Are landlords really paying annual repair bills of £5,000?

You won't believe what a group of holiday renters found at the bottom of the garden...

You won't believe what a group of holiday renters found at the bottom of the garden... - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The hardships of being a landlord, and the horror of being a holiday renter...

Light bulb moment

Last Friday, tenancy and property management specialists London Shared released the results of a survey deducing that a third of landlords are “stressed out from troublesome tenants”. 500 British landlords were polled, revealing that 83 per cent of them spend up to £5,000 per year on property repairs for their rental homes.

As I read through the list of findings, I found myself sympathising with some of the alleged stresses the landlords in question are subjected to. But the rest is surely to be expected if you choose to actually let out a property, isn’t it?

I feel for the 40 per cent receiving their rental payments late, and the consequential 18 per cent who have ended up defaulting on their own bills and even had to take their children out of school as a result. It’s a tricky one - as a tenant has signed a contract, they need to adhere to their side of the deal, and just as the tenant might rely on receiving their monthly paycheck on the same day each month, the landlord subsequently relies on the tenant’s rent check. However, no-one knows what can happen - the tenant could loose their job or need to pay one month’s rent a week or so late for some reason or another. This is a risk a landlord is taking.

The rest of the survey makes me roll my eyes somewhat.

43 per cent of landlords (that’s nearly half!) are unclear on what their current responsibilities are when it comes to repairing their property. How can this be? Isn’t there a landlord exam or something that they have to take before managing the roof over someone else’s head? Adding to this, only a quarter are clear on their legal responsibilities for adequate HMO licensing. I don’t see how the ability to practice correct “lording” isn’t dependent on whether or not you know your stuff.

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It all then gets a bit “get your violins out” when a third of landlords are stressed in part because they receive calls in the middle of the night from renters. Again, this is part of the deal, surely.

It depends what these midnight phone calls are actually for. If it’s just for a chat, that would be a poor reason. The house has blown up - probably quite a valid reason. Rolling in drunk and locking themselves out is a bit of a 50/50 situation. On the one hand, anyone getting themselves into that situation deserves to deal with it themselves. But if it’s -4° outside and they literally have no other option, I think that’s probably acceptable. Accidents happen. I once locked myself out of my godparents’ home when I was feeding their cat while they were in America and had to chuck a brick through the window. Needs must.

83 per cent of landlords apparently spend up to £5000 per year on repairs on their rental home. I sit with my mouth agape at this one. That’s a massive number of landlords. And “rental home” - is that singular? If so, what do these tenants get up to in these properties?

I would very confidently state that my landlord doesn’t spend that amount a year on my apartment. It was a total rigmarole just getting him to install water softeners, during the infamous hard-water-gate of 2014. The water where I live is notoriously hard; so hard it could be a Kray twin. The landlord was constantly winging at myself and the other tenants in the building about the scummy residue on the glass shower doors and around the taps. I would explain, til I was blue in the face, that I had Cilit Banged the hell out of those doors/taps. It was a continual issue due to the hard water.

Finally he gave in and splurged out on water softeners for the four flats in my building. But I highly doubt that cost anything close to £5000 per flat! Unless renters are annually painting murals on the walls, flushing sawdust down the toilet or using the washing machine to bathe themselves, I can’t imagine how this huge sum is wracking up. My landlord wouldn’t even replace the shelf in my fridge that voluntarily exploded last summer when I was in the living room doing my knitting (figuratively).

Rounding these findings off is the 13 per cent that are called up to change light-bulbs. Forgive me, but this is the landlord’s own fault if their tenants aren’t made to replace bulbs themselves. If I called my landlord and asked him to come over and change one of the lights in the vanity mirror, he’d refer me to the way he dealt with the detonating fridge shelf.

Bring up the bodies

Last week it was stalkers, this week it’s rigor mortis.

The Guardian reported at the beginning of the week the tale of the French group of friends who rented a house on Airbnb for a party weekend in Palaiseau, 10m south of Paris, only to discover the decomposing body of a woman “hunched over” in the back garden “her head against the ground, covered in branches and surrounded by wood stumps”. Apparently the body was clothed, but shoe-less, with “a ring with a large stone” on her finger. To add to the scare-factor, this garden backed onto some creepy woods.

This is literally the plot-line of every horror film set in a cabin ever released isn’t it? But alas - this is the real world, and not something one would expect to find when they rent a property for the weekend with their chums.

Clearly there are many questions to be answered here. Who was the woman? What happened to her? How long had she been there? Did the people who own the house kill her? Why wasn’t she wearing any shoes?

Earlier this year a story emerged about an Airbnb landlord who was called to her property on New Year’s Eve because her renters were throwing a drug-fuelled party and had trashed the place. It would seem that the French landlord has seen the New Year’s landlord’s raucous renters and raised them one decomposing corpse at the bottom of the garden.

In the meantime, back over in France, the renters are being questioned (did they do it?) and the body has been taken for an autopsy.

There are over 300 homeowners in St Albans alone with their properties on Airbnb. If you’re one of them, just check for this sort of thing in the back garden before the renters get there, won’t you?