When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Property maintenance

You should expect your tenants to keep the property they rent from you in good upkeep. If the property or fixtures or furnishings supplied as part of the letting are damaged by the tenants you can pursue them for compensation.

Tenants' responsibility to maintain property

Your tenants must look after your property and any furnishings or fixtures supplied with it. While you should expect a reasonable level of wear and tear, if a tenant causes significant damage to the property you can take legal action. If the damage has been caused by a visitor to the property, the tenant can still be held liable, unless it can be proven that the person was there without the tenant's consent.

You should expect the property to be returned to you in a similar state to that it had when the tenants first occupied, allowing for reasonable wear and tear. When determining what constitutes reasonable wear and tear you should consider:

  • how long the tenants have lived in the property
  • the household who was renting the property, e.g. if you were aware that there were children or pets in the household you should make reasonable allowances.

Inspecting the property

You should always inspect the property at the beginning and end of the tenancy. If you wish to inspect the tenancy at other intervals you can only do so with the tenants' consent.  Your inspections should not become a nuisance to the tenant or stop the tenant from peaceful enjoyment of the property.

When inspecting the tenancy, you should refer to the detailed inventory and any photographs provided by the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy. If, in the course of an inspection, you notice that something has been damaged, you should allow the tenant an opportunity to repair this item or make good the damage.

Financial compensation for damage

To protect yourself and your investment, you should always get a security deposit from new tenants. If your tenants have financial difficulties you can allow them to pay this deposit off in instalments.

The security deposit should be held in an account until the end of the tenancy. Once the tenancy has expired, this money can be used to reimburse you for any actual financial loss you have suffered which is a direct result of the tenants' actions or failure to act. This will usually be due to:

  • damage to the property
  • non-payment of rent
  • damage to or loss of furnishings provided with the tenancy.

If you are going to use the tenants' security deposit as financial compensation you must:

  • write to the tenant, outlining your intention to withhold some or all of the deposit
  • specify the amount which you intend to keep and the reasons why
  • include copies of receipts for any replacement items you have had to purchase or services you have paid for
  • only replace like for like, e.g. you cannot charge a tenant for a new couch, if the couch which they damaged was not brand new.

If the tenants feel that you have unfairly kept some or all of the security deposit, they can take a case against you in the Small Claims Court. When your case is heard in the Small Claims Court the Judge will look to you to show that you had reason to withhold the deposit, did not withhold an excessive amount of the deposit and communicated fairly and professionally with the tenant regarding the deposit. If you cannot prove this, the Judge may find in the tenants' favour.

In some cases, the security deposit may not cover the full cost of repairing damage caused by the tenant.  Should this happen to you, you can take legal action against your tenant or the tenant's guarantor to claim compensation.  The Small Claims Court can deal with claims up to a value of £3000.  If your claim is larger than this, you should speak to a solicitor about taking court action.