Cautionary Tales: our top five landlord horror stories – and how to avoid making the list

We’ve all heard stories about tenants from hell – from a raft of excuses for not paying their rent right through to leaving carnage and destruction in their wake.

Here are some of the worst ones we’ve heard, and a few tips on how to avoid, and deal with, nightmare tenants.

  1. After a row with his landlord over an electricity meter, a tenant in Blackpool went on a rampage, causing £12,000 of damage in his property, including ripping out fittings, letting stray dogs in to do their worst and writing racist graffiti on the walls.
  2. Another tenant, for reasons best known to herself, ripped out carpets and left food waste and litter around the property for months on end, resulting in an infestation of mice and maggots so bad that the landlord was physically sick from the smell when she visited the property.
  3. A Devon couple had to evict their tenants after they stripped out all the furniture and fittings and began using the house as a cannabis farm. The heat and high humidity levels used in cannabis growth caused water damage to the walls, floors and ceilings, costing thousands to repair. In another property in Dorset, the heat lamps used to grow cannabis caused a devastating fire.
  4. Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, landlords discovered £8,000 of damage to their property after their tenants used the home to house 14 mastiffs (as well as their five children!) There was dog faeces everywhere and two of the bedrooms had been turned into kennels. To add insult to injury, the tenants had also run up £7,000 of rent arrears.
  5. If 14 mastiffs were not enough, another property in Hull became home to more than 50 cats and dogs – and a grey squirrel in the loft! Aside from the damage and the smell caused by the menagerie, the tenants also ended up being prosecuted by the RSPCA for animal cruelty.

Whilst these are extreme cases and it may seem hard to understand how things got so far out of hand, even a minor lack of care by tenants can cause delays when they move out and the property has to be brought back up to standard for the next tenancy.

We recently gave you our top tips for avoiding rent arrears, and some of those are also good advice for avoiding the type of nightmare tenants that can ultimately cost landlords thousands in repairs and lost rents while a property is being restored to the standard you want to be able to offer. Most important is the need to run thorough checks on your tenants before they move in, and it’s also a good idea to build a good relationship with your tenants and regularly inspect the property to nip any festering hygiene problems or poor treatment of the premises in the bud.

Even though most pet owners are responsible, to be on the safe side you may want to include a no pets clause in your tenancy agreements – again, regular inspections will soon reveal any illicit animal companions being kept in the property. Some landlords even prefer not to allow children, but this will limit you to the type of tenants you’ll attract and may not be realistic with certain types of property that are likely to attract families. It’s also important to make sure you have an insurance policy in place that will cover damage by tenants to fixtures and fittings. There are differences between a standard home insurance policy and one that is tailored for landlords.

Occasionally, though, even the most careful landlords run into problem tenants and, if a polite reminder of the standards required by the tenancy agreement doesn’t improve things, the only course of action is to pursue eviction as early and as quickly as possible to minimise damage to the property and enable you to get new tenants in as soon as you can.

We can help you put a robust tenancy agreement in place that limits the risk of having your own tenant horror story to share. But if you’re already on the road to hell with your tenants, we can offer advice on how to address the situation quickly and get things back on track. Give us a call on 0333 577 9050 and we’ll talk through your options.

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