Frivolous it might be but I don’t fall out with my tenants because…..

Frivolous it might be but I don’t fall out with my tenants because…..

15:10 PM, 28th November 2011, About 12 years ago 23

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There have been some really interesting comments on the EU Trying To Kill Buy To Let – sign the petition to STOP it now. blog and it is great to see some new people contributing to this important discussion but I am feeling a bit frivolous at the moment and I thought that I would post on a lighter subject.

According to MyDeposits one of the main reasons that landlords stop money from a tenants deposit is to cover the cost of cleaning. This is interesting because I would have thought that damages might have come above cleaning. Mary Latham

I always try to give my tenants 100% of their deposit back and I do everything that I can to help my tenants return my property to me in a decent condition. I am realistic and I realise that, as Ina Sharples said in early Corry, “What’s clean ta sum is mucky ta others”. I am very careful to ensure that my tenants understand what I expect from them because time and money can be lost if the property needs too much cleaning and redecoration.

I send a letter 3 months before the end of the tenancy term and in this letter I list the possible costs of any work that may need to be done. I include cleaning costs and photographs- copies of which they signed at the start of the tenancy- and a copy of the Inventory and Schedule of Condition which includes room layouts showing the position of the furniture – I do not want to be dragging heavy furniture from room to room. As an aside I include a Section21 Notice to ensure that I have vacant possession when they leave in case they fail to give me notice or “forget” to return the keys. This saves time and avoids issues of abandonment etc.

When this letter is received I often get a call or email asking me how they can clean an item and this is music to my ears. These are the things that I recommend to my tenants

  • Coke is the best cleaner on the market. It cleans, sanitary wear, sinks, taps, cookers and many other things. There is no elbow grease needed just pour the coke into a toilet and leave it overnight and in the morning “ping”. Soak some kitchen towel in Coke and wrap it around grubby taps and cover in cling film after a few hours the “nasties” are all gone and the tap is sparkling even in hard water areas. Kitchen sinks that are stained with tea will come up like new in a few hours.Mark Alexander was sceptical when I told him that the Coke that he drinks is a great cleaner but when he had a blocked drain he could not clear he remembered what I said and bought some bottles of Coke. It cleared the drains where other chemicals had failed.
  • When a tenant has failed to open a window and there is black mould on the walls there is no point in them painting over the mould because it is a living organism and will come back quickly. The walls need to be cleaned with white wine vinegar to kill the mould and when it is dry a quick coat of emulsion will restore the wall to its former glory
  • My pet hate is a dirty oven and I found a brilliant product called Oven Pride. It comes with a bag into which you put your oven trays and pour some of the liquid. Leave over night and in the morning the grease has melted leaving the trays like new. The product comes with full instructions but you only need to pour the remaining liquid into the oven and spread it, within a few hours the oven is clean and ready to wipe out – again no elbow grease needed.
  • Stainless steel is easy to clean but difficult to leave smear free. Baby oil will remove any smears and leave it nice and shiny
  • A dirty microwave is easily cleaned with a cup of lemon juice mixed with sodium bicarbonate placed inside and microwaved for a couple of minutes. The lemon will evaporate and condense onto the metal surfaces melting the grease ready for a quick wipe out. The same mixture can be warmed and used to clean and deodorise a fridge or freezer.

I do all my own cleaning and many people laugh at me but I am an expert cleaner and a control freak; even the cleanest tenant rarely leaves my properties as clean as I want them to be for the next tenant. I like to be “green” where possible but I rarely have time to scrub for hours. Cleaning is very therapeutic and keeps me grounded but I always look for the quick and easy way.

Have you got any tips on cleaning or anything else to “avoid the void” and falling out with tenants when they move out? I would really like to hear from anyone who knows how to clean Blu-Tack off walls without leaving the greasy marks that are so difficult to emulsion over. I would also like to find an easy way to clean tile grout. I find smokers toothpaste very good but hard work. That’s another tip never throw away old tooth brushes they are great for getting into little nooks and crannies.

I can see Mark Alexander cringing as he reads this because he likes to be “hands off” just as I like to be “hands on”. Come on Mark you must have some tips after all your years as a landlord?

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22:35 PM, 28th November 2011, About 12 years ago

I am impressed Mary and as a man I appreciate my gender limitations when it comes to cleaning!!
I am taking note of your cleaning advices.
In particular I will be loading up with some....coke and I mean coca-cola.
By the way does Pepsi work aswell!?

22:38 PM, 28th November 2011, About 12 years ago

Also Mary have you thought of doing articles for the Landlord and But to Let magazine which has a 40000 audited circulation.
I am sure the editor would be VERY interested in things you have to say.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

22:53 PM, 28th November 2011, About 12 years ago

Hi Paul

I've given you a Thumbs up for cheek 😉 Hands off my best ambassador matey!

I'm sure it's a great magazine and their awards are very well respected. However, the circulation of our eNewsletter is now fast approaching half a million a week and our Alexa rank today places us at 3,107th busiest website in the UK. They don't have a UK rank but they do have a world ranking at just under 6.5 million Our world ranking is just under 110,000. OK, fair enough, when it comes to it e have a loing way to go to catch up with the world #1 ranked site "Google" but het, for a niche player we are doing OK don't you think?

BTW, I tried Mary's coke idea and it all works, even Tesco's value range. Sorted my blocked shower and furred up kettle for less that a quid. Keep the tips coming Mary (here though please 😉



Mary Latham

17:55 PM, 29th November 2011, About 12 years ago

Men fighting over me - its been some time since that last happend!!!

8:40 AM, 1st December 2011, About 12 years ago

I always clean the tile grout with 50% thick bleach and 50% water. I use a paint roller to apply, leave for a few hours and then rinse (if over the bath area, I just shower it off). Haven't had to regrout for years.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

9:30 AM, 1st December 2011, About 12 years ago

Mary & Glenice

I will be passing the rest of your tips on to my cleaners. Note to all, please keep them coming.

In answer to your question Mary, the only other tip I can add is to cut an onion in half and leave it in the middle of a room to get rid of the smell of fresh paint. Not really a cleaning tip but loosely associated. Many tenants don't like the smell of paint, especially if they have young children.

With all those tips maybe you should start a "green cleaning" agency?

You absolutely right that I prefer not to get my hands dirty. I follow Pareto's theory, better known as the 80/20 rule, i.e. of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Wherever possible I look to outsource and by that I don't mean dumping the crappy jobs onto somebody else. I believe that the true art of delegation begins with identifying which 80% of your time achieves only 20% of the results. Then look to see whether others can be better at it that you are yourself and whether you can be more productive with your time by employing them to do the job for you, thus freeing up yourself to do more of what get's you the results or gives you more time to do the things you really want to do, e.g. travel, family time etc. I also accept that delegation also involves time to train, motivate and monitor. When this becomes to much then I recruit somebody to do that who's better than me and I work with them. That builds a little pyramid. I'm not as good at it as the likes of Richard Branson, his pyramid amounts to 50,000 employees only about 10 of them will actually report him.

I appreciate that I'm drifting off topic a bit here and if cleaning gives you lot's of pleasure and personal satisfaction to the extent that that would be your chosen hobby in retirement then fair enough. If it isn't though, maybe there is an opportunity in their for you? You recently wrote a fantastic article on Maslows heirachy of needs theory and related it to landlords. I guess it's all related to where you see yourself on that pyramid.

9:34 AM, 1st December 2011, About 12 years ago

Great article. A lot of my tenants drink Coke and would be intrigued, as I am, to see it work. So I'll be geting the tenants to clean for free, probably once once 🙁

Mary Latham

17:08 PM, 4th December 2011, About 12 years ago

Francis most tenants are also intrigued about the cleaning powers of coke and they think that it is fun to see if it works. I promise you it does work in just the same way as it takes the green off a coin - most of us have tried that at one time or another?

Mary Latham

17:26 PM, 4th December 2011, About 12 years ago

Mr Alexander I do not see cleaning my properties as a hobby I see it as quality control. Most cleaners just don't understand the difference between cleaning my home and cleaning a tenants home.

Get ready to cringe Mark

If I have vinyl floor covering on a toilet floor - most are tiled now - I need to lift that vinyl and clean the back and the floor to removed the urine. This thorough cleaning also applies to the cistern, pipes and wall behind the toilet. A quick wipe over will not do the job it needs bleach and then it needs to by dried. Cleaning behind radiators, on top of cupboards and doors, under and behind kitchen applicances etc all prevents build up of dirt and dust. Many people have respiritory problems these days and thorough cleaning is important to their health.
In the not to distant future I will look for a person who is prepared to be trained to clean a rented property and I will train that person who would then have excellent skills to sell to landlords.

I have just come home from cleaning therepy in a house I consider this time well spent on my investments. I spent time showing two flats this week and this is also an investment because I let them at a time fo the year that is often difficult. I could get other people to do many things for me but I am not ready to stand back yet and I enjoy what I do.

Mark what is your idea of a nice hobby for an old bird like me?

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

19:09 PM, 4th December 2011, About 12 years ago

Hi Mary

I'm not cringing, I'm smiling 🙂

As for hobbies, well you are doing it, sharing your experiences here of course. Finding the time to come to Norfolk to visit your new friend would be nice too 😉



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