Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Close Encounters; HOMES & PROPERTY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Close Encounters; HOMES & PROPERTY

Article excerpt

Byline: LIZ HODGKINSON

Renting to friends might seem like a good way of saving money and getting a tenant you can trust, but in the end you pay dearly, says Liz Hodgkinson

IF YOU are considering letting your property to a friend or family member, the resounding advice from all quarters is: don't.

Although it sounds attractive, experience says any renting arrangement done "through friends" is a recipe for disaster.

"Everybody thinks they can save on agents' fees by letting to friends," says Catherine Cockroft, of estate agent Aylesford. "And it takes away the landlord's main fear - that an unknown tenant, however impressive their financial references, may end up trashing the place.

"But because most people don't like discussing money matters with friends, there is a temptation to be relaxed about the tenancy agreement."

The problem, says Cockroft, is that the friend can be equally relaxed about paying the rent on time. "Also, family and friends often expect to pay less than the market price.

"My advice is to treat a family member or friend in exactly the same way as any other tenant: go through an agent, draw up a proper tenancy agreement, and insist on the usual reference and inventory checks. Also take the standard deposit." Even then, there can be tricky areas.

"We had a case where a client was letting to a friend, and the contract stated the rent would increase after one year," Cockroft says. "But when the year was up, the tenant insisted on a rent reduction, as many repairs were needed, which they hadn't liked to mention at first.

"The tenants did not want to speak to the landlord - their friend - directly about it, so asked us to handle it instead.

"This is the kind of issue that crops up with any tenancy, but can cause serious tensions between friends."

Dawn Elliott, of estate agent Goldschmidt & Howland, says: "In many cases, people who rent from friends are temporarily homeless, either because they are between properties or have had to move out of their homes for insurance work. …

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