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Tenant making unauthorised alterations


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I am landlord of an end-of-terrace cottage and the tenant has taken a business trip to America after making alterations which I have only just discovered. Previously the kitchen floor was of quarry tiles with an electric heating element underneath, connected to an electronic controller. She decided that a laminated wood floor was more to her liking, so she had that installed without telling me. 

It seems to have been professionally laid and looks fine, but there are practical problems. The electric underfloor heating is unable to penetrate two layers of flooring efficiently. So now I have a kitchen with no means of heating it, which won't exactly appeal to future tenants.

Had she discussed this with me, I might have agreed the change of flooring but would have insisted on having a new sub-floor heating element to take the place of the existing one, coupled to the existing controller, and then the old one could be disconnected. The rest of the cottage, I might add, is heated by gas central heating.

Obviously we need to discuss the situation, possibly to regularise the alterations, ensure the kitchen is heated, and obviously to amend the inventory. We will do this when she returns from the States. What exactly should be my approach? I thought in terms of insisting that the kitchen be heated in some way, possibly by the tenant installing a new radiator running from the central heating, and - if that is agreed - confirmation that the new floor would not be removed at the end of the tenancy. Would that be a reasonable compromise? What are the alternatives?

Many thanks for your help,

Alec.

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Well I guess the first question is what kind of tenancy is it ?

Is it an Assured Shorthold Tenancy ?

Is the property in England or Wales ?

If the answer is yes then most AST contracts include a clause along the lines of......tenant agrees not to make any alterations or additions to the premises.......without the previous consent in writing of the landlord and to leave them at the end of the tenancy et c etc.

So, tenant is in breach of contract. If you don't want the flooring just get them to take it up at the end of the tenancy.

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Thanks for your reply, Richlist. Yes, it is an Assured Shorthand Tenancy, in England, complying with all current requirements in the form of agreement supplied by Visum (who I must say have always been very successful in finding tenants!). It contains the clauses "not to alter the appearance or decoration or structure without the written permission of the landlord" and "when the tenant breaks any of these obligations, the tenant agrees to carry out at his own cost any reasonable and corrective measures within a maximum of four weeks and more urgently if that is considered necessary".

I understand what you say, but the existing (now hidden) heating included frost protection, which came into action even when turned off. Periods of absence like this one are quite common and leaving the kitchen unprotected from freezing during a cold spell is worrying. Also, inevitably signs of alteration would remain if it were to be removed - changes have been made to the skirting, a pantry door trimmed down at the bottom - so it's not entirely reversible and not an ideal solution. Ideally, installing an alternative form of heating would be preferred, but can I insist on that being provided on the grounds that the previous heating and its frost protection have been rendered ineffective?

 

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Well I'd have thought there were 2 options.

1. Tenant has flooring removed & everything affected (skirting, doors etc) repaired or replaced. Or

2. If landlord agrees.....flooring installation remains but alternative heating is installed. Landlord to approve design & installation.

Decide what you want, get tenants agreement, set a schedule, make sure you are involved in specs and who does the job. 

The tenants reaction is very likely to be surprise &/ or refusal to accept. They probably haven't read the contract and it will come as a shock. Any work sounds like it will be expensive.

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As RL decide what you want in the long term. In my mind waiting till the end of the tenancy for resolution leaves you at too much risk, in no small part with her being an international traveller.

If you want it to be returned to as was then the money to do so should be paid now for you to carry out when you wish, and consider the void time of the works.

I'm sure the legalities would be otherwise but I consider such to be vandalism. Treating you property with such a lack of respect shows the attitude to expect at end of tenancy.

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Many thanks to you both. R's reasoning is very clear and I agree entirely. And yes, CR, I do need to get the matter resolved promptly.

Had the flooring been a botched job, I would not hesitate to insist on having it removed. It has, however, been done rather well and actually looks very acceptable.

I will certainly point out the options to the tenant but I favour the addition of a separate heat source acceptable to myself, combined with a signed agreement between tenant and myself somewhat akin to retrospective planning permission. 

There is, I feel, one further point in favour of this compromise: if the tenant was so keen to have that floor that she spent a considerable sum of her own money having it laid, she should be more likely to renew her agreement when the time comes for that.

 

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I imagine you will consider that I'm looking for problems. but

Should there be issue with the floor you have no agreement with the installer, you would need to take it up with the tenant, who by then may be the ex tenant possibly living in America.

When you create the new agreement you have effectively accepted the install anyway.

A laminate floor that gets fluids underneath isn't something i would wish to have as a concern, milk, coffee, cat pee.

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Good point CoR.

Any new flooring is going to look great if it's been installed recently. Even cheap materials professionally installed will look fabulous but you need to know if it's waterproof, designed for kitchens and able to stand the test of time. Most laminates I've seen in those locations look shabby after a year of two.

 

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That's a good point. If nothing else, I must contact the supplier/fitter, make it clear to them that the work was carried out on my property, and get their assurance that any guarantee written or implied is connected with my name.

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I managed to overcome the issue of fluids getting under a laminate,

I have it our bathroom ceiling. Tis true, honestly.

Mrs Me thinks I only did it because I like Lionel Richie.

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There are a lot of laminate type products out there now that are completely water proof/resistant. I will only use these now no matter what room they are being laid. 

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