Smoking tenants? Deposit deductions need not be a drag

I do my best to ensure my properties are of a high standard; well kitted out, a fresh lick of paint between tenancies…you know the drill.
I do my best to ensure my properties are of a high standard; well kitted out, a fresh lick of paint between tenancies…you know the drill.

Sarah Male from Urban Sales and Lettings Online Estate Agents talks about the damage caused by cigarette smoke and how this can effect the return of the deposit.

My first cigarette was a pretty standard affair; shamefully stolen from my mum’s handbag and admired throughout the school day by my mates. Finally at the end of the day round the back of the library we lit it. We each took a drag, proceeded to cough our lungs out and, for me, that was it, never again! Now I’m not 13 anymore I know a bit more about the health hazards, but it’s not just that; it’s the stinky part that really gets my goat as a landlord.

I do my best to ensure my properties are of a high standard; well kitted out, a fresh lick of paint between tenancies…you know the drill. After taking all this care I want to let to good tenants who will take care of my investment and at the end of the tenancy I don’t want to be left with the smell of smoke or cigarette burns in the carpet to deal with. Most smokers seem immune to the smell and don’t seem to realise how it clings to almost everything and for hours after the cigarette was stubbed out. As a non smoker living in a non smoking household I can sniff out a cigarette a mile away which has made for a few interesting encounters with my tenants.

If you’re worried about damage caused by smoking and you don’t want your tenants to smoke in your property you can always make sure:

  • Within your marketing it clearly states “non smoking tenants only”
  • When conducting your own viewings you use your sense of smell to sniff out tenants with a habit and make it clear the property is available only to non smoking tenants
  • The smoking question is included within your referencing process
  • It is clearly stated within your tenancy agreement that tenants are not to smoke inside the property

However, even with the above precautions it’s very difficult to stop your tenants smoking in your property if they want to. Should you find your tenants smoking on a maintenance visit or spy an overflowing ash tray the best thing to do is politely remind them that they are not to smoke in the property.

But if your tenant continues to smoke you can use your inventory as evidence to detail why you might need to make a deduction to the deposit at the end of the tenancy. For example to professionally clean the property or claim for part of the cost to replace badly burned carpets.

Condition issues like cigarette burns in carpets and soft furnishings should be clearly noted alongside those tell-tale signs like discoloured walls in the inventory and should be backed up by photographic evidence that show any discolorations etc. Using a third-party such as an inventory company or even odour specialists to assess the extent of damage from smoke will provide valuable evidence that you can submit to support your deposit deduction claims.

However, without a good, well detailed inventory of a professional standard, claiming for costs to alleviate damage that smoking causes to the property will prove very difficult. If you end up with a case of your word against the tenant’s word, then you won’t fair well if it goes to a dispute, so make sure you’re prepared from the start.

How do you deal with smoking tenants? Have you had a bad experience? Let us know in your comments below and at @Urbansandl and @nationalandlord

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