The accidental landlord: tenants need to know what they're getting

Victoria Whitlock says thrash out the fine detail of your rental agreement in advance or face the extremely annoying consequences
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Tenants, make sure you know exactly what you're getting for your money when you consider moving into a rental property. Don't be afraid to ask the landlord lots of questions about what is included in the rent and what sort of state the property will be left in before you sign the lease, otherwise it's not really fair to bleat to us afterwards that you're not happy with the deal.

Landlords, learn from my mistakes and be very clear with tenants what you are offering. If you're planning any changes to the property before the start of the tenancy, put these in writing so there can be no misunderstandings.

A new tenant complained to me on the day she moved in that she didn't like the décor. It was exactly the same as it was when she viewed the flat and agreed to rent it, so what was the problem? Had she suddenly gone off that particular shade of white? "I just thought that the whole flat would be redecorated," she moaned.

I'd told her that the living room would be painted to cover a damp patch caused by a leak from the flat above, and that had indeed been done, but she had misunderstood and thought I was going to re-do the whole place.

I realised too late that we ought to have agreed what was to be done in writing to avoid the tenancy getting off on the wrong foot.

Another tenant, a "little princess" type who rented a fully furnished flat from me, was shocked to find she would have to supply her own bedding. She moved in late one evening expecting to find the bed made up and so wasn't at all happy to discover she'd have to sleep that night on a bare mattress.

Clearly she was confused and thought she was moving into a hotel. What else did she expect, a turndown service and chocolates on the pillow? Another group of tenants weren't happy to find the kitchen cupboards were full of crockery when they'd expected them to be emptied. They had lots of their own kitchen stuff so asked me to clear everything out.

If only they'd told me before that they didn't want pots and pans I The accidental landlord would have been spared a trip to that hellhole otherwise known as Ikea.

You see, every tenant wants/ expects something different. Not everyone knows what "fully furnished" means, especially if they are new to renting property. Sort all these things out beforehand and everyone's life will be that little bit easier.

Even small details should be agreed in writing. Will the property be professionally cleaned? Does that include the carpets/windows/ curtains? Will the pictures be left on the walls? Are the rugs staying? Tenants, if there's something you would like the landlord to change, or if there's something you want them to provide, be upfront and ask them before you agree the terms of the lease. Don't drip-feed them requests later, that's just infuriating. Better to make a list of everything you want and discuss it immediately with the landlord.

Landlords, you should in no way feel obligated to meet all these requests, especially those that are downright unreasonable. You're not a fairy godmother. Avoid the temptation to bend over backwards for tenants — if you do they'll think you are a pushover and the lists will get longer and longer.

I once agreed to buy a tenant new bedroom furniture. Big mistake. From then on she thought I was a soft touch and the demands never stopped. You can't blame a tenant for cheeky little requests — but they can't blame you for saying no.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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