WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN YOUR TENANT MOVES OUT

12 11 2013

With moving home scoring high on the list of life’s most stressful experiences, the last thing anyone needs is additional tension in the form of a dispute between tenant and landlord.

However, a study has shown that 10% of tenancies do end in disagreement with the main grievance relating to property owners holding back deposits to cover cleaning and repair costs.

Issues surrounding deposits tend to arise due to a lack of communication between the two parties or because neither party is fully aware of its rights.

Fortunately most disputes over deposits can be avoided by taking simple measures. Here are Belvoir’s top tips for a stress-free end to a tenancy:

Deposit Schemes
All landlords are required by law to protect all deposits with a Government-approved scheme within 30 days of receiving it. Only one scheme (the DPS) is custodial – holding the deposit in a dedicated account. All others are insurance based with lettings agents holding deposits securely in their own client accounts.

Inventory
The property has to be left in the same condition that it was when the tenant moved in.  Both tenant and landlord should be mindful that the law, and many assured short hold tenancy agreements, allow for fair wear and tear.  It is therefore good practice to agree on what constitutes ‘fair’ in this respect.  To do that properly it is vitally important that there is an inventory – ideally a photographic one with plenty of detail.  Model and serial numbers of appliances should be recorded – particularly if these are newly installed.  This avoids any potential risk of them being swopped for an inferior replacement.  Without an inventory, a landlord is unlikely to be able to deduct any money from a deposit as there will be no proof as to what condition the property was in at the beginning of the tenancy.

Inspection
Before the property is vacated the managing lettings agent will inspect the property to decide on how much of the deposit is to be returned. An agent will be able to identify issues that the landlord may pick up on, thus giving the tenant time to put right any problems before the final inspection.  .

Evidence
Take and date photographs of any existing damage to the property as it is found on the moving in day. Tenants should then ask their landlord to sign the photos so there can be no dispute at the end of the tenancy.

Cleanliness
Tenants should respect the property, keeping it clean and tidy.  Communicate any maintenance problems to the landlord immediately so they can be rectified.  At the end of a tenancy fridges and freezers should be left empty, defrosted and thoroughly cleaned.  Don’t unplug the fridge and close the door – mould forms immediately. Either switch off and leave the door open or leave it switched on with the door closed. Clean the cooker – the job everyone loves to hate!  It can take hours and cash to pull a cooker back from a bad state and tenants will find their deposit disappearing fast if they don’t leave a cooker thoroughly clean.

Meter reading
During check out, accurate meter readings are crucial. If possible, take photographic meter readings that can be presented so that everybody knows the end of tenancy readings.  This prevents any outstanding bills being attributed to the landlord and likewise any tenant claims of being over-charged for utility services.

Keys
It is essential to make sure that a tenant hands back all keys that were given to them at the beginning of the tenancy. If the full set of keys isn’t returned, the locks will have to be changed to ensure security for the next tenant is not compromised.  When that happens, the leaving tenant may be charged for changing the locks and providing replacement keys.  Take photocopies of all keys that are handed out and get the photocopies signed by the tenant. When returned, the keys can be checked back in

As a lettings agency we do sometimes have to play the role of mediator between tenant and property owner. Our experience in this area means we are well placed to help with avoiding deposit disputes.

Generally speaking, the key to avoiding disputes between landlords and tenants is communication and mutual respect.  At Belvoir we are always happy to offer free impartial advice.

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