Furniture, fixtures & fittings
In January this year I let my property through a letting agent who let to a tenant known to him. I agreed the tenant did not have to pay a deposit as she is a single mum with 3 children.
Since the tenant moved in there have been various problems; there were leaks on the boiler (now all fixed); there was a leak in the roof and overflowing gutters, (all fixed). However, during this period the tenant asked for a new boiler which we refused as the leaks were fixed and the boiler was working well. We then discovered that she wanted a new boiler as she had high energy bills as the property is a good size Victorian terrace with high ceilings.
When the tenant moved in I agreed she could replace the carpets and redecorate. She has painted the kitchen cupboard doors, badly. Then the tenant complained that the cupboards were smelling musty and it was so bad she had to wash her dishes before she used them. I had vents fitted in the cupboards to allow air to circulate and a new extractor fan to be installed. I am really worried that this won’t be good enough and she will want a new kitchen fitted because of the musty smell. If she asks for a new kitchen, will I have to have one fitted?
This sounds like a difficult and unpleasant tenant and I wonder what your agent is telling you?
The repairs that have been necessary are your responsibility – there is no argument, the leaks and boiler work were required and it is right that she should report them to you and that you get them done.
If the boiler is now working properly, there is absolutely no need to replace it. You should contact your own local authority without delay, to see if there are any grants available to help you get a new boiler, but if not, then it can be left until you are ready to.
With regard to the musty cupboards, have a good look. Is there anything that could account for it? Is there any damp on a back wall? Check the external pointing and make sure it is sound. However, if you can see nothing, I think I would accept it as just one of those things – many cupboards have a slight smell. You can get some small boxes with chrystals, very cheaply, which can be used to absorb damp which may assist. If there is a problem with the external wall, a new kitchen will not help.
My own feelings would be that this tenant should be evicted. Get a new tenant and take a deposit – this would go some way towards replacing the boiler!
We are replacing the carpet in one of the 4 Unit Apartment Building. The tenant is okay with us installing new carpet but does not agree that he has to move the furniture from the rooms being carpeted. Who is responsible for moving the furniture from the rooms to be carpeted? The landlord or Tenant?
I think this is a difficult question; I think your tenant is being a bit awkward, deliberately. If I was the tenant, I would far rather move my own furniture than have the landlord do it; are you then expected to clean up mess he’s made before you can fit carpet? Having moved furniture around to re-arrange a bedroom, I know that there will be dust etc. that is only apparent once furniture has been moved out. I think you only have 2 options, if this tenant is obdurate.
To furnish or not to furnish, that is the question
I have always previously let property furnished … but just wanted to check whether there is any legal advantage of doing so (I’m a landlord in Scotland)? Someone mentioned to me that, in the past, letting unfurnished was more risky, but is that still the case?
Scottish law does sometimes differ from the rest of the Country, but certainly, in my time in housing (18 years) I have never heard that it was any more or less risky, to let unfurnished. Many landlords I have known over that time have gone from furnished to unfurnished due to the losses incurred from theft, tenants wanting furniture replacing etc. My own view is that the tenant who provides his own furniture is making a commitment to stay and is less likely to abandon without notice – but there is always the exception. The caution you must exercise is to ensure that all furniture meets fire safety standards, and of course, the furniture must be fit for purpose and if problems occur, you are required to replace any furniture in the tenancy when the tenancy commenced. NB: armchair has a spring coming through the seat – not fit for purpose so must be replaced.
I have a tenant who rents a room from me and the bed has broken. I am trying to get it repaired or replaced at the moment. How quickly do have to do this by?
As soon as possible! I do not believe there is a specified time limit for replacing, but I feel the tenant would be entitled to feel aggrieved, if he or she is sleeping on a settee for a lengthy period. Another factor to be aware of is that failure to repair or replace a bed that is unusable despite tenant requests could be construed as harassment designed to persuade him or her to move out.
I own a house which I am now letting. Does a water softener count as a landlord’s fixture and fitting for insurance purposes?
If you have provided it, I think the answer is yes. Should it cease to function, would you expect to replace it? Yes, again. It is a fixture and fitting provided by you. Anything provided by the tenant, or that you give the tenant, rather than provide as part of the tenancy, would not be your fixture and fitting.
Broken cooker door
I have been renting a house with four friends since the start of September. The door of the oven has come loose from its hinges and now falls off every time we open the oven. We are having to use only one hand when placing things into the oven, as the other hand is needed to prevent the door falling off.
The landlady was made aware of this problem, which began roughly one month into the tenancy, as soon as it began to occur. She claims her father fixed the problem (temporarily) two weeks ago. However we noticed no improvement, and the door still falls off. After multiple requests from us to fix the oven, she now claims that there was nothing wrong with the cooker when we moved in. She says it was two years old and in good working order, including the door. Any damage to the cooker has been caused through our misuse.
She also says that the tenancy agreement makes us responsible for minor repairs and that we must put the cooker back to the condition it was in when we moved into the house.
We do not feel that this constitutes a minor repair and were under the impression that damage due to “normal wear and tear” was the landlady’s responsibility. We signed an agreement for a furnished house and expected that this come with a working oven.
We have been without a fully working oven for two months plus now, and feel health and safety is also an issue as both residents and guests (parents) have suffered burns due to the faulty oven door.
In your opinion, who is responsible for the repair of the oven? And how should we go about solving this issue?
If you are sure there has been no misuse, then I think it is the landlady’s responsibility. Resolving the issue is another matter. I think you may have to use the Right to Repair procedure, but it is a little long-winded. However, as the repair has been needed for two months already, perhaps another few weeks will not be too much hassle for you.
However, it sounds as though this repair would be fairly cheap and easy to have done and hopefully, she’ll not think it is worth arguing any longer.
In conversation, it may be worth mentioning that this would definitely constitute a hazard under HHSRS and if she would like Environmental Services to confirm this, I am sure they would be happy to. By the way, did the inventory you signed at the beginning make any reference to the age and condition of the cooker? Check it and if so, point it out to her. Tenants have no responsibility under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 for repairs to the exterior and structure of the property, be they minor or not, sanitary installations and appliances for heating space and water, and certainly not for landlord fixtures and fittings unless they have been used badly. Almost certainly, the landlady will serve notice to end the tenancy at the expiry of the agreement, so please be aware of this. Good luck.
Removal from let
We are having problems with tenants and have started the process of having them evicted.
The contract makes no reference to whether the property should be furnished or unfurnished. It was furnished when they moved in, but I now want to remove my property (i.e. sofa, TV, bed). Can I do this (having given them one week written notice)?
No, I am sorry – as they took a furnished tenancy, removing any of the furniture could be classed as harassment and intended to force them to leave. Just continue with the eviction procedure. Think very carefully when letting it again whether you want it to be furnished – I assume your question is because you fear they will remove the furniture (steal it!) Sorry, there is no safeguard, once the tenancy has been agreed on a furnished basis. If you commenced the tenancy properly, you will have next of kin details and if there is theft, you would report to the Police and give any details about the tenants you hold. I know the Police will sometimes say it is a civil manner – theft is not civil, it is criminal. You would take the inventory completed at the beginning of the tenancy with the missing items marked. They should therefore treat it seriously.
My tenants have requested that I replace the carpet as they feel it is ‘too light in colour to keep clean’. The carpet is only six months old and beige in colour.
I think in your shoes, I would feel that replacement is expensive and out of the question. However, if you have really good tenants who obviously look after the property and want to keep it nice, perhaps it is worth doing. Do you have anywhere you could store the beige carpet for use at another property or for another tenant? I think I would get a very cheap carpet, on the basis that when the tenants leave, you’ll put your lovely beige carpet back. I must say, though I love the beige carpet I have on my stairs, I spend a lot of money having it regularly cleaned and I think the house renovation programmes on TV don’t stress how it attracts dirt!
Taking it with you
We have lived in tied accommodation for seven years now (due to my husband’s job – he’s a farmer). Last year we had to replace the living room carpet because it had become a hazard due to having got so worn. It had already been down more than six years (at least) before we moved in. It is a large room 13 foot by 13 foot approximately and we had no offer of help from my husband’s boss. However, we are hoping to move at the end of May. What would be a reasonable percentage of the original price of the carpet to ask his boss to pay? If he is not willing we would want to take the carpet with us because it has only been down just over a year and is still in very good order with a lot of wear left in it. Would be in our rights to take it with us seeing has we paid for it?
I would say yes,but you should discuss this with your husband’s employers, telling them you had to replace the carpet on safety grounds. You should say that as you paid for the carpet it belongs to you but are willing to leave it for a consideration. It is difficult to say what you should expect the employers to pay, but I would start on the basis of how much the carpet cost and how long the guarantee was for. If it has a 10 year guarantee, for example, and has been down only one year, it would be reasonable to say it should be good for another nine years. You will have to negotiate.
Removing fitted wardrobe
It appears my tenant of two months has taken out a fitted wardrobe and left it to rot in the back yard. Is she allowed to do this?
Not without your permission, which I would suggest should have been confirmed in writing. You need to ask her why she has done this. Presumably at this time of year, it will already have been weathered so much it cannot be replaced. Discuss the cost with her, see what she has put in its’ place and remind her the cost will be deducted from the deposit, unless she replaces it.
My tenant is moving out, three months into a six month agreement as she was not happy with the property and complained every couple of days about something. When she moved in an inventory was made on the day, and not a few days earlier as originally agreed. The tenant was present at this time and I feel the inventory was biased towards her.
The same inventory clerk as checked her in, will be checking her out – something about which I am not happy. Can I be present as well? I have been into the property with the agent to ensure all is OK and have noticed a number of things (chipped and missing wallpaper and damaged kitchen cupboards). Can we disagree with the inventory report if these things are not picked up? Also we had all the carpets cleaned apart from a brand new one in the hall but according to the inventory this was not highlighted. I noticed that only the bathroom and front room carpet have been cleaned, can we do anything about this – such as get her to pay for the carpets to be cleaned?
You clearly have suspicions about the clerk that did the inventory, in which case you need to speak to the manager and ask for someone else to do the checking out. Presumably you have a receipt for the brand new hall carpet – after three months, it should still be like new, so if not, this is a point in your favour of the clerk not doing his job properly. You need to check your tenancy agreement – many provided by agents will state that all carpets must be cleaned. I can appreciate why you would want to be present, but think you need to discuss this with the manager – you have paid the firm to do this and the manager may not feel your presence is helpful.
Grab a tub tub
I am a landlord and manage a few properties. A few weeks ago some tenant moved into one of the properties I manage, having signed an agreement for 12 months. The property in question has a hot tub in the back garden, for which the tenant has asked for an instruction manual.
The landlord has now come back to me saying he wishes to sell the hot tub, as he needs the money and because the deposit would not cover its replacement, is concerned that the tenants might damage.
What are the legal implications for both parties concerned?
If I was looking for a tenancy and saw two similar properties and one had a hot tub, guess which one I would take? The tenants obviously fancy the idea of a hot tub, hence they have asked for the instruction booklet. Unless the tenancy agreement specifically excluded the hot tub from the tenancy, I think the owner will just have to hope everything is OK. Owners cannot just change their minds about allowing usage of an item. The only option, of little help here, is to remove before viewing, or specify it will be removed before the tenancy commences.
The company I work for has just let a three bed house. The kitchen has no connection for a gas cooker, although there is a capped gas inlet pipe. The tenant has requested we fit a connection. But our policy is that the tenant must pay for this to be done. Are we in breach of any current law by doing this? Have we a legal obligation to provide cooker point either gas or electric or perhaps both?
There has to be a cooker point which can be easily connected up. If the gas inlet is the only cooker point, then I think it would be for the landlord to ensure this is useable – and better to have your own gas people, who will have to do a gas safety check, do it, than an unknown messing with it. However, if both are available and the normal cooker point is an electric point, then the tenant should pay for this, as he does not want to use the normal point.
Looking ‘old and tired’
I have had a tenant in my property for three years. She now says the furniture needs replacing due to constant wear and tear. She’s advising that it is not broken, just looking ‘old and tired’.
What is my position here? Do I have to replace the furniture? Can I take the cost from her deposit?
What condition was it in when she moved in? Three years should not make decent furniture look old and tired. You do not have to replace anything that you do not feel needs replacing, though you may choose to, if you so wish. No, you should not take the cost from the deposit – that stands in place until she leaves and then you inspect and decide whether or not there has been an unusual amount of damage that you feel she is responsible for. If there is not, the deposit should be returned untouched. If you decide not to replace anything, she has the option of leaving. Alternatively, tell her that you have no objection if she wants to buy her own and you will remove your furniture until she vacates.
Is there legislation coming into force which states that inventories must be completed by third parties?
Not at present. However the Government is consulting on whether the new tenancy deposit rules due to come in this October (under the Housing Act 2004) should include requirements about inventories. Current ideas do not seem to involve the mandatory involvement of a third party, they are more to do with reaching agreement between tenant and landlord. The rules may, however, specify a standard form of inventory. Since a major part of the deposit protection requirement is aimed at dispute resolution, and many disputes concern damage to items supplied with rented accommodation, it seems likely something will be said about inventories.
I rent furnished property out to students. I supply a fridge. Do I have to supply a freezer as well?
No. though it would be good practice, particularly as nowadays students often have to work as well as study, come in and want something very quickly for a meal, which would often be frozen. Also, are they asking for a freezer because the fridge is not big enough for the numbers in the property? I would think about it.
I have lived in my privately rented house for six years now. The dining room carpet, which was there when I arrived, is very old and worn. It is so worn that it is lower than the door bar causing people to trip on it. Does my landlord have to replace it? And how often is he meant to replace carpets?
How often he has to replace the carpets is really down to their condition. The significant point here is that there is a trip hazard. I would write a pleasant letter, pointing this out to him and asking him to replace it. If he is unhappy to do this, you could have a chat with the Environmental Services, who can take action if they believe there is a hazard.
Door handle repairs
I let a flat to a DSS tenant. This morning she called to say that her bathroom door had jammed. At the time it happened I was out and she left a message with my daughter. By the time I was able to contact her, some five ours later; she had called a joiner out to the flat.
The joiner said the door handle had broken. However, just prior to the tenant taking possession the flat had been refurbished with new doors and handles. The cost of the work was £40. Is the repair of door handles considered part of the fixtures and fittings or maintenance work?
This is always a tricky situation. If you could prove that the new door handles were of good quality, well fitted and that the broken door handle was down to your tenant’s rough usage, then you could ask her to recompense you – I would say at the sum of £2.00 per week, as she is on benefits. However, it may be very difficult to get her to agree that she damaged the door handle. I think you may have to treat this as one of those things that happens sometimes, despite new doors and handles and stand the cost yourself.
I recently let my flat for six months. When I regained possession I found the acrylic bath had a split in it and needed to be replaced. The tenants did not tell me of the damage, as they were required to do so by the tenancy agreement, and I’ve yet to find out what damage has been caused to the bathroom floor, the ground below, and possibly the foundations.
The tenants and I disagree as to whether or not this counts as ‘normal wear and tear’. The bath was about 10 years old, but in perfect order when they took over the flat.
What do you think?
When a bath splits it needs replacing as soon as possible. The tenants did not tell you of the damage and, I would say, must have had a reason for this. At the very least, they behaved in an untenant-like manner and are guilty of neglect that could have led to other damage.
It is surprising how many tenants are aware of ‘normal wear and tear’ at the end of the tenancy but live quite happily with it during the course of the tenancy. I think these tenants are fully aware they had some responsibility, either for the repair or to advise you of it.
I had a tenant in my property who caused a fire by leaving a candle burning in a plastic container. He is now asking me to give him my ‘occupancy insurance’ details so he can claim for his loss.
He says he was advised to ask me for such details and that if I don’t help him, he won’t help me.
I have a landlord’s buildings insurance policy which has covered the damage caused but I do not have contents insurance – although I have been obliged to replace all the contents. Neither do I have ‘occupancy insurance’.
My insurance company is going to try to claim their money back from the tenant and I want to claim from him for my contents. I have written several times to both him and his father (who said he would like me to keep in touch and that he wanted to deal with the problem) but have had no responses.
Can I take the tenant to the small claims court, can he claim anything from me, do I have any other liabilities, and do I have to provide the insurance details he is requesting?
I am now still losing rent because of this – the insurance company will only pay me so much. Should I try to claim from the tenant for lost rent as well?
I think you need to discuss this with the claims section of your insurance company. I am afraid I am unfamiliar with ‘occupancy insurance’, the closest I know of is ‘occupiers liability insurance, but this is generally to do with repair issues which have caused injury to someone.
As far as I am aware, contents for which you have responsibility should be insured by yourself, but I would not expect that you had a responsibility to have insurance for the tenant’s goods – certainly, when advising tenants, I would advise that they have their own insurance. It sounds to me that the tenant has some liability and you should therefore be able to claim against him, but check it with the claims officer – they are the experts in dealing with these situations.
Does the landlord of an unfurnished rented flat bear any responsibility for ensuring that furniture a tenant moves into the flat complying with the fire regulations? I have been told by the representative of a flat management company that he does. However, | find it difficult to imagine how this requirement could be implemented.
Landlords are certainly responsible for seeing that any furniture they supply meets the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations, but I am not aware of any regulation covering furniture brought into a property by a tenant. Even so, your insurance company might feel that there is greater risk to the property if the furniture contained within in does not meet fire safety standards.
As the regulations ban sale of furniture manufactured prior to 1989 (other than antique furniture) the question may be largely academic anyway. But what if a tenant should wish to bring an antique or two with him or her? According to your agent this would seem to suggest the tenancy would have to be denied.
I suggest you request that the agent give you details of the regulation to which the firm is referring. Otherwise, there is more on this in our recent features Know what the law requires, and Soft options and fitting solutions.
I am renting a flat on the first floor of a block and recently laid a laminate floor to update the property. Since I have received a complaint from my downstairs neighbour saying that he wants me to put carpet back down because the new floor is too noisy. He said if I do not do this he will complain to environmental health. I have no idea where I stand. Could you please advise me.
I am afraid this is one problem with laminate floors, as I know personally! They can sound quite noisy, despite the soundproofing material that is put in under the laminate. If Environmental Services receive a complaint, they can put monitoring equipment into your neighbour’s to see whether the noise is excessive. If they believe it is, you would be expected to take steps to rectify the problem and if not, could rectify it themselves.
I suggest you speak to whoever installed the floor – did they put sufficient material under it? In a flat with a downstairs neighbour, noise proofing would be an important consideration.
Have you thought about rugs on particularly busy areas, to cut down the noise? Have you thought about wearing slippers or sandals in the house? Very Japanese and stops the floor getting scratched. Good luck.
Needed treatment for woodworm infestation will require removal of my tenant’s carpets. But because of their type and condition it will not be possible to re-lay the existing carpets once the work has been done. What is our responsibility as landlords in respect of reinstatement of carpeting?
Very difficult to say with any certainty from the details you give. You mention ‘type and condition’ of the carpets. If by this you mean that they will also be infested with woodworm/larvae etc so cannot be re-laid for fear of re-infestation, then I think it is your responsibility – the woodworm was picked-up from your floor. The tenant should be recompensed – presumably by providing new carpets that the tenant can take with him or her or to be left but some monetary recompense given.
If you mean that the carpets were in a very old and worn condition, and cannot be re-laid because of that, but would have been fine had they not been taken-up, then again, I think some recompense is necessary.
Only if they were very, very poor carpets before the treatment would I think that you have any reason not to compensate the tenant in some way.
I left some of my furniture in a house I let out but now wish to sell some of this. I have asked the tenant if she would like to buy the fridge, but she said a rented property should come with a fridge anyway. Is this true?
It depends what was written into the tenancy agreement. Was it let as furnished or unfurnished? If it was let as unfurnished, what arrangements did you make about the use of the furniture you left? It is good practice for a furnished tenancy to have a fridge, but it is not mandatory as people can live without fridges. I think I would be inclined to end the tenancy at the appropriate time and then sell what you wish, letting the property again as unfurnished. If it was let as furnished, your tenant has the right to expect that the appliances in at the start of the tenancy would remain in or would be replaced by same.
Unfurnished furniture responsibilities
Does the landlord bear any responsibility for ensuring any furniture brought into an unfurnished flat by a tenant complies with the fire retardant requirements that apply to furnished accommodation?
I have been told by the representative of a flat management company that this is the case. However, I find it difficult to imagine how this could be implemented.
The Department of Trade and Industry advises anyone letting out property to contact their local Trading Standards department for advice on furniture.
Broadly the position is that since 1988 all new upholstered furniture must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations (as must all furniture supplied by a landlord) and must be labelled accordingly.
Since 1993 it has also been illegal to sell second hand furniture that does not comply – with the exception of antique furniture – so in theory there should be very little non-compliant furniture around.
Whether covered by the regulations or not, there are insurance implications for landlords of having non-compliant furniture in their properties, since this may negate the cover. However, landlords do have the right to refuse to allow tenants to use their own furniture if it does not meet the legal requirements.
You first defence would be to include a clause within your tenancy agreement specifying that only furniture which complies with the regulations and is labelled as being in compliance may be brought into the property. If you are worried that this stipulation is being disregarded, you should contact your local Trading Standards department and/or Environment Health department which have powers of entry into rented accommodation.
It is also worth considering what you would do if the tenant vacated your property, leaving furniture behind. You should remove all furniture, particularly if in doubt about the fire safety, but if you offer the tenancy with anything remaining in it, you need to get the new tenant to sign a disclaimer confirming that he or she has requested that the furniture be left.
I have a tenant who has just moved into my apartment. The apartment was built one year ago and the blinds in the bedroom and the lounge are too short for the windows (they stop 60cm before the floor).
My previous tenant did not mention this but new tenants (who have been in for a week or so) have complained and are asking that I replace the blinds. They say that people can see into the flat while they are changing and that this invades their privacy.
Nothing about the blinds was mention by the then prospective tenants when the rental offer was made. Do I have an obligation change the blinds, and can the tenants withhold rent on the grounds of their complaint?
I think the feelings of the current tenants must be considered here. Your last tenant may have used the bathroom for dressing. Also, in the depths of winter, the gap will be more noticeable to the tenants and make them feel more vulnerable.
Your options are to replace blinds with curtains/blinds that fit. Do it as economically as possible, or alternatively ask your tenants if they would like to pay for their own curtains/blinds and take them with them when they go?
It is never advisable for a tenant to withhold rent. Legally, they can only do this if they have had a ‘repair’ done themselves and have used the money withheld to cover that cost. If this happens, the curtains/blind would be yours to keep, because the rent had been used.
I am currently living overseas and my property had been let and managed by a letting agent as a fully furnished flat. Having now decided to sell the property, in January I invoked the break clause in my contract and gave the tenants two and a half months notice requiring them to vacate in April.
To complicate matters, the tenants have not paid rent for the last two months although fortunately I have rent insurance and the tenants are being pursued for the outstanding rent by the insurer’s solicitor. I have now found out the tenants have applied for council housing so it will require abailiff’s warrant before they will vacate, which I understand will take several months.
I wanted to ship all the furniture that was in the property to my address in Australia as soon as the notice period had expired but the tenants are still likely to be there (awaiting eviction).
My letting agent has advised me that if I try and take the furniture out of the property I would be prosecuted and imprisoned because I originally let it as furnished and that it’s just bad luck that the law is on the side of the tenants even if an eviction process has begun and they are effectively squatting. Is this really true and is there any other way I can get my furniture out of the property prior to eviction?
This is an awkward situation and I am sorry to tell you that your agent is essentially correct in saying you cannot remove the furniture until the tenants are out. And they
can stay until you get a court order, and even then cannot be removed except by a bailiff.
If they owe eight weeks rent, you can serve a ‘ground 8’ notice which gives them two weeks and you could then go for a court order, but this may not necessarily get them out as quickly as you wish.
The only other course I can suggest is negotiating with the tenants. If they want a council property, would they allow you to remove your goods so they could get their own in – most council accommodation is unfurnished so they will need furniture anyway.