Landlords in the UK are failing to protect themselves from redecoration disputes because they are not accurately recording the condition of their property at the start of a new tenancy, it is claimed.
They are also not being clear with tenants on issues such as what constitutes a ‘neutral’ colour, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).
In any dispute involving redecoration costs where the check out evidence shows it is definitely needed, one of the first things an adjudicator will do is look at the check in inventory to see what state the décor was in when the tenant took up residence. The next investigation is how long the tenant has lived at the property.
Industry guidance indicates landlords should expect to decorate every three to five years. It is also suggested that if a tenant has lived in a property five years or more, and they are not required by a contract to carry out redecoration themselves, there is little prospect of success in a claim for costs, where the tenant hasn’t caused the need for redecoration.
‘As a general rule, responsibility for redecorating lies with the landlord. However, lots of disputes are presented where parties agreed to the tenant redecorating, but the precise details were not clearly defined. Landlords can be very shocked to find the walls have been painted jet black or bright red, rather than the desired neutral magnolia or white,’ said Pat Barber, chair of the AIIC.
She explained that the AIIC gets involved with numerous disputes over décor. Recent cases feature a bedroom, which the tenant had been given permission to redecorate. However, he created Lion King murals on all walls. At the end of the 12 month tenancy, the landlord needed to re-let the property, but this room was now firmly designated as a small child’s room due to the décor. As a result, although the walls were in a really good condition, the tenant had to pay for a complete redecoration.
Another case involved four mature and professional sharers. One of them decided to repaint the lounge with the landlord’s permission and a stipulation that it had to be in a neutral colour. At the end of the tenancy, the lounge had been repainted in a dark purple, instead of the required magnolia as agreed.
Fortunately for the landlord the inventory clearly stated the original colour and condition and even though the original décor had been fairly marked, the tenants were made to pay for complete redecoration to return the room to the original neutral colour. The adjudicators agreed with the landlord that purple walls would impair the search for new tenants.
‘Even when a tenant repaints in the correct or authorised colour scheme, there are still problems. We see instances of bad paint application, very patchy walls, paint spills on fixtures and fittings, carpets and curtains, all of which the tenants will be responsible for at the end of the tenancy,’ said Barber.
the AIIC has put together to help agents and landlords prevent a dispute over décor. This includes ensuring that there is a detailed account of the décor with description and photographs at check in and making sure the tenancy agreement stipulates clearly that any changes to the property must only be made with the landlord’s permission.
If tenants request to redecorate any areas it should be made clear, in writing , with any authorised colour schemes and any permission given to tenants to redecorate should also include a clause stating the landlord’s right to return the room to its original colour if unauthorised paint colours are used by the tenants.