A whopping 94% of renters admit they may be in breach of their tenancy agreement, according to new research.
Some 58% of them burn candles, despite being prohibited from doing so, while 54% have redecorated without permission, and 50% have kept a pet, a survey by Ocean Finance has found.
While relatively minor breaches such as using Blu-Tack on the walls and over-filling bins are unlikely to keep nervous landlords awake at night, one in 20 tenants had sub-let a room, 21% had left the property vacant for more than 14 days and 18% had let the garden become overgrown.
While tenancy agreements vary, many prohibit all the matters outlined above. However, many tenants might not always break the rules knowingly. Just over half (57%) of tenants surveyed by the firm admitted not fully reading their tenancy agreement before signing it and moving in. A further one in five (20%) didn't even have a tenancy agreement in place.
Ian Williams, spokesman for Ocean Finance, said: "Many standard tenancy agreements contain a lot of 'niggly' clauses about cutting the grass and emptying the bins. While breaking these conditions might seem trivial, doing so could have serious consequences.
"Blu-Tack stains on the walls might be just the excuse the landlord needs to withhold some or all of their deposit, while keeping a pet or sub-letting rooms could result in being asked to leave the property."
However, what can worried landlords do to check up on their tenants?
Lettings expert Kate Faulkner gives the following advice:
- Arrange regular inspections conducted by yourself or a lettings agent. Three months is standard.
- If you spot any breaches, take photos for evidence and issue a verbal warning – keeping things friendly but professional. Arrange to revisit the property in a reasonable timeframe – usually between two and four weeks later.
- If breaches continue, give the tenant a written warning, pointing out the legal issues so cite relevant clauses of the tenancy agreement.
- If the situation doesn't resolve itself you can ask the tenant to leave. If they refuse, seek professional advice as eviction procedures are very complicated and it can take six months to secure an eviction if the courts are involved. So it maybe quicker to wait for the tenancy to run its course.
- Visit landlordaction.co.uk and landlordlaw.co.uk for free advice.
- Remember, however badly a tenant behaves it is no excuse for you to stop doing things properly. You cannot get the electricity turned off, or treat them unfairly. Such action will only lead to retaliation from the tenant.