Tenants trashed my house while I was on holiday and left dirty knickers
It was the smell that hit me first. The unmistakable musk of wet dog that permeated every room of the house we’d spent seven painstaking years making our own.
The washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, boiler, two light fittings, two blinds, two wardrobes and two chairs were all broken.
The sofa was covered in stains and flies had laid eggs in the dining chairs and table. Used knickers were scattered around the house.
Outside, the shed had been kicked in and my lawnmower was broken from being left in the rain, while a bike lay fly-tipped on my lawn. The compost bin was smashed to pieces.
My partner and I had only just finished renovating our home before we headed on our year-long planned trip to Southeast Asia.
We had needed our mortgage covered while we travelled, so made the decision to take in tenants.
The people that were set to stay in our house were an accountant and a nurse – that’s all I knew about them. I felt secure in the knowledge that someone who cared for people for a living wouldn’t trash someone else’s house.
Clearly I was wrong.
It took six months to get the house back to normal
It all started out fine – we got an inspection report from our estate agents after six months and it looked normal, although our tenants apparently had a lot of stuff. However, looking back on the memo now, they clearly were using items to cover up some of the damage they’d inflicted on our property.
I thought back to when the estate agent came around to create the inventory for the house before we let it out and on learning that I was creating a ‘welcome pack’ with information about the house, the area and recommendations for local businesses, he started laughing.
‘You’ve never done this before have you?’, he chortled. He confided that he’d done check-outs for properties with holes in the ceiling and dog poo smeared on the walls.
He thought we were naive – and sadly, he was right. We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for.
But I didn’t start to worry until I got a text from our next door neighbour while we were getting to the end of our travels. She messaged to let us know she’d had to phone the police as the tenants seemed to have moved out a few days earlier, and had left the front door open.
The estate agent came to close it, but it made us dread our return home even more. What were we in store for?
We asked a friend with a key to go around and he sent us some photos – it was even worse than we could have ever expected.
When we returned, opening the door to the house I’d put so much love into broke my heart. We caught up with our neighbour who told us that our not-so-caring tenants had stopped taking their dog out for walks after a few months, something that became evident to me after I borrowed a lawnmower to cut my overgrown back garden.
The smell hit me as the blades churned up 12 months worth of dog poo. I had to don gloves and filled an entire bin with piles of grass clippings stuck together with faeces.
Our bins were filled with the wrong types of waste, too – which the bin men had stopped collecting, so I found more gloves to empty and then refill them correctly.
Bizarrely, they were full of perfectly in-date and unopened food and tampons – out of everything the duo had done, this is what tipped me over the edge. All of it could have easily been taken to a food bank, but they’d chosen to lazily throw it away instead.
My neighbour informed me that my now former tenants had bought a house in North Manchester, so why they didn’t need any of their stuff was beyond me. It was clear that they’d left in a hurry.
The nightmare ended up having a knock-on effect on my whole life, as I had to return to work earlier than I’d intended in order to earn the money to pay for the damages myself. Having to live in the house while we fixed it, too, was dispiriting.
Even though I had both home and landlord’s insurance, the damage wasn’t ‘accidental’ and they classified a roof leak and subsequent kitchen damage as ‘wear and tear’ so we couldn’t make a claim.
The estate agent and their maintenance company wouldn’t take responsibility for their role either, blaming bad weather for not fixing the roof even though it was August with very few rainy days. They eventually booked it in for October after part of the ceiling fell down.
Unbelievably, the tenants had disagreed when we said that we would keep the deposit of £1,000, so we had to wait four months to get it back.
In the end, I sent all of the photos and the costs of the damages to the agents and the tenants had to reluctantly agree to forfeit their deposit. The only other option was to take them to court for the full amount – thousands more – but this was a stress and expense that we just couldn’t deal with.
Clearly, after giving up the £1,000, the tenants didn’t want that either.
Once the agent’s fees, the roof leak and all the damages were taken into account, we were out of pocket after the whole debacle – and it wasn’t just money that was wasted.
It took six months to get the house back to normal. The ceiling needed to be replastered, parts needed to be ordered for the white goods, holes needed to be filled, walls repainted and various other tasks had to be redone.
I worked long hours doing three jobs and then spent all my free time in the evenings and weekends trying to put my home back together. I barely had the time to see the friends and family that I’d missed so much when travelling.
The experience made me wonder how ruthless you need to be as a landlord to even make any money and it is not something I would ever want to do again.
My advice would be to only let out your home or anywhere that you care about with caution, because once someone disrespects your personal space, it may not ever feel (or smell) the same again.
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