What are a landlord’s legal rights when a tenant has damaged their property?
The chief concern of most private residential landlords is whether a tenant will treat their property with care and respect. While in most cases their property will be returned to them at the end of the tenancy in reasonable order, there are occasions where this isn’t the case. So what are a landlord’s legal rights when a tenant has damaged their property?
Evicting a tenant who has caused damage
The landlord’s first priority where a tenant has damaged their property is usually to take steps to evict the tenant before further damage is caused.
If the period of the tenancy is close to coming to an end the tenant can be issued with a section 21 notice. This informs the tenant that the property must be given back at the end of the expiry of the notice. This could be the date of the end of the original term of the tenancy (provided sufficient notice is given) or a later specified date.
If a Section 21 Notice is not an option or the landlord wishes to take more urgent action then they can use the section 8 procedure. A section 8 notice of eviction must notify the tenant of the specific grounds on which they are being evicted under Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988.
There are mandatory and discretionary grounds available under the Act. Property damage caused by a tenant is likely to fall within the provisions of Ground 13, which is one of the discretionary grounds.
Ground 13 applies where the condition of the property “has deteriorated owing to acts of waste by, or the neglect or default of, the tenant or any other person residing in the dwelling-house”. Landlords should consider whether other grounds also apply.
The deterioration in the condition of the property must be over and above day-to-day ‘wear and tear’.
Any Housing Act notice must be accurately drafted. An invalid notice could result in the eviction being delayed, which would be extremely worrying where a tenant has damaged their property and there is a risk of further damage occurring. Specialist legal advice is therefore recommended and you can access a list of our standard fixed fee charges for landlord services here.
Recovering the costs of repair from the tenant’s deposit
Landlords have the option of deducting the costs of repair from the tenant’s deposit.
Landlords must put deposits in one of the government-approved tenancy deposit schemes. These provide for a landlord to recover the cost of damage from the deposit. Disputes are resolved through a free dispute resolution service offered by the scheme.
Recovering the costs of repair from the tenant or guarantor
If the costs of repair exceed the deposit then the landlord may be able to seek recovery from any guarantor or alternatively pursue a legal claim against the tenant. If the outstanding costs are less than £10,000 then the landlord can use the small claims procedure of the county court which is a relatively inexpensive process that does not require the involvement of a solicitor.
Making an insurance claim for property damage caused by a tenant
Prudent landlords often take out a special insurance policy for their rental properties. If you have done so then it is worth checking whether the damage is covered under the policy. Policies differ, but cover is often included for damage to carpets, furniture and white goods. Normal wear and tear however is likely to be excluded.
How we can help landlords whose property has been damaged by tenants
Our team of lawyers are experienced in helping landlords recover possession of their property and can also offer guidance on any of the other options mentioned in this article. Contact our landlord’s legal helpline on 0333 888 0404 or email us at [email protected].