Frequently the biggest problems in the life of a tenancy come at the end, when the tenant wants the deposit back but the landlord wants to make a claim because of the condition of the property.
Usually, these issues can be easily sorted out, but sometimes they aren’t and they therefore have to go to adjudication, which can be a lengthy and time-consuming process so it is definitely best if this could be avoided altogether.
The best way to try and achieve this is to make sure that there is always a thoroughly drafted inventory and schedule of condition drawn up before the tenancy starts.
This is because if a landlord is to have any success at adjudication, he needs to be able to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the tenant is liable for the items claimed.
It’s no good just saying ‘the property was left in a terrible condition so I need all the deposit to put it right’. You have to say specifically what you are claiming for. And be able to prove:
1 - That the item was in a worse condition at the end of the tenancy than it was at the start.
2 - That this was down to the tenant, and;
3 - That the sum you are claiming in compensation is reasonable.
There is really only one way to be able to prove this and that is by having an inventory and schedule of condition which sets out clearly that the item in question was in good condition at the start of the tenancy and also a check-out report which shows that it was damaged or in a worse condition at the end of the tenancy, plus some sort of evidence to back up the claim – such as an invoice.
Having dealt with many deposit claims over the years, here are a few of my top tips!
1 - Ideally, get the inventory prepared by a specialist company. It can be a very time-consuming process doing it yourself, plus adjudicators may consider (if your inventory is not countersigned by the tenants as being correct) that you are not impartial if you have prepared your own Inventory.
2 - Detailed photographs are a must! Also make sure they have something to show scale and where in the property they were taken.
3 - The inventory report needs to cover condition AND cleanliness. Fair wear and tear applies to condition but not cleanliness. If the landlord can show the property is less clean at check-out than it was at check in, he will be able to charge for professional cleaning.
4 - You need evidence to prove that the sum being claimed is reasonable. A receipt will be important but don’t forget that you will also need to deal with ‘betterment’. If an old item is to be replaced by a new one, there needs to be a deduction to reflect this.