Monday, 24 June 2013

Visiting Evil Upon Them.

It’s nice to have visitors, isn’t it? Tea and biscuits, friendly chat etc. One common form of visitor is totally unwelcome - even dreaded, presents of biscuits or not. No, not burglars, or termites, but letting agents, on inspections.

This is a relatively new occurrence. It used to be that tenants found a home, moved in, and unless there were problems, might not see the rentier (never, ever a letting agent) until they moved out. Not anymore. Now tenants are plagued by regular ‘checks,’ every six months at least, often as frequently as three months, even monthly. Perhaps agents want to be seen ‘doing something…anything’ to justify their inflated and bizarre fees.

Landgirl divested herself of agents, but I have fond memories of them arriving, doing their level best to look official, professional, and frankly, relevant, standing awkwardly, asking about repairs. On one occasion, they simply admired my plants before leaving asap.

I’ve suffered from the other side of this high and heavy handed practice. In a previous home, I found a note on the floor close to the communal back door (they couldn’t be bothered to climb stairs and post it to me.) Eventually, visits increased in regularity, but no repairs were done, no matter how many times I raised the problems. Finally, I withdrew consent, and said enough was enough. They stopped.

I wonder when frequent ‘inspections’ can be considered harassment, even with correct notice? I know of people, in dispute with rentiers and agents, who have been met with weekly, even daily ‘inspections.’ One was told it was because the owner was worried he’d sold the fridge on ebay.

The most annoying phrase related to this is: ‘Your presence is not required while the inspection is in progress.’ Erm, I think you’ll find it is. How would rentiers and agents like strangers wandering around, opening cupboards (this happened to me, I checked like a spy with thin sellotape on the bottom of a door), rifling through drawers, looking at the post on the doormat?

Sometimes inspectors comment on the tidiness of the place, which is none of their business – it’s the state of the property when tenants leave that matters. Even if renters are staging a minor dirty protest, providing they clean up afterwards, there’s little owners can do, although they would probably issue notice, because that’s always possible.

I’ve heard of owners arriving at weekends, wishing to inspect on the ‘wrong’ day and hammering on the front door demanding entry, of sending round clueless, nosy friends in their place, arriving with a posse, even taking photos of both the home and the renter – legally suspect, and also intimidating. Some of this behaviour is caused by owners failure to understand that they no longer have the right to saunter in and (land)lord it over their tenants.

Since owners must be notified of their landlord’s name and address, why not ‘notify’ them you intend to inspect their home, during the day, when they are out, and turn up with a few mates and a camera. Not nice. So don’t do it to renters.





25 comments:

RenterGirl said...

Yep. SEO spam is ALWAYS deleted. Don't even think about it.

space cadet said...

Another reason to never ever use a letting agent. You will have strangers walking through your home.

Are you within the law to change the locks on a rented property? I always mean to look that up.

Providing reasonable and/or emergency access does, as I understand, not have to equal: having keys. And I would argue that any other kind of access would be deemed by the OFT as an unfair tenancy term (frankly, most leases are full of them) and contradicts the tenants right to "quiet enjoyment of the property" as cited on any lease. I think, if tenants weren't 'too busy' finding roofs over their heads, this stuff would have been challenged in court before now.

In other news.. more corruption exposed, this time in the Police force (again) and UKIPs latest recruit Cllr Brian Sylvester is a slum landlord convicted for putting lives at risk. Now, where's the exit? Cos I want to get the hell out of here.. http://politicalscrapbook.net/2013/06/latest-ukip-recruit-brian-silvester-is-convicted-slum-landlord/

RenterGirl said...

That little word reasonable, the font of misery. Wish I was surprised.

Anonymous said...

So the landlord is concerned enough to do regular
Inspections but then ignores needed repairs .....
Doesn't seem very likely .
I've heard people say ,is heresay and not to be relied on .

RenterGirl said...

No 'Anon.' Not hearsay. Like I say in the post, visits seem more about undermining tenants than helping. Agents wish to 'protect' the owner from expense more than anything - even damage to the property. I seen this with my own eyes...

Anonymous said...

‘Your presence is not required while the inspection is in progress.’ Indeed this is something that pisses me off greatly.

Our letting agent doesn't seem to understand that we won't allow landlords/repair men/letting agents into our home whilst we're out. I have tried to explain politely it's not a student house where random people come and go, but a family home. They just don't get it - she even suggests they can do repairs whilst we are on holiday (convenient for us apparently). There's no way that's going to happen.

Landlord was around a few weeks ago to do a repair. I took time off to be present. He seemed mildly offended that I don't "trust" him to do the work alone. He started banging on about how he has worked in high security areas (banks or something). The man is quite mad. Had a bit of an argument that day actually. The bastard was 2hrs late. I was NOT happy.

On the whole our rental situation is tolearble but I really hate dealing with these people. They seem go go out of their way to make you feel inconsequential.

space cadet said...

^ Very well said. Can I just add tho, it's not OK for a student house either; not for any house. For all the same reasons of privacy and intrusion and security, and personal belongings, and sex toys, and dirty dishes, and repairs that can and do go wrong sometimes. No, we won't let you fuck up and then charge us for it.

Just ask the bastard letting agents: do you mind strangers walking through *your* home? But be prepared for the supremely disdainful reply that is: No, but I don't rent mine. To which I would give them a mouthful and change the locks (if I hadn't done so already). Or start filming the visits, to cover your arse.

Anonymous said...

Anon1

just to add some perspective from the other side.

inspections too frequently are clearly a breach of the quiet enjoyment part of the tenancy. On the other hand, some sort of inspection is occasionally required.

why? Several reasons, but here are a few.

tenants are not always aware that small defects may be causing major long term structural issues. For example a small crack in the the tiles around the shower might not bother the tenant (or even be aware of it), but from a LLs point of view could be storing up major structural problems in the future.

strangely enough Servicing valves on taps (little valves on each tap operated by screwdriver) and main stop valves for water tend to seize up if not operated every now and then. Then when there's a broken tap or burst pipe they don't work. One of the things i do during periodic inspections is twiddle all the valves, some of which are tucked away behind access panels etc.

so there are two good reasons for occasional inspections, not of the tenant and their lifestyle, but of the structure and services.

the question is how regularly. I would say anything more frequent than annually is too frequently, sometimes, depending on the property, longer intervals would be more appropriate. Obviously it would always have to be with the tenants consent, but a tenant can expect a LL to keep a property in good repair if the LL is never allowed to check what needs doing.

on the phrase 'Your presence is not required etc etc'

when arranging an appointment with a tenant i always try to find a mutually convenient time. If a tenant wishes to be present while i do an inspection or change a sash cord or whatever that is perfectly fine. However i like to give the tenant, who has better things yo do than wait around while i fo a boring maintenance task, the option to leave me to it. It also helps with scheduling. If i can do one task at one location then move onto the next task when finished it allows me much more flexibility to get things done. I know how frustrating it is to take a morning off work nd hen the tradesman arrives at lunchtime because the first job over runs...

if a tenant insists on being present then it can take longer to find a date that both they and i can commit to, so i like to allow tenants, who feel comfortable with me doing tasks without them present, the flexibility to let me get on with my job while they get on with theirs.

regarding changing locks, if a tenant changes the locks and doesn't inform me or provide copies they are within their rights but if an emergency happened (leak from a washing machine or burst pipe, mostly water based emergencies to be honest) and i was unable to enter and the damage was greater because of that i would be a) annoyed b) claiming the damages from the tenant (hopefully via the insurance companies)

true story: i was helping a plumber who was changing a rad, when the tenant next door knocked and said water was running down her wall. So the plumber and i went upstairs and knocked on the door. No answer, as it happened the flat key was on the same keychain as the flat we were in so in we went. The tenant had installed a new dishwasher himself and bodged the water connection which had burst. Luckily we were able to sort the problem, and the only damage was cosmetic rather than the ceiling coming down. While we were there fixing the problem, the door bell goes, i open the door to a squad of coppers, who are rather surprised that we were there. After much explaining over who we were and why we were there it transpired that the tenant was currently helping them with their enquiries at the station (that's why he wasn't in) and they removed boxes of books (which the flat was filled with) and computers. It turned out that the tenant was running an iffy magazine/book business from the flat which is why he never allowed me in for inspections. As a side note the weight of the paper was seriously overloading the floor joists, which explained the cracks in the flat below's ceiling. :-)

RenterGirl said...

This is, as I say in the post, to do with amateur rentiers, but yes reasonable access is fine. My current rentier could come round whenever she wants. Her former agents, like all previous examples never checked for faults you mention. They just strolled in - then out, just cursory inspection.

Anonymous said...

Renter girl
Google cannabis farms .
It may explain the seemingly pointles checks .




RenterGirl said...

Cannabis farms. Really. So because of their omnispresent, constant risk, tenants will 'inspect' their owners home.

space cadet said...

And all of this negotiation and reason is, and certainly should be, possible with a private landlord. But agents are a different matter entirely!

Please, don't justify your access to that property though, on the basis of "look, at the illegal activity we found". Because that's what you're doing. It's a blessing you got in, for the sake of the leak, and the neighbours, but let's be clear it is NOT your right to let yourself in, regardless of what that tenant is or isn't doing.. unless it really is an emergency like the one you encountered, don't do it.

Anonymous said...

anon1

@space cadet, I wasn't justifying my entry on the basis of the illegal activity. It just so happened that the police visit coincided with our presence resulting in a bit of confusion for all parties.

My entry was based on the fact water was running down the walls of the flat below. We knocked and rang and tried both contact numbers (straight to answer phone on both, left a message explaining the situation)before entering. We also checked the flat above the suspected flat (tenant was in) just to make sure that the water wasn't coming through his fat from above. When that proved dry, we were sure that his flat was the culprit.

What was I supposed to do? I was standing outside a flat with a plumber, with a distressed tenant from the flat below and no way of contacting the tenant.

I would define that situation as an emergency.

When we entered we went direct to the kitchen, we were only aware of the boxes after the police arrived and started asking if the boxes (in the bedroom and living room) were mine.

I agree that pointless "wander around" inspections and too frequent ones are intrusive and shouldn't happen. Again the culprit (as with re-signing every 6 months) seems to be letting agents who are trying to boost their fees (or justify the already high ones)

It comes back to the referencing issue. It should be more common that tenants ask for references from the agent/LL. To be honest I have never been asked for references although I do suggest that any prospective tenants have a chat with other tenants to get a feel for things. How many take that option, I have no idea.

Ultimately a tenant and LL are entering into a relationship, even if they have the bare minimum of contact with each other they are trusting each other to act in good faith. It's not unreasonable for each side to want some reassurance of this before starting.

space cadet said...

I would consider that an emergency too Anon; like I say, it's a blessing you got in, on this occasion. But for the benefit of other LLs reading this, let's remain very clear about what is a justified entry. Emergencies yes. If the tenant wants to be in (and this means you be at their convenience) well, that is entirely their right and their prerogative. Only after I've met my landlord for a few times, and had an honest and frank conversation with them, will i be sure that I trust them. Even like them,

Your mention there, at the end, of this illegal activity read, unfortunately, like the victory cry of so many landlords I've heard. "It's a good job I did what I did". My point being, if LLs suspect their tenant of anything illegal, don't start thinking here that you're justified in letting yourself in - you're not.

space cadet said...

[pressed enter too soon..] That's what the police is for.

space cadet said...

* are for !

RenterGirl said...

The problem is the usual one - letting agents. If tenants and owners can meet, and build trust, none of this should be an issue.

Anonymous said...

anon1

Absolutely, what LLs need to bear in mind is that inspections are not for snooping on the tenant's life or activities. The inspections should only ever be concerned with structural/servicing/repair issues.

What the tenant needs to bear in mind is that the LL has a duty to keep the property in good repair and sometimes this will require access (e.g. annual gas inspections or fire alarm servicing).

Anonymous said...

I know what's a good idea !
Save up 30k ..borrow 70k
Buy a 100k flat .
Get 7.5k per year rent
Pay 1k-1.5k per year service charges
Make an an allowance of 1mths rent for voids
Make an allowance for letting fees .
AND best of all I can throw the tenant out on a whim
and call round to the flat once a week - month - quarter ..
and go snooping !
Lets get saving !!!



RenterGirl said...

Not sure what your point is. Nobody's claiming all owners do this, or that it's why they 'invest.' The sad fact is, some owners do arrive unannounced, or their representatives do, then saunter around, opening drawers/cupboards etc.

Anonymous said...

anon1

I've got better things to do and quite frankly I'd rather sit on my sofa watching telly than look round your (meaning tenants in general) home.

If I really want to look around someone's home I'll watch any one of these grand designs type programs where the houses are likely to be much more interesting and with fewer piles of laundry!

That being said, LL/agents who do this intrusive inspection (and I think we've established that some inspections are required) lark should be given a good shake up.

They're giving those of us who try to do a good job and provide a service a bad name and no end of ear ache.

Emma said...

Our current agency inspects every three months, so I've decided that rather than get annoyed, I'll use them as an opportunity to be even more officious than the letting agency. So it's shoes off at the door, making sure that the agent gets a good look at my specially purchased 'You Again?' doormat. This is also a good opportunity to look pointedly at the agent's socks, which will inevitably be holey :)

Then I have my own clipboard, complete with a list of the current issues, and all of the previously reported issues noted in date order, and notes showing that they have not been addressed. The list also has a general statement saying that as the issues have been reported to the landlord's agent, we are not responsible for any further deterioration of the property due to the lack of maintenance. I have two copies of the list, one for the agent to take away and one for me to keep. I always make the agent sign and date both copies (they REALLY hate that, and usually make a lame joke about how I'm not to use the list in court).

Honestly, it's great fun, especially if you make notes on the list as you go ('agent opened cupboards', 'agent knelt on bed', 'agent commented that landlord shouldn't be in the business' - they both happened during one recent inspection). It really winds the agents up but you can hide it all under guise of being an oh-so responsible tenant. More practically, the signed lists are very useful to have when there are issues at the end of the tenancy.

RenterGirl said...

Have done that myself - very funny to see the results.

space cadet said...

Emma, you've made me smile so hard at that post, thankyou ! And keep up the excellent work.

nulz said...

They're embarrassing and awkward. Two years ago I was in a flat rented privately through a letting agency (who were probably cowboys) and they'd do inspections every 3 months. Once, they let themselves in with a key and didn't think to knock on the door. I was in the shower at the time, my flatmate was out and I was bloody terrified.

I had bad insomnia due to medication I was on and they'd always arrange the "inspections" for 9am. I was falling asleep about 5am/6am and had to force myself up a few hours later for an inspection they sometimes didn't bother turning up for or they would, but would make snide comments like "not even out of bed yet? Typical students, can't get out of bed at a reasonable time". Snooping around my flat and making unwarranted comments? Professional stuff!

Thankfully I'm well shot of that letting agency now and have a decent private landlord who hasn't done an inspection since I moved in. I'm pleased that she trusts me and respects my space. I wish more landlords/letting agencies were the same.