The Deposit Protection Service has given its six top tips for landlords and tenants to navigate the deposit dispute maze.
Here they are:
1. Check what the tenancy agreement says about repairs: “Tenants should always check the agreement to understand what repairs they can make ahead of the check-out. Generally tenants who want to redecorate any or all of a property need their landlord’s express permission before they start” says DPS.
2. If the agreement permits, try to carry out minor and inexpensive repairs: “It can be better for a tenant to do a quick and inexpensive repair, for example replacing a broken drawer handle with a matching one, rather than leaving it to the landlord, who is within their rights to claim for a contractor to carry out the work. Tenants should ensure any significant damage is repaired by trades people with the right experience and tools and ideally in consultation with their landlord.”
3. Carry out repairs or cleaning before the end of the tenancy: “Tenants should not rely on the opportunity to re-enter the property after they have moved out to carry out additional repairs or cleaning, as timescales for the next tenant may prevent it. Instead, they should undertake any work before they leave.”
4. Take date-stamped photographs as evidence if possible: “Taking date-stamped images at the start and at the end of the tenancy is the best way for a landlord to show if there has been damage or wear and tear that goes beyond what is reasonable for the length of the tenancy. If that is not possible they should still send images to enable adjudicators to check for date information inside the file.”
5. Avoid emotive or abusive language when describing evidence: “Keep evidence descriptions professional and neutral, for example, avoid using words such as ‘filthy’ or ‘disgusting’ and avoid derogatory or sarcastic remarks. If the disagreement reaches the dispute stage, evidence could be shared with the tenant or landlord, potentially escalating tension and prolonging any disagreement.”
6. Be honest with yourself about the original condition of the property before making a claim: “It can be difficult for landlords to remember a property’s original condition, especially if rented for several years or if successive tenants have lived in it. Older-style properties can be clean on check-out but still have dated decoration or older items that may have deteriorated over time. Likewise tenants should be prepared to accept reasonable deductions proposed by landlords if they have not met their obligations set out within the tenancy agreement.”