Who rules the roost at a buy to let?

Most people think their home is their castle – and what they say about their property goes, but this is not necessarily the case between landlords and tenants.

Many landlords have found out to their cost that if a tenant decides to make subtle changes to a buy to let home, there is precious little that can be done.

Assured shorthold tenancy agreements generally include a clause that insists tenants cannot carry out improvements without the landlord’s permission in writing.

In practise, many landlords encourage tenants to make their buy to let property home as they feel they will stay longer.

However, the agreement rarely specifies what an improvement might be.

In one case, a landlord found the tenant had built a brick two-storey extension on to the back of his home without planning permission.

More commonly, tenants will install satellite TV dishes, change curtains, paint walls and reorganise the garden.

In reality, landlords will find they have little power to stop tenants making changes.

Several have driven past their buy to let homes and seen furniture standing out in the rain and new blinds and curtains at the windows.

Of course, flouting the rules laid down in the tenancy agreement could give rise to starting possession proceedings, but this could be a long and costly process if the disagreement is over repainting a wall.

Injunctions are also available to enforce tenancy agreements, but the likelihood of a judge agreeing to such a heavy-handed approach over simple changes is unlikely.

The most likely remedy is making a deduction from the rental deposit for repairing the damage when the tenant leaves.

Perhaps the best way to protect the state of repair of a buy to let is to discuss any changes with the tenant and to keep a written record of requests and agreements – but do not forget to add the line that any damage or making good is at the tenant’s cost.

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