How To Avoid A Deposit Disaster
Updated: Nov 11, 2018
It’s the situation every landlord and tenant dreads.
An ongoing dispute over a deposit.
It costs money, causes stress and is time consuming.
A report which came out recently showed that disputes over deposits were at their highest since 2007.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Four very quick ways to avoid a dispute:
1. Have a professional Inventory prepared at the beginning of the each new tenancy. In the long run it will save you money, time and worry. It’s a crucial piece of evidence when dealing with a dispute. Get your new tenant to sign a copy on check-in, provide them with a copy and keep your copy in a safe place until needed at the end of the tenancy.
2. Carry out regular property visits and document your findings along with photo evidence. The only way you are able to determine how the property looks during a tenancy is to visit. If the property isn’t inspected the tenants could have decorated, replaced flooring, sub-let or gained a pet. Doing a property visit enables you to tackle these issues during the tenancy rather than having a nasty surprise at the end.
3. Employ a professional Inventory Clerk to check the tenant out of the property and conduct a Check-out Report. This is where the condition from the beginning of the tenancy to the end is compared and a report with photo evidence is created. The reason behind getting a professional Inventory Clerk is they are unbiased; they have no financial gain from the contents of the report.
4. Evidence – In the eyes of a deposit protection scheme the deposit is the tenants and it is down to the landlord to prove a loss in order to put forward a claim from the deposit. Evidence is a crucial key to providing a loss, the Inventory will come into its own here, this documentation will state and photograph the condition of the property at the beginning of the tenancy, the check-out will state any difference to the condition. If any work was carried out before the tenancy commenced it is always advisable to keep a copy of the receipt to again be able to evidence the full extent of the work and any loss that has been incurred. The Tenancy Agreement is another key bit of evidence, if you can point the adjudicator to the clause within the Tenancy Agreement along with the supporting evidence of the Inventory, check-out and invoice you have a very positive case for the examiner to look at.
The two claims that always seem to have landlords and tenants butting heads is cleanliness and damages. Everyone’s interpretation of clean is different, therefore to avoid this muddy puddle I do always advise landlords to have the property professionally cleaned before a tenancy commences, that way the tenants need to hand the property back in a professionally cleaned condition. Determining whose dirt is whose can be a lengthy argument at the end of a tenancy. I’m often told by tenants that they don’t agree to a claim against a damaged item and that its “fair wear and tear”. Fair wear and tear is a further subject on its own, but a quick and sure way to make sure fair wear and tear is taken into consideration when a check-out is being conducted is to employ a third party independent inventory clerk to do the check-out, they are trained on the life span of items and will take the tenancy length and original condition into account when creating a check-out.
The question I get asked most often by landlords is “my property is unfurnished, surely I don’t need an Inventory”. This isn’t the case, just because your property technically doesn’t contain furniture it still contains contents such as the kitchen cupboards, white goods, flooring, curtains etc. that belong to you which the tenant will have use of during the tenancy. For example, say the work surface has been burnt by a pan. Without an Inventory and the photographic evidence to prove that mark wasn’t there before the tenant moved in, that phrase that as Letting Agents we here all the time “but it was like that when I moved in” and without the hard evidence it’s next to impossible to make a claim from the tenants deposit, it’s your word against your tenant’s.
So don’t despair, a deposit disaster can be avoided by choosing the right letting agent for you who will guide you through the process.
Thanks for reading and if you need any advice on any aspect of a deposit dispute please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me – I’d love to help you.