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‘An army of ghost tenants’

3.3 million people living as unofficial tenants.

PROPERTYdrum

ghost_tenantsRising rents and a shortage of affordable property have created a new phenomenum – the ‘ghost tenant’ who lives in a sub-let room in a rented home and isunknown to the agent or the landlord.

Recent research by Direct Line shows that an estimated 3.3 million people are living as unofficial or ghost tenants – that is as many as 1 in every 10 rental homes. Almost half of residential lettings agencies have found multiple occupants living in a home unofficially after checking the properties under their management.

Three quarters of these resident ghosts have been sub-letting for more than six months. Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC believes this is a serious and growing problem, “The sheer cost of renting in some parts of the UK has driven some tenants to kip on a mates’ spare room, or in more sinister circumstances, multiple sub-tenants inhabit a property over time.

Without any records, inventory or signatures, you are unlikely to win a court case.”

“We recently conducted a check-out at a new two-bedroomed flat only to find that twelve people had been secretly living there. With so many people living in a confined space, wear and tear in the property and damage was magnified. In this particular property, there were iron burns all over the carpet; a filthy oven and hob; missing and broken drawer fronts in the freezer; and marks and dents on all the walls.

“The landlord had to completely redecorate the flat and was out of pocket by over £5,000.

“When there is multiple occupancy in a property, wear and tear is dramatically accelerated – a big problem for landlords and agents. Typically, damage to all rental properties includes carpet burns; soiled marks on baths and UPVC window sills and frames; heat damage to polished wooden furniture; and stiletto heel imprints on wooden floors and vinyl.”

Avoiding trouble

So at check-out, if the landlord or agent finds the tenant fails to agree to the deposit deductions, they need to ensure they have the evidence, such as thorough and fully detailed inventories, copies of which are given to the tenant at check-in and checkout. It is imperative that tenants sign their acceptance of the contents of the check-in within seven days of the move in, and this signed copy should be retained by either the landlord or letting agent.

Other useful items of evidence to use in any end of tenancy dispute include contractor invoices for services like professional cleaning of the property’s carpets, windows, oven and hob etc. or for gardening and repairs.

Get the inventory right

According to the AIIC, many inventories are more often than not, completely inadequate, mainly because landlords and letting agents make the mistake in thinking that inventories can be mainly photography and video. Completely photographic or filmed inventories without a full written accompanying report are almost useless.

If photography or film has been used in your inventory, make sure it is detailed enough and dated. Include photographs of the garden; interior of the shed or garage; inside of the oven and keys handed over to tenants – these are the main areas of problems that occur and are often down to misinterpretation at the end of a tenancy.

Remember, you don’t need photos of every single corner of the property, these are frankly a waste of time and effort (and would be impossible to do) – stick to the important things. Films and photographs alone will be of little use in a dispute when an adjudicator is trying to find hard evidence of a particular area. You can bet the problem in question just won’t be something you have photographed in the first place!

Many landlords and agents do not carry out a thorough and full check-in and check-out of the property when the tenant was present. Often, no correspondence with the tenant is documented and no receipts are kept for the deductions on the deposit e.g. cleaning and repairs.

Landlords and agents who don’t have this information and records available when they go to court, have little chance of winning the case.

For further information on AIIC, please visit www.theaiic.co.uk.

December 30, 2014

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