Landlords are increasingly faced with dirty properties at the check-out stage of a tenancy and this has led to cleaning now accounting for the lion’s share of tenancy deposit disputes.
For a long time, fair wear and tear has been a grey area for landlords, and because it tends to vary from case to case, it is among the least understood areas of the letting process, and one which can create much ambiguity and cause a high level of disputes at the end of a tenancy.
But according to the latest data from the Tenant Deposit Scheme (TDS), cleaning now accounts for 58% of all disputes between landlords and tenants, which can sometimes end up involving a formal Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service that generally tends to side with the tenant if the landlord is unable to provide suitable evidence to support their claim. This is because the adjudicators’ starting position is the tenants deposit belongs to the tenant, so if a landlord wants to claim for any part of the deposit, they have to prove the condition the property was in at the start of the tenancy, as well as the end.
“Many landlords and agents feel tenants are not held to account when damage is caused and that there is little they can do to protect their property. Furthermore, landlords and agents have a poor record in winning tenant dispute cases,” said Jax Kneppers, founder of Imfuna Let, who claims that landlords in the UK are out of pocket to the tune of more than £4.5bn every year because of damage to property.
But clear property damage and poor cleanliness or anything that is different from the property’s original state, is far easier to identify if there is an inventory management report and schedule of condition in place, enabling the landlord to use the tenant’s deposit to compensate.
Since the introduction of mandatory deposit protection schemes, an accurate schedule of condition has become almost as important as the tenancy agreement itself.
As well as being used as evidence in a dispute, a detailed and precise inventory which records the condition of the property with written notes, photographic evidence, as well as details of the contents, including fixtures and fittings, which are completed at the start of the tenancy, and again when the tenancy ends, also underlines exactly what is expected of the tenant. It can also help landlords avoid a disagreement in the first place.
“Cleanliness and rubbish removal are responsible for at least 90% of our deposit claims, less and less of those claims are reaching ADR due to the fact that once a tenant moves out, we email them a copy of their check-in and check-out reports, showing the clear evidence gathered,” said Simon Smith, managing director of KS Property Rentals.
He added: “As a result of seeing a thorough analysis of the property’s condition, more and more tenants are aware of the state of their fridges, ovens and the property in general, during the tenancy. Tenants are aware of cleaning issues and generally make more of an effort to keep the property clean during their tenancy.”