OpenRent Community

Tenant does works without agreement

My tenant has been in the property for over two years, pays rent on time and is generally compliant. However he goes off and does work on the property without asking or agreeing it, so my question is around what rights I have to get him to undo his works if I consider they are not necessary and not in keeping with my property. There are probably two scenarios to consider - right now, and when he leaves the property.

  • It started with doing work in garden (harmless enough), then putting up a shed for his tools.
  • He then re-decorated the ground floor without any consultation in non-neutral colours.
  • Now he has replaced the vinyl kitchen flooring with ceramic tiles, again without asking. This time he has held back the cost of the tiles from the rent.

I didn’t make a big deal the first two times, but given that I can’t easily go and look at the work he has done due to Lockdown 1 and 2, I am not happy about the rent not being fully paid - not because the deduction is big, just that I have absolutely no idea to what quality the work has been done!

If any other landlords have been faced with such an issue, what steps have you taken?

I just happened to go past one of my places a big house in 3 flats , some of the staircase carpet was outside. I went in, the top floor tenant was having a new bed room carpet fitted , Fine but had a load of carpet cut by the fitter to do the top third of the common staircase totally differnt and lower quality I took all the carpet and put it all in my landlords cupboard . I told the carpet fitter not to fit any new carpet or I would rip it up and throw it into his shop. The tenant said “i thought you would be happy with a new carpet” Why would i be happy with a different carpet part way up the stairs . I fitted my carpet back myself. You need to check the quality of the job .Bad tiling can devalue a property

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Assuming that your tenancy agreement makes clear that he should not alter the property in this way without consent, you can ask him to undo everything if you wish. You can also deduct the cost of undoing it all from his deposit at the end and/or sue him for the costs of that.

I think it it were me I would have a conversation with him making it clear he is to do nothing further and that you will not be paying for the tiles. However if he is otherwise a good tenant, I would do nothing more until he leaves and I would then assess to cost of reversing the things I didn’t like about his diy.

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@David122, thanks for that. Yes, the contract does say so, see below. I know it’s their responsibility but I doubt the tenant has read it through (English not their first language).

He is generally a good tenant, which is why I haven’t gone in with a big stick. I agree - as soon as lockdown conditions are lifted, I need to go and have a chat.

Re English not being their FL: does that move the onus on to the landlord to explain the terms of the contract?

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Other countries have different norms for renting, for example in Germany you typically don’t get white goods provided for you in a tenancy and you always have to repaint the entire flat when you move out!

I dont believe that there is any legal precedent for landlords having to translate tenancy documents to other languages in order for them to be legally binding.

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You should tell him that if he was sensible he should save the money that he is wasting in this way on ruining someone else’s property, for deposit on his own property which he can paint in which ever garish colours his heart desires. Him witholding the rent gave the game away I’m afraid. I wish you all the best with him but do what you have to do if he starts to fall behind with the rent. Sorry to sound harsh.

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That’s good to know. I had meant that I might have had to explain the contract as simply as possible rather than provide a translation.

That is possibly what he might be used to …

If English is not their first language then I would say that you should give someone sight of the contract a few days before they have to sign it and advise them to seek advice if they need to. What you dont want is to face a claim that your explanation of the contract or your translation of it left out important details, therefore you can rely on them at court.

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You need to refer him to the tenancy agreement which should have made provision for alteration to decor/the need to obtain written permission before making any improvements or work .

You need to write to him to request your outstanding rent and inform him that he will need to put the property back to the original state or his deposit will be used to cover any costs you incur.

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here is what you do
1 DO NOT UPSET YOUR TENANT, if you get wrong under covid you risk waiting 15 months to evict a tenant. what with the 6 months notice and courts backed up
2 speak to him in a relaxed way and say if he wants to change anything else we need to have a chat first to agree it. there are lots of reasons
3 say how nice the garden looks and the shed must be really useful keeping tools etc outside
the reality is you lose goodwill now the LL is very much on a losing wicket.
4 the tiled floor is obviously a step too far, however come deposit time don’t expect to be able to charge for this, the kids at mydeposits and dps will say it added to the value or some such so take a wider picture, keep it nice, say you must discuss anything first and keep the money coming in. Clauses in AST’s don’t amount to a hill of beans in reality. They tie the LL in but may be disregarded often by tenants as they can simply walk away into the dust

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Agree you need to point out he is not allowed to alter things without your consent. If you don’t say anything now he will be changing everything to his tastes and billing you for it.

Our tenants did not have English as their first language and before I signed them up I told them I would not be taking any deposit from them until they had read and understood the contract. I spent a long time explaining two of the clauses (one being wear and tear against damages). So have all of this in writing.

You can still do this with your tenant.

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It’s about time the UK started adopting such rules. Although, I can well imagine it would be the source of many a dispute over quality, if they can and do insist on doing it themselves.

I would insist on an inspection and assess what he’s done in terms of quality / acceptability to you. This is still possible under lockdown, if you ask the tenant to wait outside whilst you conduct your inspection.

If the floor tiling is acceptable to you and an improvement to the property, I would be inclined to praise them on it, but make very clear that any future proposals are agreed with you first, and no rent deduction is acceptable as they are changing things to suit themselves, not at your request, unless you deem the proposals are an improvement and acceptable.

Then follow David122 and Sydney1 advice.

Hi there, I have been very lenient with my tenants and consequently they have stayed a very long time (10 years so far and counting). However, them withholding rent for unauthorised works would be a huge point of contention between us (as it is, mine also have turned what was the site show house into something that would make a good Coronation Street set). If this were me I would be writing to them: Your tenancy agreement requires you to ask my permission before making any changes to the property and this includes redecoration, the installation of garden facilities and also changes to the flooring. I recognise that this is your home and I want you to be happy in it, but I also have to protect my investment for the future. Had you asked me in advance about tiling the floor I would not necessarily have agreed and I most certainly would have wanted to be involved in choosing the tiles, especially with regard to cost. I now have to show this cost on paper, and simply not paying rent does not achieve this. Please therefore can you provide receipts for the tiles and adhesive, for me to give my accountant. I would also like to inspect the workmanship before I agree to reduce your rent for this work, and request that in future you please ask my permission before doing any work on the house. Sorry to have to write to you in these terms, but all landlords in the UK would expect you to ask permission and to agree things, it is not just me. I therefore think a gentle reminder benefits us both. Kind regards… (Re: his language probs, if he didn’t require a translator to enter into the tenancy agreement then he shouldn’t need help now!)

Hi, I had a tenant who wallpapered a couple of bedrooms in a property that was originally a show house so interior desined. I ended up agreeing on a deduction from the deposit for redecoration work when they gave notice to leave.

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It depends on what clauses you have in your AST contract. As tenants don’t tend to read them properly I take them through the most important issues to draw the tenants attention to them during check in and in a covering letter. I make it clear that any works conducted without permission or not agreed in writing (by both parties) will require returning the property back to the condition in which it was presented to the tenant (as documented/photographed in the third party inventory company’s condition report) and corrected before the end of tenancy check out. This tends to manage and modify their expectations from the get go. If unapproved changes are identified during 1/4rly or 6 mthly inspections then I would write to the tenant highlighting them and bring in the inventory clerk to do an end of tenancy condition report on the day of check out. If the unapproved changes are not rectified then the rectification costs will then be claimed from the tenants deposit without any grounds for argument. Any reasonable requests however should not be unreasonably refused particularly if they benefit the property e.g. a shed that will be left to the Landlord at the end of the tenancy or decorated rooms that were refreshed in neutral colours.

Legally if the tenant declares they do not understand English your contract should be co-signed with a professional translator and their details so that if they allege they don’t understand the contract you had it translated.
Theoretically if you went to court and the tenant alleged no comprehension of English then your contract has no value. The court would side with the tenant and your case would be thrown out unless you can prove otherwise.
The onus is on you to prove they knew what they signed
Record the contract being signed and the conversation so they cannot allege they did not understand English as the conversation is two way and send the contract to them well in advance of the contract being signed