The experts at Belvoir reveal what landlords should do at the end of a tenancy
Before waving goodbye to an exiting tenant a thorough inspection of the property is vital – and a competent check out of your current tenant will help ensure an uncomplicated check in of your next…
“A check out is required to allow the release of the deposit,” explains Rachael Arnott Area Sales Manager for Belvoir Kettering, Corby, Desborough and Coventry Central. “If a check out isn’t carried out, there is nothing to determine whether the tenant has caused any damage or whether the landlord needs to carry out any upgrade work.”
“Following the correct check out procedure is essential,” agrees proprietor of Belvoir Bury St Edmunds Patsy Day. “It serves several key purposes – and without it there may be delays in releasing the deposit and any property upgrades needed for the next tenant can not be assessed.”
So, what do landlords need to look out for at check out?
“The most important focus of a check out is to make sure the property has been left in the same condition that it was when the tenant moved in, except for reasonable wear and tear,” says Patsy. “To enable you to do that job properly it is vitally important that you have an inventory – ideally a fully-photographic one with plenty of detail. Check out is very much reliant on check in. If you do a very good check in, with extremely thorough documentation, then check out will be easier.”
Rachael agrees. “We find the biggest challenge is determining whether work to be carried out is wear and tear or damage – and this is where the inventory (which should have been signed by both the landlord and tenant) comes into play,” she says. “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.”
In addition to assessing any damage done to the property, during the checkout it is also vital to take meter readings, reclaim the keys and make sure the property has been left empty…
“During your check out it is crucial to make sure you take accurate meter readings,” says Patsy. “At Belvoir Bury St Edmunds we always take photographic meter readings because pictures don’t lie. We email these to the tenant and landlord so that everybody is in the loop in terms of what the end of tenancy readings are and this prevents any outstanding bills being attributed to the landlord.
“Also, it is essential to make sure the tenant hands back all keys that were given to them at the beginning of the tenancy. If we don’t get back the full set of keys we have to change the locks as security for the next tenant could be compromised (in these instances, the current tenant has to pay for changing the locks and providing replacement keys).
“To make this process efficient we always take photocopies of all keys that are handed out and these photocopies are signed by the tenant. When returned, we check the keys back in against this photocopy. Because we have really good factual evidence from the beginning of the tenancy this helps reduce conflict or any difficult conversations.
“During the check out visit make sure that the property is empty and no possessions have been left behind by the exiting tenant,” she continues. “Tenants sometimes think it’s ok to leave items in the belief that they’ll be useful for the next person – but I always argue if everyone decided just to leave a little bit of something the property would soon become cluttered with other people’s rubbish. Everyone should take their own belongings with them when they leave and the property should be returned to the landlord as it was found when they first opened the door at the beginning of their tenancy.”
Deposits and deductions
“The deposit should be released to the tenant once the property is vacant, a final inspection has been carried out and any cost for work to be completed has been agreed between the tenant and landlord,” says Rachael.
Patsy explains further…
“If there are no dilapidations and no deductions to the deposit needed then we return the deposit within ten days,” she says. “However, if we’ve negotiated with the tenant to keep some of the deposit back due to damage, then it can take longer – especially, for example, if they’ve broken something like a light fitting, as research will have to be done to calculate how much that light fitting will cost to replace and for a contractor to fit it. In these instances the deposit can take up to 28 days to return.
“If a 6-week deposit was taken at check in that is generally enough to correct any minor damage, stains, knocks and marks. Regular inspections, however, are vital throughout the tenancy in order to ensure the property isn’t sustaining any heavier damage. If you find anything along the way, then sort it out there and then – this will make the check out easier at the end of the tenancy.”
Preparing your property
Check out is also a good time to assess what needs to be done to a property in order to prepare it for the next tenant.
“Even if there’s no damage the property can sometimes look a bit tired at the end of a tenancy, with walls and carpets beginning to look warn,” says Patsy. “In these instances landlords might want to replace the carpets and redecorate where necessary. I would always recommend that a landlord freshens up a property to get it ready for being re-let.
“Also, make sure the property is cleaned thoroughly before the next tenant arrives – this in turn will make their check out easier. I would always suggest using the services of a professional cleaning company as you will get a receipt or invoice which can be used to demonstrate that the cleaning has been done and at what price.”
Although many landlords carry out their own check out procedures, employing the services of an objective third party can be useful…
“It’s always good to have an independent person carry out the final inspection,” concludes Rachael. “They can make the judgement from the inventory as to who is responsible and their unbiased opinion will mean that neither the landlord nor tenant are favoured.”
End of tenancy tick-list
√ Check the property against the inventory
√ Make sure all keys have been returned
√ Take accurate meter readings – photograph them if possible
√ Check appliances, such as cookers and white goods
√ Make sure the property is empty and the tenant hasn’t left anything behind
√ Negotiate deposit deductions if necessary
√ Return the deposit
√ Prepare the property for the next tenant by carrying out maintenance work and upgrading where needed
√ Have the property cleaned by a professional cleaning company – keep the receipt or invoice
√ Get an independent party, such as a specialist agent, to carry out the check out for you
Belvoir Lettings now have more than 140 offices nationwide. To find your nearest Belvoir office, visit their website at www.belvoirlettings.com
LandlordZONE provide a free download checklist which landlords can use on tenant check-in and check outs.