Deposit disputes between tenants and landlords usually occur when a tenancy comes to an end. Often one party agrees to back down and a resolution is reached, but if neither party is willing to back down, it can end up being a long and protracted dispute.
Reasons for Disputes
The majority of disputes are related to cleaning (or lack thereof) and property damage, but there are other reasons why a landlord feels that it is necessary to deduct money from a tenant’s deposit. However, in order to do this, a landlord must be able to justify the deduction, so the best way to avoid losing a deposit dispute is to have a detailed record of what condition the property was in at the beginning of the tenancy.
Dispute-Proof a Tenancy
Check-in inventories are essential. Make a detailed list of everything included with the property, including furniture and white goods. Take photographs of everything, including floor coverings, and write detailed descriptions outlining any existing damage.
If repairs are made during the tenancy, keep a paper trail of communications between you and the tenant, plus receipts and invoices detailing the work carried out. The same applies if you have to re-decorate or repair damage after the tenant has moved out – unless you can provide clear evidence to support your expenditure, you won’t win a dispute.
When the tenancy ends, conduct a detailed check-out process with the tenant and discuss any problems you come across in an amicable fashion. This will make it easier to reach an agreement without resorting to arbitration.
The Burden of Proof
The key thing to remember is that...
the onus is on you, the landlord, to show why you are entitled to keep some of your tenant’s deposit money. Adjudicators will not make a decision in your favour unless you come up with cast-iron evidence to prove you are out of pocket as a result of your tenant’s actions.
Landlord software can help prevent deposit disputes by reminding you to make property inventories and allowing you to keep a record of all communications with your tenants, but preparing a property inventory is the single most important thing you can do at the start of a tenancy.
By Amer Siddiq
Landlord Vision, our cloud based property management software for landlords, has a helpful check-in check-out list to ensure that you complete all of the important steps necessary before letting your property, including completing an inventory. For more details, click here.©LandlordZONE® – legal content applies primarily to England and is not a definitive statement of the law; always seek professional advice. Legislation changes, so check dates on these articles. If you have questions go to the LandlordZONE® Forums