Ending a tenancy can be awkward for both tenants and property professionals. Dealing with tenancy deposit returns, outstanding rent and resolving disputes can take time and a lot of effort. So, how can tenants and landlords alike ensure the end of tenancy goes smoothly?
No Letting Go’s chief operations officer, Lisa Williamson recently joined Richard Blanco on his podcast ‘Inside Property’ to discuss the types of issues that can arise and how to resolve them through unbiased, end of tenancy services.
Lisa was joined by Suzy Hershman, head of dispute resolution at My Deposits, and Al McClenahan, the director of Justice4Tenants to get a full picture from all sides of the story.
Here is a roundup of the key insights that came out of the programme;
Start as You Mean to End
Lisa’s top tip on ending a tenancy well is to determine a clear position from the start. The way to do this is through a well thought out inventory including detailed but concise information, clear photographs and a comprehensive list of contents and condition.
Creating a tenancy format which is easy to read by both parties is essential for avoiding confusion at the end of the tenancy.
Another tip for landlords from Lisa is to ensure that tenants sign the inventory report to avoid deduction disputes during check out.
An Unbiased Outlook is Key
One question that arose in the podcast was whether landlords should create their own inventory reports.
While it’s completely fair for a landlord to perform their own survey, they run the risk of using emotional language which can be interpreted in different ways.
This is where an independent inventory service can resolve issues. No Letting Go inventory reports include a glossary of terms to determine the condition and cleanliness of items in the property. For example, rather than a landlord using the word ‘immaculate’ to describe a piece of furniture which could come across as biased or open to interpretation, instead ‘professionally clean’ is a clearly explained term in the NLG glossary.
Another benefit of using a professional, unbiased property inventory service is that in the case of a dispute over deposit returns, judicators can clearly understand the benchmarks.
Are Pre-Check Out Meetings A Good Idea?
As an active landlord himself, Richard highlighted the benefit of arranging pre-check out meetings with tenants to go over what is expected of them during the moving out process.
This all sounds well and good, but the question is, who will pay for it? Landlords and tenants may be reluctant to fork out this extra cost, but it could save money further down the line.
Alternatively, providing tenants with an end of tenancy letter detailing all the tasks that need to be completed before moving out is a great way to prevent confusion over where responsibilities lie. This can include the date and time of the key handover and what needs to be cleaned.
End of Tenancy Property Cleaning
As the head of dispute resolution at My Deposit, Suzie Hershman has a lot of experience dealing with the common issues affecting landlords and tenants during the checkout process.
According to Suzie, cleaning comes top of the list when it comes to end of tenancy disputes.
The resolution is simple. Start with an inventory report which plainly states the condition of the property and how it is expected to be maintained. For example, if the property has a garden, the inventory needs to clearly state that the grass needs to be cut or the paving de-weeded and power washed before leaving the property.
Other issues that can arise include whose responsibility it is for window cleaning and whether professional carpet cleaning needs to be undertaken.
The main rule of thumb for tenants, is that the property needs to be returned in the original state as at the start of the tenancy. This may involve hiring an end of tenancy cleaning service (make sure you keep the receipt as evidence) or giving the property a thorough clean yourself. Either way, ensure you leave on the last day of your tenancy confident everything looks the same as it did when you moved in!
Fair wear and tear can be a bit of a grey area when it comes to cleaning. Suzie recommends that landlords should think of the items in their property as having a lifespan. A carpet or decor has an average lifespan of 5 years, which needs to be taken into consideration during the checkout report.
Managing the Landlord-Tenant Relationship
Al attributed this to poor inventories which leave too much room for interpretation and miscommunication, which is more common when landlords create their own.
Another common reason for strained relationships is when tenants are in arrears at the end of the tenancy agreement. To minimise conflict, Al recommends that tenants are as open and communicative with their landlord about their financial difficulties to help landlords remain understanding until the issue can be resolved.
However, when landlords view their role purely from an investment perspective and ignore the human side of the relationship, this is when disputes are likely to arise. The lesson? Landlords who are more understanding and willing to negotiate are likely to have better relationships with their tenants, resulting in a smoother parting.
How Will the Letting Agency Fee Ban Effect End of Tenancy?
There has been much discussion over what changes the letting agency fee ban will bring to the industry. However, for now, Lisa doesn’t see much change to the way check out reports will be processed.
Currently, landlords usually pay for the inventory, and for either check-in or check-out services while the tenant pays for the other. This means there is only one cost that needs to be recuperated by landlords.
According to Lisa, most landlords and tenants can see the advantages of having these services managed by independent professionals.
Unbiased End of Tenancy Services from No Letting Go
To ensure the end of a tenancy goes as smoothly as possible and you retain a positive relationship throughout, using an independent property service can help resolve issues and disputes before they arise.
No Letting Go provides all the documentation needed at the start and end of a tenancy to determine how much money is deducted from the deposit. Using the latest technology, No Letting Go can advise against fair wear and tear and create reports to ensure you are fully compliant with regulations.
To see the full list of services on offer, head to the No Letting Go services page.
Ever had your investment abused by careless tenants? Whether it’s damage to the property or a general disrespect, it’s a horrible feeling. You feel cheated by the people you trusted.
Deposits and tenant referencing companies are great ways of combating bad tenants, but there’s another step you should be taking. Regular landlord inspections are vital for ensuring your tenant is actually maintaining your property as agreed in the tenancy agreement.
Many landlords avoid checking their investment purely because there are clear regulations to follow. Don’t be one of those landlords! Here’s what you need to know about property inspections.
Why You Should Carry Out a Rental House Inspection
Not convinced about the need to inspect your property? Here are a few advantages of inspections:
- You can assess how your tenant treats the property
- You can check on any maintenance issues that need your attention, such as health and safety requirements
- You boost your reputation as a landlord and become more approachable
- You can create an open pathway of communication with your tenants
- You can take a look at the living conditions of your tenant
- You can keep an eye out for any illegal activities
- You can check that you’re still offering a safe and legal letting to the tenant
- You may not have a duty of care to neighbours, but it may avoid disputes to check in with them. They may be able to tell you information about how your tenants are behaving that you might otherwise miss
Can a Landlord Enter Without Permission?
When it comes to entering the property, there are rules.
You can’t just turn up and inspect the condition of the property. The landlord or agent doesn’t necessarily need permission before entering. However, there are laws you need to follow when it comes to regular inspections.
Legally, there are three main rights of entry:
The Right of Reasonable Access
As a landlord, you need to be aware of your Landlord access rights. ‘Reasonable access’ sounds like a very general term but it is simply defined. This ultimately refers to the need to access the property immediately to carry out emergency/necessary repairs.
The Right to Enter to Inspect the State of Repair of the Property
As owner of the property you can also enter to inspect the ‘state of repair’. For inspections, you aren’t granted immediate access.
You must also carry out all inspections at reasonable times of day. If someone other than yourself (or a previously agreed agent) is inspecting the property, you must give notice of inspection in writing.
The Right to Enter to Provide Room Cleaning Services
If you offer room-cleaning services to your tenant and this is stated clearly in the contract, you can access the property without permission. This is a relatively uncommon situation.
Can a Landlord Enter the Property Without the Tenant Present?
If the reason for access is one of the ones mentioned above, such as an emergency, the tenant does not need to be present during inspection.
However, tenants should still be informed. This is their home also, so it’s a good idea to let them know if you’ve entered, and for what reason.
A landlord entering the property without permission or reason is against the law.
How Much Notice Does a Landlord Have to Give?
Usually, you must provide at least 24 hours notice before entry. This can differ in an emergency.
Landlord Right of Entry – Try Not to Scare the Tenant
Inspections can be scary for your tenants, as they’re obligated to look after your property. As soon as you notify them of your intention to check your property, they’ll begin to sweat. Be as casual and relaxed about it as you can. Explain there’s no reason for them to be worried, it’s just a mandatory walk through.
If you’re able to, give your tenant more than the required 24 hours’ notice – a week is usually best. This gives them time to present the rental in a clean and tidy state. Be flexible about the time of your visit and offer to rearrange if it isn’t convenient.
Landlord House Inspection Checklist
So, what should you be looking for?
There are plenty of issues you might come across, some more serious than others. Your inspection can be as thorough or casual as you’d like. Having said this, keep your eyes peeled for these common problems:
- Damage beyond wear and tear (broken windows, stained carpets, etc.)
- Damp and mould
- Condition of furniture and white goods
- Excessive rubbish
- Poorly maintained garden
- Faulty smoke alarms/carbon monoxide detectors
- State of the loft/attic
- Signs or rodents/infestations
Periodic Inspection Report
It’s recommended to carry out a house inspection every 3 months or less. This depends on the length of the tenancy.
To help you monitor your property effectively and keep track of any recurring issues, you may want to fill out a house inspection form of some kind.
This can be particularly useful if you spot a problem on a particular visit, and find it has not been corrected next time. With all the obligations landlords have, having a record can help you stay informed about the condition of your rental property.
Can Tenants Refuse Access to a Property?
If you turn up unannounced, for example without written notice, the tenant can refuse to grant entry.
To avoid this, give plenty of warning.
What Happens If the Tenant Refuses Entry?
If a tenant refuses to grant permission for entry, you can’t go ahead without their blessing. As a landlord, you have to respect the tenant’s privacy. This can create a difficult situation where a harmonious relationship between landlord and tenant can be jeopardised.
Tenants only tend to refuse entry if they’re hiding something unsavoury from you. Unfortunately, you can’t take the issue any further.
How to End the House Inspection
Communication is key here. If there are issues you’re not happy with, explain why and discuss whose responsibility it is. If you’re coming back to complete any repairs, give full details of when this will be. Don’t forget to ask your tenant whether they know of any issues or damages that require your attention. Ultimately, thank them for their time – remember, they weren’t obliged to let you in.
How Can an Inventory for a Rental Property Help?
Want to lower the possibility of deposit disputes and damage to your investment? No Letting Go will manage the entire inventory process in a professional and open manner. This includes check ins and check outs. We’ll help you comply with your obligations, while improving the lives of tenants. Find out more about our inventory services here.
It’s time to talk deposits…
These are a source of protection for landlords, ensuring they have a safety net should anything happen to their property.
But, this doesn’t mean they’re without their own complications!
Deposit disputes are common. If a landlord withholds money for any reason, this is an obvious conflict of interest between both parties.
Let’s ensure that doesn’t happen. Here are some important landlord deposit rules to remember.
The Government Approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme
These ensure a deposit is protected, and that tenants receive the full amount back if they meet the terms of their tenancy agreement and maintain the property as agreed.
TDS disputes are very uncommon, as the deposit is looked after by an unbiased, regulated third party.
Some landlords can be confused by these schemes, as in England and Wales there are two options. So, let’s straighten it out:
The Insured Scheme is where the landlord or letting agent keeps hold of the deposit throughout the tenancy, while paying a fee to the TDS.
This fee operates on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, meaning you don’t pay after the tenancy has finished!
With the Custodial Scheme, the landlord or letting agent doesn’t have to pay a fee, as the TDS looks after the deposit.
The TDS will then release the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Both tenancy deposit protection schemes have their benefits, so it’s important to work out what works for you.
When are Tenancy Deposit Deductions Allowed?
There’s no hard and fast rule when tenants ask, ‘what can my landlord deduct from my deposit?’ as this varies depending on the individual circumstance.
However, there are some common reasons why deposits aren’t returned.
Reasons for these deductions must be stipulated in the tenancy agreement, for example cleaning deposits. If you require the property to be returned in a certain way, for example the carpets cleaned, ensure this is clearly communicated.
After the tenant leaves, landlords are allowed to make deposit deductions for the following reasons:
There are numerous reasons why tenants may not be able to afford rent.
However, while some circumstances are out of their control, missed or withheld rent is a justifiable reason not to pay back some, or all, of their deposit.
Many landlords prefer to deduct money from the deposit rather than serve their tenant with a Section 21 eviction notice.
If your tenant owes more than the deposit amount, you can take legal action, and a court can order them to pay the full amount back. This will incur it’s own legal fees, so you’ll need to work out if it makes sense financially.
Serious Damage to the Property
Whether it’s to the property itself, such as smashed windows, or broken furniture, damaging the property contradicts the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Therefore, landlords are allowed to deduct the appropriate amount from the deposit.
Recklessness is something you can take seriously!
However, it’s important to remember that this mustn’t count as fair wear and tear.
Lost or Broken Items
One main reason for landlords not returning deposits is missing items. The cost of these can be deducted at the end of the tenancy!
The inventory will have set out what items were included with the property, and their condition. So, in the interest of reassurance for the landlord, a detailed inventory is essential.
In the world of tenancy deposit disputes, cleaning can be a huge source of disagreement between landlords and tenants, largely because we all have different definitions of what is ‘clean’.
However, it’s a common cause of deposit deductions. For example, if it was negotiated in the tenancy agreement that the tenant would pay for a professional carpet clean after keeping pets in the property, they must uphold this.
If they fail to do so, landlords can pay for the cost of the clean from the deposit. For a landlord, cleaning is the tenant’s responsibility!
General maintenance can be difficult because it’s a vague term.
But, misuse can result in a deposit deduction. For example, if any appliances have been deliberately neglected, the landlord will have to pay to repair these before the start of the next tenancy.
Damage Caused By Pets
Landlords and pets have a strained relationship. However, with half the UK’s population owning a pet, and nearly 1 in 5 of us renting our home, landlords have had to make compromises.
Before the tenancy starts, those with pets often agree to pay a higher deposit or the cost of a professional clean. But, this doesn’t make any damage caused by pets acceptable!
Many tenants find it difficult to understand why their landlord has kept their deposit. But, when you consider the cost of repairing damage, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable.
If a tenant takes it upon themselves to redecorate the property without asking you first, this may be in breach of their tenancy agreement. As a result, you might be able to deduct money from their deposit to get the room back to its prior condition.
Alternatively, if you allow a tenant to redecorate, but they do a poor job, you can claim for redecoration costs also.
When Can Tenants Dispute Deposit Deductions?
But, it’s important landlords understand what they can’t claim for. When can landlords keep deposits, and when can’t they?
Tenants have many responsibilities, such as keeping up with rent payments and taking care of the property. But, for landlords, unfair deposit deductions are simply unacceptable.
Tenants are always asking ‘can my landlord withhold my deposit?’ The answer is yes, but, within reason.
Let’s put the issue to rest. Landlords cannot refuse to return the deposit for:
General Wear and Tear
As mentioned previously, reasonable wear and tear isn’t a reason to withhold tenants’ money.
The definition of normal wear and tear is a difficult one, so it’s essential to consider the tenancy itself, such as the amount of tenants and the time of occupation.
For landlords, what is considered normal wear and tear can be a grey area. So, you’ll need to justify any deposit claims you make. Your property will have been lived in for a certain amount of time, so, while there are no rules for what is ‘reasonably acceptable’, you can’t expect it to be completely fresh at the end of the tenancy.
Redecorating the Property
You can’t charge outgoing tenants for the price of redecorating the property simply because you feel it needs a facelift.
If you’re only trying to give the place a freshen up in the hopes of charging higher rent, this must come out of your own pocket.
Preparation of the Dispute
If a deposit dispute has arisen, you can’t claim for the cost of any evidence gathered or legal paperwork drawn up.
Even if the dispute goes in the favour of the landlord, the tenant’s deposit doesn’t pay for it.
Cost of Re-Letting the Property
Costs involved with re-letting the property cannot be claimed for.
The end of an old tenancy and the start of a new one are completely separate!
Anything that Contradicts the Contract
If your property has failed to live up to the standards tenants expect and deserve, you can’t claim the cost of fixing this before the next tenancy.
For example, deposit deductions aren’t allowed for repairing appliances that have failed to work throughout the tenancy.
Just as the tenant has to keep to their contract, so do landlords!
Repair to the Structure of the Property
Structural damage, such as roof repairs, cannot be deducted from the deposit.
The tenant has a right to live in a structurally safe and well-built property, therefore any repairs are the responsibility of the landlord!
Claiming for More than the Deposit
You will have set the deposit amount at the start of the tenancy. At the end of this tenancy, it cannot be changed.
If you have grounds to ask for more money, you’ll need to go through the appropriate legal proceedings.
Giving Notice About a Tenancy Deposit Dispute
Feel you have grounds for a claim? You’ll need to provide notice of this.
So, when should a landlord return a deposit? A tenant cannot expect to receive their deposit back before the end of the tenancy. However, under normal circumstances, the landlord pays it back within 10 days.
When you need to make a claim, you must write to your tenant and explain why you’re not returning the full amount. Resolved deposit disputes don’t occur without your reasons in writing.
Previously, they’ll have needed evidence that you placed their deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days of the start of the tenancy. If you’ve failed to provide this, you may find it difficult to make a claim.
How to Make a Deposit Claim
If you’re making a claim, ensure you write to the tenant and explain exactly why. They’ll need to understand your reasons behind it. Tenancy disputes need to be clearly communicated between both parties.
If they agree with your reasoning, you won’t have to go through a dispute service. However, it’s likely that they’ll disagree.
A dispute service will be provided free of charge by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme you’ve used. It can often be difficult to find a dispute resolution, however, using a professional service ensures it will be fair.
Required Evidence for Deposit Claims
Feel you have the right to make a claim?
Evidence is key. Here’s a closer look at exactly what you’ll need:
If you have evidence of any serious damage, ensure you have photographs to prove this.
Photos are also useful to back-up any points made in the inventory, showing the before and after state of the property and any particular items.
Inventory and Schedule of Condition
However, photographs aren’t the only piece of evidence you’ll need.
A detailed, comprehensive inventory will be invaluable when make a deposit claim against a tenant. Within this report should be photos, used to support the written details within.
Naturally, this will have needed to be compiled at the start of the tenancy. The more evidence, the better!
While many landlords choose to carry these out themselves, a professional inventory will provide more clarity than a DIY one. This is thanks to the independent, unbiased third party who compiles the report!
What was laid out in the tenancy agreement? How was it stated the property must be maintained?
One important landlord deposit rule to follow is to use the tenancy agreement as a piece of armour. It will protect you from any untrue claims made by the tenant, as they will have signed it.
Have you kept hold of any important emails between you and your tenant?
If you’ve visited the property during the tenancy and found it’s not being maintained as you’ve agreed, ensure you’ve followed this up in writing.
This will be valuable evidence when it comes to making your claim!
You’ll need to show you’ve communicated any issues you’ve had with your tenants, as this will prove whether or not they took action to fix them.
Need to repair something, such as an appliance?
Ensure you’ve kept a receipt or invoice of its original cost, as you can use this when working out how much to deduct from the deposit.
Landlords withholding deposits isn’t a decision made lightly. But, if you feel you have grounds to make a claim, ensure you can support it with evidence.
How to Win a Dispute Between Landlord and Tenant
How can you ensure you’ll be granted your deposit deduction?
Don’t Be Unreasonable
A property will never be returned to you in a completely shiny and new condition. This needs to be allowed for.
It’s likely that, if you make an unreasonable claim, you’ll end up wasting the time and effort on the claim for no reward.
Don’t negate your claim by making unfair or ridiculous statements!
Keep Communication Open
Communication with your tenant is key.
When you inspect your rental property, keep an eye out for any damage and follow up with your tenant. This might be able to be fixed before the end of the tenancy.
However, if you do feel you need to make a claim, communication will be essential here also. Sitting down with your tenant and clearly explaining where the claim has come from will make it less likely that they’ll dispute it.
Here’s where your evidence will be vital. If you present all the facts in front of them, it will be difficult for them to dispute it.
Have a Detailed Inventory
When it comes to landlord disputes, a detailed inventory will be the most useful piece of evidence. Better still, it may even be able to prevent them completely!
Just as the tenancy protection scheme is in place to protect both parties, so are inventories. When landlords lose disputes, this often is down to a poorly put together, insufficient inventory.
The inventory should be used as comparative evidence, showing every detail of the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy. This is where detail will become so important, as it will provide clarity.
Claims from tenants such as ‘my landlord won’t return my deposit’ or accusations of unfair treatment will be stamped out with the help of an inventory.
Want to protect your investment? No Letting Go provide professionally compiled, unbiased inventories that will help to provide clarity throughout the tenancy. Interested in finding out how we can help you? Browse our full range of services here.
It’s the three words all landlords despise: wear and tear. But what does it actually mean? Is wear and tear an excuse for carelessness or can it be measured? Where does wear and tear end and where does damage begin? We understand exactly how confusing the issue can be. We also understand how it can reflect upon a landlord or tenant. This is why we’re bringing you our guide to fair wear and tear to offer some answers and solutions.
What is Wear and Tear?
This question is certainly a tricky one. The truth is, wear and tear differs from situation to situation. It’s unfortunate but there are no clear rules on what is ‘reasonably acceptable’. Having said this, common sense must always be used. If you fit fresh white carpet in a bedroom, you can’t expect it to be fresh and white a year later. If that same carpet is burnt and stained with red wine marks, it can be considered damaged.
There are a few key points that affect the definition of fair wear and tear:
- Length of tenancy – the longer a tenant stays, the more wear and tear you’ll see.
- Number of occupants – the more occupants in a property, the more likely there’ll be wear and tear.
- Age of occupants – when there’s children in a property, there’s a much higher chance of wear and tear.
- Quality of the property – if you’ve got a newly refurbished property, there should be little wear and tear. Having said this, wear and tear in new properties is far more apparent.
Negligence and Recklessness
If something requires repair, intensive cleaning or the care of a specialist, it’s most likely been damaged. Holes in walls, burn marks and broken furniture are all examples of damage. It’s worth asking whether the issue has come about due to negligent or reckless behaviour. Comparatively, is the issue a symptom of natural use?
How to Prevent Wear and Tear?
One of the best ways to deal with this problem is to actually prevent it from happening in the first place. This isn’t an exact science, there’s no way to completely stamp out wear and tear or damage. Having said this, there are a few handy tips to keep it to a minimum:
Don’t create a showroom house which looks perfect but will never be used. Decorate appropriately for the property you have. This means opting for the durable items which will stand the test of time. Buying cheap is tempting as a landlord but you’ll forever be replacing items.
Keep the Property Clean
It sounds so simple but this really does go a long way. You set the acceptable standard for your tenant. If the property is immaculate when they move in, they’ll want to keep it that way. If it’s a little scruffy with no attention to detail, they won’t take pride in its upkeep.
Be a Good Landlord
Again, this is pretty much as basic as it comes. If you keep the tenant happy and show your professionalism, they’re more likely to treat the property with respect. Be prompt in addressing repairs and maintenance issues. Make yourself easily available. If you show that you care, they will too.
Look for Long Term Tenants
This can be a little tricky but it’s worth it in the long run. Look for tenants that will actually stay at your property for an extended period of time. These tenants are more likely to take pride and ownership of your property.
There are some very clear rules on how you must approach an inspection – you can’t just turn up and take a look around. The problem is, these regulations often put landlords off inspecting the state of their investment. Schedule in a quarterly inspection and make note of any wear and tear or damage before it gets too far. Address the issue there and then if needed. Inspections are a great way of quelling problems before they get too far.
Set Your Expectations
There’s no harm in outlining your expectations from the beginning of the tenancy. Explain to your tenant that the property will require regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure it stays in a good condition.
Examples of Fair Wear & Tear
Sometimes, it’s easier to establish what’s considered fair wear and tear by highlighting a few examples. Here are a few issues you’ll encounter which should be labelled as wear and tear:
- Fading/furniture indentations to carpets
- Small scuffs/marks on walls
- Naturally worn down carpets
- Loose hinges/handles on doors
- Faded/cracked paint
- Frayed fabric
- Small tears/cracks on furniture
- Faded curtains
- Dirty windows
- Loose/tight tap handles
Examples of Damage
Like the above list, here are a few examples of what can be considered damage:
- Broken locks
- Broken doors
- Tears, large stains or burns on carpet
- Large scratches on wooden floors
- Burnt/split kitchen worktops
- Holes in walls
- Poorly painted surfaces
- Torn curtains
- Broken windows
- Broken toilet seat
An Inventory Check In & Check Out
One of the biggest issues surrounding wear and tear is the deposit disputes that occur when a landlord and tenant disagrees. This is made even more difficult when there’s no photographic evidence to resolve the issue. It’s fair to say, this is an issue which can be stressful for everyone involved. With No Letting Go’s inventory services, you’ll receive the peace of mind which comes with an impartial, fully documented check in and check out procedure. Our service is reliable and consistent producing reports which stand up to scrutiny during any dispute. Find out more about how we can help make the inventory process seamless here.