The accidental landlord: house rules hold the key to happy tenants

Victoria Whitlock believes making house rules and agreeing the dos and don'ts in writing can help all parties involved in renting
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When a tenant posted on Twitter a list of 31 house rules she'd been handed by a landlord after she'd viewed a room he was letting, her tweet went viral, attracting comments like "unbelievable" and "what a lunatic". Personally, I'm surprised more landlords don't do this.

Rules are good, and rules that are written down are even better. They let everyone know where they stand and what is and isn't acceptable in a house share. I'm definitely going to take a leaf out of this landlord's book and hand tenants a list of dos and don'ts next time I let a room.

Admittedly this landlord did seem a bit mad, and some of his rules — such as No Pork EVER IN HOUSE and limited showering and cooking times — were unreasonable, but I think it was decent of him to let tenants know how intolerant he was before they moved in.

I find that tenants sharing large properties frequently fall out, usually because some of them are selfish, thoughtless or downright dirty. Having a list of rules with financial penalties for those who break them is one way to keep the peace.

I once shared a flat with a woman who woke me up three nights in a row playing loud music and waltzing round the living room with her cocker spaniel, singing: "I love you Welly, I love you!" On the third night I yelled that if she didn't shut up I'd fling Welly out of the window. If our landlord had had a "no dancing with dogs after midnight" rule, such an unfortunate incident might have been avoided.

While most tenants aren't so inconsiderate, I've had plenty who have taken the mick — for example, nicked everyone else's food, abandoned dirty dishes in the sink and never replaced the loo roll. One of my tenants wound up her flatmates by constantly leaving piles of clothes and cosmetics strewn around the living room. Another one threw an impromptu party then left his housemates to clean up. After these incidents, I inserted a clause in the tenancy agreements stating that tenants would be charged a cleaning fee for any mess left in communal areas for more than 12 hours.

Tenants should be allowed to treat a place like home, of course, but they shouldn't be allowed to turn it into a pigsty. I think landlords should take steps to prevent them from habitually leaving dirty dishes in the sink, coffee cups in the living room or tidemarks round the bath, for the sake of all the other tenants, and a list of rules backed with the threat of fines seems to me to be a good way to do this.

One of this landlord's 31 rules was that tenants couldn't have overnight guests unless agreed with him two weeks beforehand. Now, I gather from the tweets that people think this is outrageous, but just consider it for a second. How would you like to share with someone who has a constant stream of overnight visitors, or a boyfriend or girlfriend who sleeps over so often they're effectively living with you, rent-free?

Tenants in house shares are always complaining to me that someone in another room has guests who have overstayed their welcome, so I, too, have imposed a rule that nobody is allowed more than one overnight visitor per month for a maximum of three nights. After turning up and finding strangers sleeping on the sofas, I now also insist all visitors must sleep in the bedrooms.

Perhaps the landlord with 31 rules is exceptionally intolerant — possibly he's bonkers. But maybe he came up with the idea after encountering a few too many inconsiderate tenants.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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