Damage Limitation: How to manage damage in your BTL

When you have tended a property, and spent time and money on making it a great place for your tenants to call home, it can be really frustrating when any damage is caused to your pride and joy.

Is this a real problem?

Absolutely, yes.

A recent survey by YouGov revealed that 27% of tenants renting privately in the UK would not notify their landlord if significant damage occurred in their property.

15% of respondents said they would hire a professional to take care of the issue themselves rather than spilling the beans to their landlord, whilst worryingly, 11% would attempt a spot of DIY have a go at fixing the problem themselves. All of these nervous tenants admitted that they’d shoulder the worry themselves, in the hope that their landlord wouldn’t find out about any damage that occurred to the property.

It’s not all bad news though. 58% of tenants said that they would report the damage to their landlord – 24% would offer to pay the full bill, 7% would offer to contribute to the costs, and 27% would keep quiet and see if a bill was forthcoming.

So, if you receive a ‘I’ve got a bit of bad news…’ phone call, before you erupt down the phone, take a deep breath and remember – chances are your tenant’s child probably didn’t kick a ball through your window on purpose, they’re probably as annoyed about the situation as you are, and they were probably dreading making this phone call to you. However, they’re among the 58% who’ve plucked up the courage to talk to you about it, so you can now move forward and get the property back in ship shape together – helping alleviate any further, long-standing damage being done!

What exactly is accidental damage?

Accidental damage occours when something unforeseen happens to an item that leaves it unable to perform the job or functions that it was designed to perform. For example, a football through a back window would result in a broken window, unable to perform the function of security, protection or warmth.

Generally speaking, insurers do not consider damage caused by pets, poor workmanship or general wear and tear to be accidental, and you may find yourself with a fight on your hands if you try to claim any reimbursement.

Can I get an insurance policy to cover me against this sort of thing?

Absolutely! And it’s a really good idea that you do! There’s hundreds available, but before you choose one, make sure that it best fits the type of property you own, and the type of tenants you are hoping to have in place. Some policies may not cover garden-based incidents, so if you are looking to let to a family (like our football-mad family for example!) this probably isn’t the policy for you. Read the small print carefully and if in doubt, seek a second opinion from a specialist.

How do I go about managing damage?

Make sure there is a clear clause in your tenancy agreement requiring your tenant to notify you immediately of any accidental damage to your property or its contents. Research by insurer LV= revealed that 40% of landlords rely on their tenants to tell them of any maintenance or damage issues, and tenants aged between 18-34 are notoriously bad at putting off fixing issues or not telling their landlord about them – something to be aware of!

Whilst you can insure yourself against accidental damage, you should also make sure you take a comprehensive inventory at the start of your tenancy – ideally with photographs – and make a periodic check on the property to make sure that there are no glaringly obvious issues that you need to address with your tenant. With a comprehensive inventory, updated periodically, you should have a strong case to deduct money from your tenant’s deposit should you need to fix any damages at the end of the tenancy, if you haven’t been notified of them during the duration of the let.

What if it isn’t my tenants fault?

If there is damage to your property that isn’t down to your tenant, it is likely to be your responsibility to get the problem rectified.

Whether it is damage caused by neighbours (leaking shower from the flat above causing a leak for example), or damage due to a crime (vandalism in the shared area) it is your responsibility to manage the situation and ensure your property is made safe for your tenant once again.

You can then pursue the third party for any funds required, however it is best not to involve your tenant in this further correspondence wherever possible.

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