ResourcesInformation and documents covering various aspects of residential letting.
Looking after your property
One criticism of some rental properties is their external condition and a feeling amongst people living in the area that they let the neighbourhood down. This could be because of much needed maintenance, overgrown gardens, rubbish and a general impression that the property is not cared for.
You may have rented out your property in a good presentable condition, but things change over time and unless you make regular visits you can’t assume it’s still in the condition you would like it to be. Property letting is never really a hands-off business even if you employ the services of an agent – you need to check that they are really keeping an eye on the condition and reporting issues to you, or if you manage it yourself that your tenants are reporting issues to you. The only way to know for sure is to make regular visits and speak to the tenant or agent if everything is not as it should be.
Beware of structural defects (including invasive plant growth) as these can deteriorate further over time and take more effort and money to put right. It might start to cause problems inside the property such as leaks and damp. A well maintained property will also look more appealing to existing and new tenants and improve the street for everyone. If your property stands out as a good example it might even encourage others to improve theirs.
Who’s responsible for what?
A typical tenancy agreement will state that the landlord is responsible for maintenance of the building such as masonry and rainwater goods and keeping it in good decorative order. Tenants would be responsible for the things that one would expect someone living in a property day-to-day to take care of such as maintaining gardens and keeping external areas clean, with all rubbish properly binned.
If you haven’t made maintenance responsibilities clear in your tenancy agreement, certain default responsibilities will apply in accordance with the Private Tenancies (NI) Order 2006, but these don’t specifically refer to outside spaces and are mostly concerned with maintenance of the internal and external parts of the building itself. If your tenancy agreement says something different about those responsibilities, it’s the tenancy agreement that takes precedence.
Make sure your tenancy agreement sets out the responsibilities of the tenant for maintaining outside areas such as front and back garden, bin areas etc. If the tenant is not keeping to it, tell them. Even if they’re a good tenant in other respects they may need prompting when it comes to outside space. If nobody seems to care they might think that it doesn’t matter or that it’s someone else’s job and that seems to be especially true when it comes to gardens.
If you have a garden and don’t want to leave it to the tenants, you could take responsibility for the garden yourself and include the cost of a gardener in the rent. Ensure you state in the tenancy agreement that the gardener needs to be allowed access and at what days and times – your tenants might not be happy to be woken at 8am by a lawnmower. Also check periodically that the gardener is doing what you asked. If you leave it to the tenants, make sure they have a lawnmower and a way to plug it in but think safety and leave instructions including any supplied manual. Provide a compost bin for recycling the grass cuttings or a garden waste bin if the council provides one in your area.