Claiming costs for damages to your tenants property can be quite stressful, tiring and time-consuming, especially if your tenants are contesting your claims or opposing how the property or its furnishings came into disrepair.
What steps can you take to make it easier to claim damages from part (or all) of the deposit from your tenants?
Write a Property Inventory - Imagery and Conditions
First of all, we suggest doing a detailed inventory, by documenting what is in the property and the condition of the items.
Here's a step-by-step process that we recommend:
1) Document the state of the ceiling, walls, and carpets so that if the tenants, unfortunately, damage the carpet with an iron, you are covered.
2) Take pictures of the condition of all the items (as proof) and date stamp them, so there is no contention as to when the inventory was written and the condition of the items.
3) When the tenant moves in, make sure they are happy with what is on the inventory, by either going through the inventory with them on the day they move in or by giving them a small amount of time - 5 working days should be ample - to review and agree the inventory.
If you do the latter, make sure you get the tenant to sign the inventory document, which confirms that they agree with the condition of the property and its furnishings, when they move in.
4) Get them to sign a document that confirms they have received all the move-in documents, such as the gas safety certificate, how to rent guide and any other documentation, warranties or guarantees that are required for their viewing or filing.
5) Lastly, make sure you, as the landlord, protect the deposit with one of the following government-approved tenancy deposit schemes. If you do not, you may have to pay out 3x times the amount of the deposit to the tenant - a costly situation to be in.
End of Tenancy Deposit Considerations
Here's a handful of important items to consider, when your tenant reaches the end of their tenancy and requires their deposit back:
1) Have a timescale to which you must return the deposit, so look at the terms and conditions of whichever deposit scheme you have used and ensure the deposit is ready to be given back to the tenant on time - especially if you request a testimonial from them, regarding their satisfaction of your service as a landlord.
2) Take time-stamped pictures and document any damages that have occured during their tenancy and file them.
3) If you do try and deduct from the tenant's deposit, speak to them directly in order to sort any issues out with your tenant. For example, if you are charging the tenant for cleaning, an iron burn in the carpet and to repair a hole in the wall, the tenant may be willing to accept deductions for two of the items, if they can be let off the third.
"Approaching your tenant with a mentality of compromise may help you both agree to end-of-tenancy terms and ensure their exit from your property is as smooth as possible."
4) If your tenant contests any damages to the property, its furnishings or electrical goods that you bring up, and the amount of the deposit to be returned is disputed with the deposit company, make sure you have all the facts, associated tenancy agreement, documentation on how the tenant should look after your property.
In addition to this, have the signed inventory to hand, including time and date stamped pictures of damages that need to be reviewed and agreed.
5) It's important to know that each case is different - in one case you may be awarded the full cost of cleaning, whereas in other cases you may be awarded some of the costs but not all.
Although the above is not a perfect system, if you follow our advice, it may cause you less stress, while ensuring your relationship with your tenant remains positive and agreeable - a key element for end-of-tenancy negotiations, discussions and agreement.
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