Landlords: how not to lose out on deposit claims
- 1st September 2010
- Property Tips
Many landlords have lost out on valid rental deposit claims because they did not provide an adequate inventory.
Many landlord claims against rental deposits are falling at the first hurdle. Just 18% of landlords win their claims for damages against rental deposits (source: Deposit Protection Scheme).
The DPS says that 38% of it's claims are awarded wholly in favour of the tenant. With 44% being split between landlord and tenant with both being awarded some amount.
Accordingly to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), 'positive' evidence is everything. It's vital to record and even photograph the good condition with a 'Schedule of Condition'. And to ensure the item is shown in context before and after.
The DPS states the example of how a front door might be recorded at check-in and check-out :
Check-in - 'front door is freshly painted and in excellent condition.'
Check-out - 'front door has been severely dented and heavily marked in several places.'
Many DIY landlords may not think to record the condition of their front door.
However experience tells an inventory clerk what to record and check for before and after.
Rental deposit schemes are on the look out for landlord tricks. So a legitimate claim could fall foul unfairly. For instance TDS comment how you need to prove a cracked kitchen sink is on site and not elsewhere. Taking photographs of the sink close up and then within the room provides context for the claim adjudicator. Adjudicators also check landlord claims against what it calls the 'reasonableness' and 'betterment' test.
'Reasonableness' - a claim for a new carpet where it would actually be reasonable to consider it wear and tear.
'Betterment' - attempts to tries to replace an old Ikea sofa with a top of the range John Lewis model
In most cases landlords without an inventory, won't have a leg to stand on when filing a claim on the rental deposit.
Stephen Ludlow comments: "I think the mindset of some reputable landlords is that they have provided the property in perfect condition at the start, so there is no need to itemise all that is perfect.
"A proper inventory can cost a few hundred pounds as it takes a long time to list all the contents and condition of interior and furnishings. So we can see why landlords are tempted to DIY the inventory report. However ludlowthompson cautions against this; even if you have a valid claim, without a professional inventory you may find that you don't have a leg to stand on. Inventory companies know how the system works and how to make the job easier for everyone in the event of a dispute."
Q&A for landlords: rental deposit schemes
I have to shortly register my deposit as part of the new law starting 1st Oct.
I don't have an inventory. Can I do it myself?
With such a large deposit at stake, it is wise to have a professional inventory from an expert who knows how the system works. See advice from your letting agent and or a rental deposit scheme. It may be difficult having an inventory done mid tenancy where damage may already be evident mid term. So do seek advice from a rental deposit scheme.
Inventories are expensive, am I allowed to do my own list to submit to a rental deposit scheme?
It is possible to do your own inventory, however it may turn out to be a false economy.
Inventory experts know what to record and will get around quicker than an unsure landlord. Considering the time and effort you would have to personally take, appointing a professional is worthwhile. Inventory clerks will have a report typed up, as handwriting is not always legible. Also when it comes to a claim, independent reports are less questionable than owner landlord inventories.
My tenant did not turn up for the inventory and hasn't returned their signed copy, is it valid?
The TDS appreciates that landlords cannot force tenants to be present at an inventory.
It is important that landlords retain proof of invitation to inventory and of sending the report on for signature. It is up to the tenant to complain, at the time, if they did not receive the inventory. so as far as the TDS is concerned, the tenant disputing receipt of the inventory is not often mitigation. After all, it would be reasonable to assume that the tenant would chase the inventory if it failed to arrive.
We can see why landlords are tempted to DIY the inventory report. However ludlowthompson cautions against this...
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