Helen Martin: Keep your house in order if you rent it

There are good and bad tenants, as well as good and bad landlords, in the rental sector.''Picture: Ian Georgeson
There are good and bad tenants, as well as good and bad landlords, in the rental sector.''Picture: Ian Georgeson
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LIKE a miniature ­London, the price of properties in Edinburgh plus the number of students and other temporary ­residents, means the rental market is substantial. As we all know, it’s not cheap ­either for landlords to purchase, equip and maintain flats or tenants to rent them.

Now a controversy has arisen, with tenants claiming too many are losing their deposits with landlords claiming they have damaged or failed to domestically care for the property.

The deposit protection schemes, which we’ve had for eight years, are where the deposit is lodged. If tenants and landlords fail to agree what happens at the end of the tenancy, that third party’s adjudicator makes the final decision and issues funds.

Roughly 60 per cent of these ­disputes end with deposits being split between landlord and tenant, around 30 per cent go to the landlord and ten per cent to tenants. It’s therefore not surprising that renters feel the scheme favours landlords.

Having two rental flats, I’m pretty sure statistics, percentages and alleged “trends” mean very little. Why? Because there are good ­landlords and bad landlords, good tenants and bad tenants, good letting agencies and bad ones.

With only two flats, we almost regard them as second homes. We set them up to a standard in which we would find it acceptable to live.

We have a good letting agency that responds immediately to any ­problem and a maintenance company that turns up immediately at any time of day or night if there’s an emergency repair needed, within 24 hours for anything less urgent, and also carries out annual safety checks and necessary upgrades.

Landlords who have dozens of rentals may feel a bit more distanced from their properties, and, of course, there are a few who don’t care much as long as they get the rent. ‘Small’ landlords like us usually want the flats well maintained for our sake as well as the renters.

Currently we have two, long-term, very good tenants who treat the flats as their homes, tell the agent if they need help and ask permission for ­anything they want to do from inserting picture hooks on the wall to installing gadgets. We can predict they’ll get their deposit in full when they choose to move on.

We did have one previous pair of tenants – female teachers believe it or not! – who lost their deposit after a short, six-month let. At the end of each lease we carry out a thorough clean and freshen up, but much more was needed after their tenancy, where it appeared nothing had ever been dusted, vacuumed, wiped or cleaned since they took residence. There was damage, breakages and rubbish and deeply accumulated dirt. The expectation is that, apart from normal wear and tear which is accepted, and minor accidents which are part of life, the flat should be in the same state as when the tenant moved in.

The agent presented the evidence to the protection scheme adjudicator, and the deposit came to us to restore the flat.

For good landlords and tenants, the system works well. For bad landlords there can be serious legal issues and for bad tenants, the deposit is the price to pay. To get your dosh back, choose a rented flat you like, and treat it with respect as your home, not just a temporary doss house.

Adam the apple of my eye over tax on tourists

COUNCILLOR Adam McVey . . . are you sitting comfortably, because I don’t want you to keel over in shock when I applaud you!

Successfully campaigning for the Scottish Government to give the go-ahead for the tourist tax, or Transient Visitor Levy as it’s formally called, and even offering to withdraw most of Marketing Edinburgh’s funding, is turning you into a hero for many Capital citizens.

For once, it’s not about yet more cuts to essential services for locals. It’s also about realising that the hospitality industry, which benefits most from over-selling tourism, might be the appropriate backers for its sales team instead of such funds coming from council coffers. Selling Edinburgh to tourists is like selling them chilled beer or ice-cream in a desert.

I hope you pull it off, consider other such appropriate funding cuts, and win public adoration!

Following the party line to our doom

CAN any of us remember a political nightmare as bad as Brexit with the future of Scotland and the rest of the UK hanging by a thread and national collapse a real and scary probability?

At the crux of all this is our party political system. Some Tories still want to stay in the EU, some Labour want Brexit, and everything hinges on a handful of DUP, all as a result of ill-informed voting in the referendum two years ago, with which Scotland completely disagreed.

The political party whip system is the most rotten, undemocratic tool in such a terrifying mess. Regardless of what each politician really thinks, the whips pressure and threaten to make sure members vote for party policy. With all parties divided, this is the most important occasion for MPs to have free votes with electoral-type anonymity so they can be honest about what they believe is best for the UK, without being punished for party “betrayal”.

Criminals don’t deserve fair cop

SCOTTISH police are now ordered to be respectful, more friendly, and sensitive when arresting criminals, regardless of their crimes. The thin blue line is fading.