By Nick Lyons, Managing Director, No Letting Go
Whilst it may be of no surprise to many long time property managers, the introduction of the deposit schemes (TDS) has highlighted an area that causes a great deal of time-related cost in the industry. It seems that the most common cause of complaint is, and has been, cleanliness and from my various discussions with property managers and adjudicators over the previous few years, the most difficult element to determine is “What is Clean?”
It is fair to say that what one person calls clean, is not what another person calls clean and therefore as an inventory management company, property manager, landlord or in house inventory clerk, how do you benchmark standards and determine levels of cleanliness so that we all know what we are talking about?
In the early days of the deposits schemes, the first statistics to come from all three adjudications as published by Mortgage Trust in 2009 showed that 43% of disputes were related directly to cleanliness.
The TDS scheme at the time was reporting figures in the region of 50% and recent figures released by a landlord survey carried out by mydeposits.co.uk showed that 88.5% of disputes were related to cleanliness, 53.8% were related to wear and tear and 23% related to gardening.
No Letting Go carried out an analysis of all check outs at its various UK offices in 2010/11 to ascertain which areas of the check out were causing most disputes. Cleanliness was (not surprisingly) the biggest area – registering around 78% of the negative comments, closely followed by rubbish, damage and to a lesser extent general maintenance.
To back up the No Letting Go survey on check-outs we went further and carried out an analysis of 100 inventories from various sources including inventory companies, agents and landlords.
Surprisingly we found that only a few companies stated what they determine as clean, most in fact had such a vague explanation that I was amazed that any property manager could make a decision on the level of cleanliness required for the property without having to make a visit themselves! However more companies did make a determined effort to define levels of condition.
As part of a review of No Letting Go inventories following our research we introduced a list of definitions or parameters to state what we meant by clean. We found at the time that we spend an enormous amount of time explaining how dirty or clean a property was.
Inventory companies are in the business of independently registering facts in a subjective area of the property business, thus we needed a way to say to our clients what we meant by the various states of cleanliness. And by that, we mean:
What is a professional clean?
What does cleaned to a professional standard mean?
What is the difference between a good domestic clean and average domestic clean?
What does not clean actually mean and so on.
For example, No Letting Go define Professionally Clean as:
Everything immaculate, sparkling and dust free. Appliances and sanitary ware spotless. Carpets steamed cleaned, vacuumed. Floors swept. All furniture in order and clean. Linen freshly laundered. Cleaned to a high professional standard by a professional cleaner, receipt seen. Name of the company and date carried out.
The key here is not about our own opinions and differences on what we all call clean. It is about clearly telling a property manager or landlord (or adjudicator) what the benchmark is and therefore provide detailed and clear information to be able to make decision on the levels of cleanliness required to get a property ready for the next tenancy or to make it easy to calculate a deposit deduction.
Furthermore, with the increasing importance of the check-in procedure by gaining tenants’ agreement to the inventory and the schedule of condition at the start of the tenancy, clearly defining a level of cleanliness (whether in the inventory and schedule of condition and/or in a separate check in report) is critical.
Knowing that such a high proportion of issues relate to cleanliness, explaining to your tenant what is expected of them before and at the end of the process will mean less ambiguity which in turn saves time and money.
The best inventory management condition reports are not only the most detailed, but the clearest.
For further details on the No Letting Go cleanliness parameters call us on 0800 8815 366 or simply visit our website at http://www.nolettinggo.co.uk/property-inventory-articles.html and look at any of our inventory, check in or check out reports. We define both cleanliness and condition parameters to make it easy to make a decision.