Don’t get screwed by your landlord. Top Tips.

Anyone who has ever been in the private rental game will know that sometimes it can be a real pain in the a**!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will probably already know that I am actually a big fan of renting.  I have never understood why young people stretch themselves financially in order to get on the property ladder. And the events of the past year or so with crashing property markets and homeowners stuck in negative equity on their lender’s standard variable rate (if they haven’t already lost their home, that is), have convinced me that we did the right thing by not diving in when credit was cheap and easy to get when everyone else did.

And anyway, for us, renting makes sense. We like the relative freedom that comes from renting as opposed to being tied to a mortgage. We don’t have to pay for unexpected repairs or maintenance out of our own pocket in huge lump-sums. And we’re not even missing out on capital appreciation at the moment, thanks to the falling market! One day I suppose we’ll make the leap onto the property ladder when we’re ready, but for now, if we wanted to find a mortgage for the £1,200 we currently spend in rent each month, we’d have to move waaay out into the ‘burbs and live in a shoebox. And I don’t do the ‘burbs.

That said, there are times when the rental love affair grates. And it’s usually when it comes to trying to get the deposit (or bond) back off the landlord after you’ve moved out. I read English Major’s Money’s post earlier this month with great sympathy. She is at war with her ex-landlord over the return of the deposit, and it sounds extremely painful, and very like a situation we found ourselves in 2 years ago, where our ex-landlord held onto £2,500 for over 3 months while he stuffed around getting quotes for ‘damage’ that was really ‘wear and tear’ (how does anyone ‘damage’ the grouting in the bathroom…? I’m still confused about that). It was a terrible situation that caused enormous stress (emotional and financial), but the worst thing was that it dragged on for so long, and we basically had no power short of taking him to court which would have made the situation even more painful – because in the land of renting the landlord is king. So anyway, I can empathise with English Major’s Money’s predicament.

Here are my top tips for making sure your landlord doesn’t get away with anything!

1.    Be present when the check-in clerk does the in-going inventory. Get a copy in writing of the official version and go over it with a fine toothed comb. Question anything you don’t agree with and don’t give up until it’s 100% correct. Don’t worry if you have to call the clerk 20 times to get one point fixed, it’s their job, and you’ll be grateful when it comes time to move out and you want your bond back in full.
2.    Try to communicate with your landlord in writing as opposed to over the phone, as that way you have everything in writing. If you have to talk to them on the phone, keep a record of everything, no matter how trivial it seems at the time.
3.    If something breaks or goes wrong with your flat be persistent in getting the landlord to organise a repair – don’t feel like you’re being a pain. You’re paying good money to live there and you deserve to have everything in good working order!
4.    If possible go through an agency rather than dealing with a private landlord directly. It keeps things much more professional. The biggest problems we’ve ever had with a landlord came from the fact that he used to live in our flat, and as a result was ridiculously precious about everything (and I am very particular about keeping my home clean and always take care of other people’s possessions. This guy was seriously crazy.  If you aren’t prepared to deal with regular wear and tear on a property, don’t rent it out!) And he worked outside of the UK at weeks at a time, so if we needed something done it would usually require weeks of waiting. Beyond painful.
5.    Know your rights. Don’t let yourself be bullied by a landlord. You have rights as a tenant and there are laws in place to protect you from an over-bearing or sloppy landlord. In a previous flat I once came home to find a workman in the bathroom when I hadn’t been told that anyone would be coming by! Not fun.

Do you have any advice to share when it comes to dealing with landlords?