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Careless Tenants and How to Control Them

Published on February 2, 2015 by Aude Seynt Martin in News, Property Investment

There is a major difference between tenants who are careless and those who are downright destructive! The careless tenant can be controlled or should I say “advised” how to improve their ways, but there is really only one action to take with a destructive one and that is immediate eviction.

What is a Careless Tenant?

One of the best ways of describing such a person is “someone who acts in a scatterbrain or negligent way.” They don’t deliberately cause damage to your property or furniture but instead damage is caused when they are not careful in what they do. Let me give you a few examples.

A tenant is cooking in the kitchen and preparing vegetables. Instead of using a chopping board, the tenant cuts the vegetables with a sharp knife on the Formica surface. In a superficial way, this can cause scratch marks to the surface but in more extreme cases, the actions can even cut into the surface and woodwork underneath. In either case, to keep the property in a fair state of repair, it is often necessary to either re-cover the surface or indeed replace the entire unit.

The tenants may sometimes spill coffee or other drinks on the carpets or vinyl floors and unless it is cleaned up immediately, can leave dirty stain marks which may prove difficult to remove at a later date.

Scuffs or tear marks to wallpaper or painted walls, and even cracking electrical sockets are purely a result of the tenant not taking care and just being completely thoughtless.

How to Control These Tenants

The extreme option is to issue an immediate eviction notice and start proceedings. However, as you are no doubt aware, this can be a very time-consuming and often an expensive venture. As a landlord, you would have to do prove that the tenant was more destructive than pure carelessness and this is often hard to do. You therefore need to take a controlled approach to an inconsiderate tenant.

In the first instance you become aware of damage to your property and you know that this has been caused as a result of pure carelessness or stupidity by the tenant, then you need to point this out. If the damage is only minor and having been warned that he must be more careful, you could probably overlook the first incident. But if it keeps on reoccurring, then you have to take more drastic action.

You should mention to the tenant that he is responsible for any damage to the property that was not present when he took residency of the house. You could request that he must repair the damage but the problem with this choice, since the tenant has already shown carelessness in the first place, it is quite likely that any repairs be made do will just look as slovenly as the damage in the first place!

Your next option is to arrange to have the damage repaired yourself and at the same time, give the tenant the choice of paying your contractor direct or alternatively, deducting the cost from the deposit given by the tenant at the outset. You will probably find in most cases that the tenant would prefer to take advantage of the second option! You should at this time issue a formal written notice to the tenant warning them that such damage will not be tolerated by you and if it continues, you have no choice but to terminate the tenancy agreement. In most instances, this should put the matter to rest.

The problem starts get a little bit more serious when there are repeated incidents of carelessness that caused damage to the property by the tenant. Now granted this cannot be considered as deliberate downright destructive damage but if repeated consistently, the result can be just as costly for both you and the tenant.

If you find that this is a situation with your tenant you and have issued formal written warnings to be more careful which appear to have been totally ignored, then you certainly must consider whether you wish to keep such a tenant living in your property.

You see with excessive damage and the cost of repairs, you will probably reach a stage where the initial deposit will not be sufficient to cover of these current repairs, let alone any possible future ones. You can request that the tenant “tops up” the deposit in lieu of future incidents, which in itself is unlikely to happen and if this proves to be the case, then you will probably have no choice but to move on and start formal eviction proceedings.

Now I have to say that this is an extreme measure and you may only need to issue the preliminary notice of eviction to bring a careless tenant back under control. In the vast majority of cases, this will prove to be sufficient and the tenant will become less attentive in the future. However if you find that the first step is having absolutely no effect, then you have no alternative but to proceed to the full eviction and apply to the courts for the necessary order.


Local councils have found that tenants who have carelessly caused damage to the home in which they live, is starting to cost a considerable amount of money. Because of the current austerity conditions in which we live, many councils would have let matters drop and not chased up the cost of the repairs. However, shortage of funds has compelled these councils to make their tenants pay for all and any damage to the property, whether resulting from carelessness or downright deliberate destruction.

As a landlord, there is no doubt that you will be suffering similar circumstances and since repairs eat in to the minimal profit already achieved from the monthly rental, you too will find that you can no longer be tolerant of absent-minded or sloppy tenants.

We all make mistakes and we don’t always pay particular attention to what we are doing. This is a fact of normal everyday life. But we also live in a stringent economic world and so if we find continual damage that is caused by an abnormally careless or inconsiderate tenant, then you as a landlord must bring the tenant under control as soon as possible. If you don’t, then you will find that your overheads for that property will be far in excess of the budget that you have allowed.

Careless driving causes accidents. The careless tenant need to be brought under control; otherwise that carelessness may cause a very expensive “accident” to your overheads!

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About the author
Aude Seynt MartinAude Seynt Martin is an ex French corporate lawyer with a Master Phil in Property Law. When she came to London, Aude gave up her career as a Lawyer to be involved in property. Having studied the market for more than two years and worked with very experienced landlords and professionals, Aude is now a Property Consultant, whose motivation is to come up with creative solutions to help overcome any property related situation.

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