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‘Tenants need to behave like normal human beings’

Needs support: Landlord Sean Feeney was horrified to discover a property he owns on Westmorland Avenue in Blackpool had been completely wrecked by departing tenants.

Needs support: Landlord Sean Feeney was horrified to discover a property he owns on Westmorland Avenue in Blackpool had been completely wrecked by departing tenants.

This is the scene of chaos which greeted landlord Sean Feeney.

He rented out his home in Westmorland Avenue in good faith to a mother and her three children.

But he believes many more people could have been staying there, with absolutely no regard for the property, or the damage they have caused.

This week they moved out, and Mr Feeney, has become the latest landlord in the town left facing a major clean-up bill – nearly £2,000 in this case – after he found the home strewn with rubbish, dirt and graffiti.

It is not, say other landlords in the town, an uncommon story.

Property owners say they are increasingly being left to pick up repair bills stretching into thousands of pounds when a tenant damages the home they are renting.

And at the moment, there is little they can do to charge those who have caused the damage, as they up and leave the home without a trace.

And some estate agents in the town claim the problem of tenants trashing properties has become so prevalent they no longer handle rented homes at all.

Mr Feeney, who didn’t take a bond for his property, said: “I spent £5,000 before re-renting it and they have vandalised it and left it in a sorry state, but the council have given these people a brand new council flat.

“The whole house is pretty much ruined. It will have to be gutted, and the last time this happened it cost £1,000 to take everything to the tip.

“I don’t know how people can treat a property like this then get a new one.

“The council should have had a look at my property, then told them they weren’t entitled to another one.

“I will easily have to spend another four or five thousand pounds on it. I don’t know how the carpet has got into that state – it looks like they have had cattle in there.”

The issue of tenants wrecking homes has become a growing problem across the country.

In 2012, Greenwich Council became the first to announce that tenants who leave their homes in filthy or damaged conditions will have to pay to put things right, before they are allowed to move to their new council owned home.

It followed figures which revealed that an average of 1,300 of its 23,000 council homes change hands each year, with an average repair cost of £4,000.

David Whitehead, a landlord for more than 25 years, and a member of Blackpool Landlords Forum, has also been a victim of rogue tenants, and agrees the council should now do more to help landlords.

He said: “A tenant can do as much damage in six hours as they can in six months.

“This has happened to me more times than I care to remember. It’s disgusting that tenants in Blackpool can do this, and there’s no pressure from Blackpool Council to make tenants behave like normal human beings.

“It’s not a case of going out there and speaking to tenants, it’s a case of educating them and telling them they can’t behave the way they do, but it’s a lot easier to blame the landlords for all the problems.

“I had a tenant in a property last weekend, and he created £3,000 of damage by Monday morning. He was disabled and used the radiator to pull himself up, but it came off the wall.

“That flooded the flat because the water was left running and he didn’t tell anyone about it. He just left, and there’s no point in taking him to court because I can’t afford that, and he will end up paying the cost back at £1 a month.

“We just had to cut our losses and get someone in as soon as possible.”

Mr Whitehead added: “You can’t go to the council because they are not interested, and tenants can move on and not do anything about it.”

One Blackpool estate agent says the problem has become so bad they stopped offering rentals as part of their business.

Justin Allitt, of Allitt Estate Agents and Auctioneers, said: “We see the other side of rentals, where someone has wanted to rent a property, but it’s a very sorry tale of woe where they have a bad experience of a tenant.

“Although it’s always considered that having a property to rent out is a good idea to earn extra money, invariably we have seen it time after time where it can cost people money and grief.

“It got so bad for us on the Fylde coast we stopped doing rentals.

“We sold the whole rental business because of the way people were ruining properties, and it wasn’t good for our reputation.

“We had people who had very good jobs, passed their credit references and rented an expensive property, but they ruined the home. It’s very hard to police that kind of thing.”

Kevin Allitt, from Oystons Estate Agents, said private landlords should research their tenants before giving them a contract, and complete regular inspections.

He added: “We have a guaranteed rent scheme that’s been introduced for landlords. You have got to make sure there is a security deposit, you inspect them regularly, and take references about the tenants.”

A spokesman for the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) said: “The story about a landlord being left with a damaged property and limited amounts of support comes as no real surprise to the RLA.

“Stories about tenants being left without anywhere to turn by greedy and money obsessed landlords dominate the media, while any evidence of tenants causing consternation is widely ignored or downplayed.

“This type of occurrence is all too common in the private rented sector.

“The landlord may be able to use a deposit, but all too often the cost of repairs is much more than any deposit paid by the tenant. Insurance is also not an option, so the landlord will have to pay for the repairs if he/she is to let the property again.

“Without much support from councils or police, the RLA suggest landlords join landlord groups for more support and signposting early warnings of problem tenants.”

Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We sympathise with landlords who are faced with problems with tenants who leave their properties without meeting their financial obligations.

“This shows how vitally important tenant referencing and background checks are.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, many landlords fail to do so.

“As everyone knows, we are doing an enormous amount of work to try to improve properties throughout Blackpool through proactive enforcement, Selective Licensing and building projects such as the housing developments at Rigby Road and Queens Park.”

Selective Licensing is a scheme so far introduced in South Beach and Claremont which requires all landlords to hold a licence and keep their property in a reasonable state

“This is work that’s absolutely vital, and we’d love to be able to do much more if we had the money to do so,” Coun Campbell added.

“However, in order to ensure we have quality housing and better tenants in Blackpool, we need both tenants and landlords to hold up their end of the bargain too.”

 

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