sale before, but they decided to rent it out.

They (the estate agents) are now saying that the property is dirty – i.e dirty bathroom mirror. There are holes in wall left by pictures or decorations of the previous tenant. We do not have pictures up. Carpets are dirty, although I would not say they were dirty they have cream carpets and the door leads straight into open plan kitchen – living room.

The say it has a musty smell. We detected this when we moved in and they told us they thought previous owner had a dog.

My daughter and partner have been most accommodating, allowing viewings when this has been most in inconvenient, as they both work. And, showing prospective buyers around, rather than the estate agent doing this. On several occasions the letting agent has not even informed them when a booking has been cancelled.

They are making their first rental together a very unhappy experience. What can they do ? Hunters are being very rude and at points hostile. Many thanks. (edited for grammar and clarity)

It’s unfortunate that your daughter is having a rough time with her first rental experience, but looking at the brighter side of things, it’s a good time for her to learn how to defend your tenant rights and what to do in troublesome situations.

Starting right off, your daughter needs to check the legal bits of her tenancy.

Check the move in inventory report

The move in inventory report is completed just before tenants move in a property. It’s very important because it documents the exact condition of the property before your daughter has moved in.

Any damage visible that was not recorded in the inventory will be attributed to the current tenant and likely to be discounted from the deposit.

For this given situation check that:

  • Holes in the walls are present in the move in inventory
  • Musty smell was recorded in the move in inventory

Obviously, you need to make a contribution towards the end result as well. Most properties are rented out after a professional cleaning. While you’re not forced to hire a cleaning company, you’re expected to return the property in clean condition. Generally, you need to do a complete deep cleaning of the property to be sure to meet the professional standard. In any case, you need to take care of the carpets and bathroom mirror, which have been highlighter by the letting agents.

Read our dedicated guide on end of tenancy cleaning for more information on how to prepare your property for the final inspection.

Check if the tenancy deposit is protected

Seeing as there is likely going to be a dispute about the deposit money, she needs to ensure that is properly protected in a government authorised company. After your daughter submitted the deposit money to the landlord or letting agent, they have the responsibility to protect it within 30 days and return you with a prescribed information.

If they fail this procedure, the landlord is irreversibly liable in court for up to 3 times the original deposit sum + the original deposit.

There are three companies that can legally protect your deposit and you can check in each of them if your landlord has done so.

If you cannot find your property in either of them, your landlord has not protected your deposit. If your deposit is protected, then the dispute will be resolved by the deposit protection company. Each one offer as free “Alternative Dispute Resolution”, which is a process similar to court, using a private independent adjudicator to review the case and come out with a decision respective of the law and both side’s interests.

Rights of access

As you say, your daughter is very compliant with the letting agent’s needs to show the property around for potential buyers. Generally, it’s recommended for tenants to provide access when requested, as otherwise may create a friction point and further tighten the communication between both sides.

To request access to the property, the letting agents must serve a written notice that they want to show the property to buyers. IT must happen no less than 24 hours prior to the visit.

However, it’s good to know that as tenants of the property, your daughter and her partner can deny access to the letting agents and the landlord calling on their “right of peaceful enjoyment”.

In fact, they can shut the door even to the police, unless the have a court order.

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