The accidental landlord: be quick with the repairs and keep the rent rolling in

​Landlords have only themselves to blame if stroppy tenants won't pay up until repairs are carried out.
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One out of every 10 tenants is withholding rent from their landlord because they are annoyed they haven't carried out repairs, according to a recent survey. If true, I wonder if those tenants realise they are almost certainly breaking the terms of their lease and could be booted out of their accommodation? At the very least they are going to sour their relationship with their landlord. I certainly wouldn't be inclined to renew a rental agreement with a tenant who had withheld their rent.

Tenants, listen up. It might be frustrating to have to wait for your landlord to carry out repairs, but you can't just decide to withhold your rent in the expectation that will prompt them to act faster. If you think your landlord needs a kick up the backside, then you should write to them and suggest that if they don't get on with it, you'll arrange the repairs yourself and send them the bill.

Bear in mind that if you do go down this route, you will first have to send the landlord quotes from three different companies, and if you do arrange the work yourself you'll be responsible for making sure that it is done properly. The housing charity Shelter has some useful advice for tenants trying to negotiate repairs with their landlords on its website.

Of course, it is in the landlord's interest to make sure that a property is well-maintained and to carry out repairs as soon as possible — and those who don't cannot really complain if the only sort of tenants they are able to hold on to are the ones who don't pay their rent.

I always try to respond as fast as possible to any problems, but tenants need to be realistic about how quickly landlords can put things right. With the best will in the world, it isn't always possible to get repairs done immediately. We are not magicians, after all. I had a tenant who told me at 10pm of a problem with her shower so I promised to get a heating engineer out to look at the boiler. She called at 7am the following morning to ask when he would arrive. For crying out loud, I'm a landlord, not a genie.

Just hours before I moved a new tenant into a flat pre-Christmas, I checked everything was working: I ran the washing machine, flushed the loo, made sure every radiator heated up and that the water from all the taps ran suitably hot.

I turned every door handle, opened and closed all the windows, tested all the locks and poked my head under the kitchen sink to make sure there were no leaks there. I walked up and down the empty rooms, making sure there were no creaky floorboards and inspected every ceiling and wall for damp patches.

Everything was perfect. Or so I thought. The morning after she moved in, the tenant emailed me a list of things she'd found wrong.

You see, it's virtually impossible to ensure a property is flawless, and every new tenant is almost bound to find a few things not to their liking. In this case, the loo cistern — which was new — was taking too long to refill between flushes, the boiler kept cutting out and one of the sash windows, which I'd managed to open without any problem, kept jamming.

None of these faults was serious, but nevertheless I dealt with each one pretty swiftly to make sure my relationship with the tenant got off to the best possible start. After all, what's that old saying, a stitch in time will save you hearing a tenant whine? 

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