Damp concerns

Kat asks:
(updated on Monday, April 18th 2016)

We have let our high-end property on a fixed term contract of six months. It is the bottom flat of our house.

The tenants have been there seven weeks and have not used the appliances provided to keep the flat dry and moisture free. There is an extraction fan in the kitchen and the bathroom; a dehumidifier for a room that has no through draft; and a heat pump.

Instead they have been using the old open fire to heat the flat. At the beginning of the tenancy we said that this was for decorative purposes and could be used occasionally. We also said that the property needed to be fully aired, that there was a heat pump and that the dehumidifier was to be used.

We are very concerned that our property will get damp - eg: rugs, curtains, carpet, paintwork damage and also have smoke damage. We are also concerned that they have not used the dishwasher and that if it is not put into holiday mode it can damage the motor, as well as the heat pump filter being clogged with smoke dust. What can we do?

Our Experts Answer:

This question raises the age-old issue of communication. When you let the flat did you make it clear to the tenants how they were to prevent dampness in the property? Was the advice verbal or in writing? How do you know that the tenants are not using a dehumidifier? How “occasionally” do you think they should use the fireplace?

On the one hand, the flat is your property; on the other, it is the tenants’ home. You have stated that you are concerned that the flat will become damp. I suggest that you give a tenant a detailed list of your suggestions, pointing out that you are trying to help them prevent dampness problems. They will then be aware of your concerns about looking after the property.

However, just because you would have used the dehumidifier or heat pump with a specific regularity does not bind your tenants into that schedule. Be sure you carry out regular inspections, and check to see if the tenants’ use is detrimental to your property.

If the inspections reveal that the tenants are looking after the property, your advice has worked! If not, issue them a 14-Day Notice to Remedy a breach of the tenancy agreement, detailing their failure to take adequate care of the property. This should prompt your tenants to take your concerns seriously. Schedule a re-inspection. If the issues have not been addressed, you may choose to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for termination of the tenancy.

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