The Sunday Times at the weekend had an interesting article on how landlords of residential properties let out to students are getting carried away with high costs being charged at the end of their tenancy and deducted from deposits because of the condition of the properties being left by the students. So to give a flavour of these high costs, they provide examples like:

• £35 to change a light bulb
• £60 to clear cobwebs
• £20 for a new key ring fob
• £45 replacement pin board
• £20 for a “broken vacuum cleaner pipe”, and with one example where the cost was added for the vacuum cleaner of the actual tenant not the landlord.
• £20 for a missing letter box
• £80 for fixing holes in walls
• £345 cleaning bill justified by 4 cleaners for 4 hours each, which was then negotiated down to 4 cleaners on 1 hour each so only £86.50.
• £250 if the kitchen needs cleaning (York University, but only £30 at Nottingham University)

Of course this does appear unfair and an example of landlords and letting agents taking advantage of students not being aware of these kind of things and being forced into agreeing them because of something they maybe originally signed. The Association of Residential Letting Agents clearly say that landlords should not profit by charging more than the market value for replacement items, and quite rightly so.

It’s also about the right balance as well, so yes it will of course it will cost a landlord to arrange certain cleaning or repair works at a property ready for the next tenant, and which will need to be at a reasonable rate, but this can’t get carried away and be inflated.

A good example above is the cleaning-bill one, where it appears that the actual rate per hour was not an issue, it was just the number of cleaners and hours involved. That’s where clear and honest communication is essential, so everyone’s clear on what the true time and cost involved is.

So anyway, as the new student year now begins and students and parents are involved in arranging student lets, here’s a few pieces of advice to try and make sure they don’t get hit with such large costs at the end:

1. Remember that rent deposits for residential short-term lets have to by law be protected and kept separate from the landlord, with both parties then needing to agree any deductions from it.

2. Take a really good invenstory at the start, including lots of photos that you can store online or even send on email as written evidence of the condition at a particular time and date.

3. Keep on tops of things, both general cleaning and letting the landlord know about any repairs straight away.

4. At the very end of the tenancy have a go yourself or use a good local Birmingham cleaner to get spik and span.

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