An online quiz with 4,000 landlord participants suggests that landlords are well informed - they scored an average 70 per cent in the test of their knowledge of key deposit dispute terms and issues.
The quiz was conducted by The Deposit Protection Service.
High scores included 95 per cent of landlords accurately identifying ‘fair wear and tear’ to mean when a tenant uses the property, its fixtures and fittings in a reasonable and ordinary way.
And 72 per cent of respondents understood that, in a dispute, the burden is on landlords to prove the tenant broke the terms of their tenancy agreement.
However, The DPS says the quiz also identified areas where respondents’ understanding could improve, with just 32 per cent showing they understood that tenants are still responsible for a property until possession returns to the landlord or their tenancy ends; even if they move out earlier.
Thirty nine per cent answered correctly on the definition of ‘betterment’, which is when a landlord attempts to make deductions from a deposit to cover decorating, repairs or the replacement of items of a higher standard than when the tenancy started.
The DPS managing director Matt Trevett says: “We want to make it as easy as possible for landlords to reach a fair resolution of their dispute with a tenant or avoid one altogether.
“That’s why it’s so important that landlords understand the key legal terms and restrictions that guide adjudicators’ decisions, which are common to all deposit schemes.
“Getting their heads around some of the finer points of tenancy and dispute terminology could save landlords time and money in the long run by enabling a smooth and straightforward transition from the end of one tenancy to the start of another.”
Of approximately 4,000 landlords taking part:
- More than 90 per cent understood the term ‘residual lifespan’ to mean how much more life a piece of furniture or fixture in the property has considering its age at check-in and the length of the tenancy;
- Around half correctly identified a ‘professional clean’ as when a property is cleaned to a very high standard rather than necessarily through a professional cleaner;
- Two thirds of landlords incorrectly thought the dispute adjudication process involved mediation.
Below are some of the common deposit dispute terms landlords should understand, according to The DPS:
Adjudication - Adjudicators use evidence provided by landlords and tenants to decide whether tenants have breached their tenancy agreement and whether landlords’ claims to put it right are appropriate.
Burden of proof - Adjudicators do not conduct property visits, so it is up to the landlord to provide an accurate picture of what has happened and to propose a remedy if they want to retain some or all of the deposit. If the landlord’s evidence isn’t strong enough to prove the claim, the adjudicator must award the deposit to the tenant.
End of tenants’ responsibility - Tenants remain responsible for a property until possession returns to the landlord or their tenancy ends, even if they move out at an earlier date.
‘Professional’ standard of cleaning - This simply means that the property is cleaned to a very high standard. It is possible for tenants to clean to this standard themselves. Landlords cannot ask tenants to clean the property to a higher standard when they leave than it was at when they moved in.
Betterment - This is the claiming of costs to replace cheaper goods, fixtures or fittings at the start of a tenancy with better quality ones at the end. Adjudicators cannot award claims for this. Betterment includes redecorating the property to a higher standard than at the start of the tenancy.
You can take part in the quiz yourself, here.