PUBLISHED: 12:40 27 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013
Barrie George gives an update on the current lettings market
Supply of rental property continues to be healthy as owners look to letting as an alternative to selling. Demand for rental property is also strong. At present, prospective tenants have more choice, putting pressure on rents and extending the average property marketing time in some areas.
The buy-to-let sector has been adversely affected by current financial conditions but remains an excellent investment option if funds can be sourced. Lower house prices have increased returns, with 5% now realistic.
Last year 40,000 repossessions were recorded and the CML predicts the figure to rise to 75,000 this year. At the end of 2008, 1.9% of mortgages (1 in every 53) were in arrears by three months or more. The figure was one in every 43 for buy-to-let mortgages.
Redundancies and other financial pressures are likely to result in an increase in rent arrears. This is a sensitive issue for both landlords and tenants and can, in some cases, compromise relationships. A reputable agent will generally avoid confrontation and reach an amicable solution. It is helpful if a landlord is sensitive to a difficult situation, shows understanding and supports the agent in trying to resolve matters.
It is common for a tenant to avoid communication in the mistaken belief that it will be confrontational. A 'head in the sand' attitude often ensues, which usually exacerbates the situation. If a problem is discussed openly and honestly, a landlord is far more likely to be understanding, the agent can help and an amicable solution is more likely to be found.
A professional Schedule
Most disputes between landlords and tenants occur at the end of the tenancy and are mostly to do with the condition of the property when the keys are returned and the property is handed back. Cleanliness (in particular of kitchens, ovens and bathrooms), damage, and occasionally the condition of the garden are the cause of most disagreements.
An accurate, comprehensive Schedule of Condition is an essential tool for landlords under these circumstances. This records the detailed condition and cleanliness of the property at the start and at the end of the tenancy. It should include a detailed record of every room (noting all scuffs, marks and any damage), and a summary of the garden's condition, with photographs to support the commentary.
The tenant is entitled to reasonable fair wear and tear whilst occupying a property (which would include minor small scuffs, marks and paint chips, but not burn marks or carpet stains). However, the property and garden must be left in as clean and tidy a condition as they were at the start of the tenancy.
If a dispute cannot be settled amicably and goes to arbitration or to the courts, the Schedule of Condition is usually the key document used as evidence. If a Schedule of Condition is unclear or inadequate, an arbiter or judge could rule in favour of the tenant. Many landlords and agents are happy to rely on a scant, sketchy Schedule of Condition to save money. This is a serious misjudgement.
Barrie George is proprietor
of The Dorset Lettings Group and can be contacted on (01202 842248) or visit www.dorsetlettings.co.uk