Deposit disputes and major issues with tenants are, thankfully, very rare, but as a landlord there may still be times when such problems arise.
And, just recently, the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) – the UK’s biggest organisation for independent clerks – has warned letting agents and landlords to beware the pitfalls of any deduction to a tenant’s deposit without detailed evidence of the reasons why.
The call from the AIIC follows on from a high-profile court case in Bristol, where six student tenants took their letting agent – acting on behalf of a landlord client – to court, disputing a £756 deduction from their deposit to cover cleaning and reprinting costs.
One of the tenants involved disputed the deductions and used photographic evidence to back up his claims. As a result, the court ruled in favour of the tenants and ordered the letting agency to pay back the deductions in full, alongside interest and court costs.
Of course, landlords who charge tenants unfairly account for only a very small minority. However, this case does act as a reminder to landlords that they need 100% proof for making deductions to tenants’ deposits, otherwise complications could be caused at a later date, particularly with tenants becoming more savvy, persistent and unwilling to accept fines they perceive as unjust.
As a landlord, charging for things that you can’t prove is going to do the reputation of your business no good at all and could leave you in court and out of pocket. All good letting agents will ensure such an eventuality never arises, making certain that any deposit deductions are backed by hard, 100% evidence.
There may be times when deposit deductions need to be made – if a rental property has been left in a state of disrepair, if any damage has been caused to paintwork, fixtures and fittings or appliances, of if the home is in a much worse condition than at the start of a tenancy. However, detailed evidence will be needed to corroborate this.
The best way of achieving this is to carry out a comprehensive inventory, independently compiled, at the start and end of any tenancy. It’s vitally important for both landlords and tenants, to reduce the chances of any disputes arising and to give both parties peace of mind.
Photo inventories make the conditions and contents of a property abundantly clear, allowing for then and now comparisons and drastically minimising the chances of unfair or misleading deductions being made. What’s more, it gives landlords who have legitimate reasons to carry out deductions the evidence to back up their claims. If these claims can’t be contradicted by the tenants, then a landlord is well within their rights to charge for any relevant repair or maintenance costs.
At Letting Solutions, West Lothian’s first dedicated lettings agency, we understand the importance of inventories for both our landlord and tenant clients. A mutually beneficial tenancy is in the best interests of everyone, and we do all we can to facilitate that. We help landlords with the preparation for an inventory, ensuring it is carried out in the correct way. When a tenancy ends, we’re also on hand to carry out an exit inspection and report, as well as organising any repairs if they are necessary.
A smooth transition between tenancies is what anyone letting a property wants, to reduce the chances of damaging void periods. Consequently, unnecessary deposit disputes are certainly not on the to-do list of many landlords. But, if deposit deductions do need to be made, and this can be backed up by evidence, we then work with landlords and tenants to negotiate on the return deposit and bill settlement.
As we said before, it’s very rare for major deposit disputes to arise, and even rarer still for such disputes to make it to court, but the best way of ensuring peace of mind for both parties is for a thorough, unbiased, independently compiled inventory to be carried out before and after a tenancy, to significantly reduce the chances of any issues.
As a letting agent, we would also be failing in our duty of care if we approved deductions that could not be proven. There are certain barriers – inventories, best practice, regular inspections of the property throughout the tenancy, etc. – that can all help to diminish the prospect of disputes at a later date.
In the vast majority of cases, a tenancy will pass by without any hiccups, but if issues do occur there are measures, regulations and steps to ensure that things are resolved in a fair and balanced way.
For more information about letting your home with us, please call on 01506 496 006. To receive a free instant online valuation of your rental property, click here.