What are the common dispute issues?

Cleanliness

This is the most common cause of disputes. We all have our own standards, one way to avoid this issue is to ensure the property is professionally cleaned by an outside company at the start of the tenancy, ensure all receipts are kept. The tenant is then in a position where they must leave the property in a professionally clean condition, if they fail to do so the costs may be deducted from the deposit to have the property professionally cleaned.

Decoration

Landlords must take into consideration fair wear and tear. Walls will become marked over time particularly heavy use areas such as halls, stairs and landings. However, adding nails, screws, picture hooks, tape and blue tac etc. is not considered to be fair wear and tear and a tenant will be liable for such damage.

Damage

Items damaged as a direct result of the tenants actions whether deliberate or accidental can cause disputes. Landlords are entitled to compensation when an item has been damaged or broken and needs replacing sooner than it would had it not been for the tenants actions.

Maintenance

Generally maintenance responsibilities lie with the landlord, for example if a leak occurs in the bathroom causing damage to the ceiling below it is the landlords responsibility to get it fixed, however, it is the tenants responsibility to alert the landlord to the issue as soon as is practicably possible. Should the tenant ignore the issue and not alert the landlord the tenant may be liable to contribute towards the cost of the repairs.

Left Items

At the end of a tenancy it is common for tenants to leave unwanted items. This is not acceptable and the cost of removal of such items can be deducted from the deposit.

Gardens

Usually it is the tenants responsibility to maintain the gardens ensuring the weeding is carried out and lawns mowed. It is recommended that landlords mow lawns and weed the garden before each tenancy.

Who should carry out the Inventory?

In theory anyone can be used to carry out an inventory.

However, it is important to bear in mind that should a dispute arise between the landlord and the tenant at the end of the tenancy, it is the inventory that is going to used to settle the dispute.

There is no reason why a landlord cannot carry out the inventory on his own property, however, it would be almost impossible to produce an unbiased report and on that basis it is advisable that a third party prepares the report, preferably a professional independent inventory company.

Why do I need an Inventory?

On the 6th April 2007 the Tenants Deposit Scheme under the housing Act 2004 was born. Deposits now must be lodged in one of four government approved deposit schemes within 30 days of the landlord or agent receiving the deposit.

At the end of the tenancy the tenant will be entitled to all of their deposit back unless the landlord can prove that the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy is worse than at the beginning of the tenancy due to the tenants negligence, misuse, carelessness or deliberate damage of the property.

The only way a landlord can prove this is if an inventory has been carried out at the beginning of the tenancy and a check out has been carried out at the end of the tenancy.

It is advisable that the inventory is carried out by a professional third party inventory company in order to be seen as being unbiased. Should a dispute arise, an unbiased report will carry more weight when it comes to any alternative dispute resolutions and as a landlord you are more likely to be able to retain the funds from the deposit to put right the damage caused by the tenant.

What is the Tenants Deposit Scheme?

The Tenants Deposit Scheme was introduced on the 6th April 2007 with the sole intention of safe guarding assured shorthold tenancy deposits and ensuring that tenants who are entitled to get all or part of it back at the end of the tenancy actually do!

A landlord or agent acting on behalf of a landlord must (by law) lodge a deposit with one of the four government backed tenancy deposit schemes within 30 days of receiving it. In England and Wales these are:

– Deposit Protection Service
– My Deposits
– Tenancy Deposit Scheme
– Capita Tenancy Deposit Protection

There are two ways a deposit is protected:

Custodial – this is when the money is physically handed over to deposit scheme and is held by them until the end of the tenancy.

Insured – this is when the money is kept by the landlord or agent but the deposit scheme is aware of the deposit and provides insurance to ensure the deposit will be available at the end of the tenancy.