Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Six Monthly Makeover.

I have an idea for yet another make-over show. It’s for rented homes, and will have a glamorous celeb finding drama and poignant stories while renovating a rented home – but there’s no warm fuzzy ending to gladden our hearts.

Recently, the BBC requested my thoughts on renting – now permanent reality for many, and how to make it less, well – crap. They misinterpreted some of my suggestions, listing ‘get rid of clutter.’ Nothing major, but I’d said something stronger. I’d said get rid of any extraneous possessions.

Making your home look fantastic, rendering it comfortable is a challenge when you might have to up and move at least once per year, maybe every six month, and furniture is included. One rentier even chose paintings, and had them screwed to the wall making it harder to change them. It’s like living in a show home, only all the furniture is faded and shredded.

The first trick is to discard any superfluous possessions. Keep only what you can imagine lugging up and down three flights of stairs, alone. I’ve disposed of my vinyl. I was once a music journalist, so some of it was tasty, even valuable, but I just couldn’t carry those bags anymore. Ipods are so useful here, but yes – it’s hard. Tenants can’t afford to be hoarders.

The point was made in posts and comments that rentiers should not refuse the reasonable request to decorate, especially if tenants paint the walls greige again when the vacate. Take pictures to record your actions is my advice, protecting yourself from deposit slicing letting agents.

Other than that plants, and pictures, what can you do? Trying to make proper home, which is pleasant attractive and personalised matters – you spend time there, and owners are more concerned with resilience than beauty.

Try providing small items of your own manageable furniture like desks (why do owners so rarely provide them, even in student lets?) Make sure they are portable – you can load some onto roof-racks, and when in the revolving doors of in/out renting – this matters.

Blinds and curtains help, and there’s nothing to stop you removing then safely storing those vile, threadbare drapes, replaced when you leave. Or bettering what was supplied by owners like the ones who provided blinds that stopped half way up.

My pet hate is old tiny wardrobes. I prefer rails, from shop-fitters – easy to carry, any wardrobes filled with boxes, books and mouldy old curtains. You could also buy at least one comfy chair, even in a furnished home, at least second hand.

The worst part is carpets. Mouldy, stained, smelly and defiantly maroon, they usually come with huge sofas that ‘ping’ every time you sit, which you can cover in cloths or blankets.

I’ve said it before, but continental renting is usually unfurnished allows for decorating. It’s true that tenants stay longer, and put the walls back as they were, but personalising your home is accepted. Renting can be so dispiriting. Fitting your entire life into one van every few months is humbling. Let us paint.


Anonymous said...

These landlords are happy to let their tenants paint (see comments section);


Many more landlords would also allow it, if they could be sure the decor would be reasonably restored after a tenants first experiments in interior design.

Some continental renting does allow tenants to decorate but landlords can take up to 3x the monthly deposit and they don't have the same bonkers deposit laws as we have in the UK.

Regards, HB Welcome.

space cadet said...

"if they could be sure the decor would be reasonably restored after a tenants first experiments in interior design."

Just can't resist the air of contempt can you.

Here's my top tip: Landlords try speaking to your tenants, giving them some autonomy and reaching a colour compromise.

If they insist on canary yellow or Thundercats are go, think long and hard about what condition you gave the property in, before you start casting aspersions on *their* taste.

space cadet said...

Silly me: as if tenants can dare to insist on anything. And we all know, it's ThunderBIRDS are go.

Anonymous said...

You are right Space Cadet, I couldn't resist and there was no need for it.

My comment should have been directed at anyone's first attempts at decorating.

Painting out ThunderBIRDS are go from canary yellow walls makes even the most lenient landlord think twice the next time.

It's a sad fact but 9 out of 10 Thundercats prefer magnolia.

RenterGirl said...

No matter how shabby the decor, landlords are still reluctant to decorate, and fine from deposits tenants who take the initiative.

Matt Wardman said...

>Just can't resist the air of contempt can you.

It isn't contempt; it's what happens.

The last place I refurbished I only saved a brand new set of varnished pine doors from a coating of DIY-shed gloss by the skin of my teeth.

OTOH I have one where T redecorated as they have multiple dogs, and it made sense for them to do that. My decorating money went partly into the bank for when they leave, and it needs de-dogging, and partly into a new outside socket and tap.

But one experience of having something done badly wrong will cost a couple of thousand to sort out, and make LLs be cautious thenceforward.

Something done badly wrong might include, for example, using the wrong type of paint, so that the inevitable repair redecoration will need 2 or 3 full coats and a week of decorator time.

If you want to redecoate, then negotiate and agree first. There's more chance on an unfurnished tenancy; less if you hire a mint place in the professional market.

space cadet said...

>Just can't resist the air of contempt can you.

It isn't contempt; it's what happens.

No, it's contempt. (as HB Welcome admits) Talking in undertones, denotes contempt. Bad tenants will take the p, just like bad landlords will sting money from your deposit for repairs they won't/can't even prove. It's a nasty game you're in, but frankly, you're the privileged ones, and you make the profit; go figure.

Anonymous said...

Renter Girl said;
"landlords ..... fine from deposits tenants who take the initiative."

Space cadet said;
"bad landlords will sting money from your deposit for repairs they won't/can't even prove."

This is no longer the case. It may have been so, pre the tenancy deposit legislation but things are now very, very heavily weighted in a tenants favour.

Even if a landlord has managed to successfully navigate the bonkers rules about protection, they are then faced with proving beyond all reasonable doubt* that the tenant has damaged the property.

And even if a landlord can prove the lounge walls were originally white, and not canary yellow with ThunderBIRDS are go, they will only be awarded a proportionate amount, less fair wear and tear, for the average lifespan that white emulsion lasts.

This is the reason many landlords are now finding creative ways around taking deposits.

Regards, HB Welcome

*I know that it is supposed to be 'on balance of probabilities'.

RenterGirl said...

Love how tenants finally protected from deposits stolen by landlords seen as 'very, very heavily weighted in a tenants favour.'

Rubbish. The right to paint was once seen as an entitlement - owners even paid. Now it's perpetual off-white. When owners refuse to re-decorate, tenants will paint. It's a home.

space cadet said...

Go out on the street and talk to some tenants, you ignorant idiot.

Sadly, the tenant deposit scheme doesn't go far enough - it turns into "he said, she said" - it's like the cop forcing the suspect to sign a confession - or take the landlord to court.

If you don't like the tenant's taste in decor - tough. You don't live there, they do.

space cadet said...

"This is the reason many landlords are now finding creative ways around taking deposits."

Keep running now, eventually you'll run out of breath.

Anonymous said...

Hi RenterGirl,

I'm not suggesting tenants shouldn't be protected from landlords stealing deposits.

Do you not agree that the tenancy deposit regulations are now very, very heavily weighted in a tenants favour? Rightly or wrongly.

Sorry, I don't understand your second point.

Regards, HB Welcome.

Anonymous said...


I would say that the deposit scheme is very heavily weighted in the tenant's favour because the presumption is that the deposit is the tenant's money (which it is) and the LL has to prove the deductions are a)warranted b)at a fair level. If the LL cannot prove both those things then the tenant gets their money back.


as RG pointed out the LL can use the threat of a bad reference to force the tenant to agree to deductions that they are otherwise not happy with.

I'm not sure what can be done about this. Possibly some sort of LL referencing system, or maybe if the prospective tenant could get a "reference" from the deposit scheme providers showing the LL's history of deposit deductions and arbitration decisions. That should give a clue to the tenant as to the "mindset" of the LL they are about to sign up with.

RenterGirl said...

'This is the reason many landlords are now finding creative ways around taking deposits.'
Tha says it all really. Tenants rent homes to live in, not show homes for rentiers to showcase. Rentiers still see deposits - which are the tenant's money, as an extra revenue stream.

Anonymous said...


Although some LLs will be trying to "creatively take deposits" to avoid the schemes, a large number will be simply because of the sheer incompetence of the legislation.

Essentially it is unbelievably poorly drafted and, as a result, there is a huge amount of uncertainty of what a LL has to do in order to comply with the rules.

For example, a recent appeal court ruling implies that a statutory periodic tenancy that is created when a fixed period tenancy ends(this is the bit that means that you don't have to sign a new agreement when the old one expires - despite what the agents may say) requires the LL to reserve the proscribed information on the tenants as if the deposit had just been taken. Failure to do so will result in the usual penalties.

However the law says that the LL must comply with the deposit scheme regulations or you will be in breach and the usual penalties will apply.

As the scheme regulations say the LL shouldn't serve the proscribed information to the tenant when a periodic tenancy starts the LL is caught between a rock and a hard place.

The proposed solution is to require a new fixed term to be started as there will be no ambiguity. However this now gets us back to the "must resign every X months" and pay an administration fee (because the biggest admin headache is the deposit protection, and does take significant office time to do it right). Which is exactly the situation that everybody hates!

Viewing the deposit as an extra revenue stream is the sign of a poor LL. Frankly I would rather not have to deal with deposits at all. I seriously looked into getting rid of deposits all together, however a series of tenant's leaving having caused damage and leaving a considerable mess behind made me think twice. If there was a better way of doing it I would jump at it but for now we seem stuck in this crappy muddle of a system that everybody thinks is unsatisfactory.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


actually I did think of one way.

The LL takes out insurance against the tenant damaging/leaving a mess/skipping out on the rent.

This insurance would have a monthly premium which the LL would pass direct on to the tenant on top of the rent (more on that bit later)

The premium would (like car insurance) be based on the LL's history and (crucially) the tenant's history.

If a tenant had a history of claims against them (remember that the claims would have to be ones that the insurance co had agreed to pay out after inspection, and as we know insurance co's are tight when it comes to payouts) then their premium would be higher.

This last bit is why it should be "on top" of the rent.

If it was included then a good tenant would pay as much as a bad one.

If the tenant has a good history then their total rent (rent plus premium) would be lower than a bad tenant.

As the damage would be insured, the LL would such tight referencing (another common gripe).

Of course this would increase the "rent" as you would be paying rent and premiums, but it could be a choice. If you don't trust your devious and money grabbing LL then go for the premium, if you think the LL is a decent human being then go for the old deposit route.

Anonymous said...

anon 1


As the damage would be insured, the LL would such tight referencing (another common gripe).

should read

As the damage would be insured, the LL wouldn't need such tight referencing (another common gripe).

Anonymous said...

Yep, deposit insurance is one way.
Quite a few rental adverts saying no deposit required, tenant bond guarantee only £150
-they forget to mention the tenant has to keep paying it annually.
I've not heard of it being offered on a risk basis, only a flat rate.

Or property only available to tenants with home owning guarantor(s).

Or Rent Guarantee insurance paid by the tenant (no deposit required with some schemes).

Or for the gambler, No deposit required but charge 8% over the going rate. After just over a year you've re-cooped the 'deposit' and thereafter it is the deposit scheme that keeps on giving.

Or others, some legal some not. Or a combination.

I'm not condoning or condemning, just pointing out the consequences of this awful legislation.

Incidentally, it is prescribed information not proscribed.
-Although having looked up the definition "ostracize or avoid in a social sense" maybe you're right!

Penny Anderson said...

None of the above. Property is a business. There is risk. Deal with that.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly it Penny, landlords are dealing with it, in their typical, sneaky, underhand, capitalist way.

Something certainly needed doing to stop some landlords from stealing deposits, unfortunately the deposit legislation fiasco wasn't a very good way to do it.

Regards, HB Welcome

Anonymous said...


you're right, prescribed not proscribed. That'll teach me to multi task (or try to).

renting is a business and risk needs to be dealt with.

as a sector (ie all LLs aggregated) there will be some losses due to bad tenants,either defaulted rent or damage beyond reasonable wear and tear.

the taking of deposits is one way to mitigate this risk, careful referencing is another. In theory this should reward good tenants as the cost is zero assuming an honest landlord.

so assuming an honest landlord and a good tenant the cost of covering damages etc is zero, the entire cost is borne by the bad tenants (again assuming honest LL). Is this not a fair way of dealing with risk?

of course the whole thing rests on LLs being honest.

in the past a proportion (a high proportion in some areas and sectors) have not been honest.

this has lead to the legislation, which i support in spirit. However the implementation of it is rather poor and causes good LLs problems.