Sadly, the answer is no and many agents will profess to losing a deposit dispute with a tenant before because they didn’t have enough evidence to prove their case. They will also remember how their landlord client reacted…
Despite deposit protection being in place now for over 9 years, it’s still a common occurrence for letting agents to lose deposit disputes because simple pieces of evidence – such as a thorough inventory – have been neglected.
Why deposits are taken
Taking a deposit provides you (and your landlord clients) with a means by which you can be compensated for financial losses should the tenant break the terms of the tenancy agreement or, worse, damage the property.
But if the tenant disagrees with a deduction you make at the end of the tenancy, and then raises a dispute with your deposit protection provider, then you’ll need to be confident that you can prove the deduction you’re making is fair, reasonable, and within the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement.
Do your tenants really know their responsibilities?
Recent research from the National Landlords Association (NLA) would suggest that many may not. Around six in ten tenants (58%) admit they don’t read their tenancy agreement thoroughly at the start of the tenancy, and only two-thirds (64%) say they read their inventory in detail.
This means that tenants may not understand their obligations and may not fully realise why a deposit deduction at the end of the tenancy may be necessary. But if you don’t have an inventory , if it’s of a poor quality ,or if the tenancy agreement wasn’t clear, then you might find you haven’t got a leg to stand on if, come the end of the tenancy, you need to make a deduction to the deposit and the tenant disputes it.
For example, if the inventory didn’t contain any information about the laminate flooring that was installed at the start of the tenancy, then you may not be able to prove that scratches and damage to the floor were the responsibility of the tenant, and that a deduction to help cover the cost of having it repaired is necessary.
The key is to prepare before the tenant moves in
Make sure you have a detailed inventory & schedule of condition undertaken. It should detail the contents and state of the property when your tenants move in, and give them a clear comparison for how it should be returned when it’s time to leave. It should also define the terms used to report the condition or cleanliness of items in the property.
It’s advisable that you use a professional inventory company to compile your inventories for you, as this will provide another layer of independent 3rd party evidence in the event of a dispute. Of course, your landlord clients use your services for this very reason, so you can always do it yourself (mydeposits has a handy guide on the essential aspects as well as top tips on inventory management) but, either way, you must make sure any inventory is properly compiled and sufficiently detailed to enable to you to cover yourself (and your landlord clients) in the event of a deposit dispute. It might just save you a bob or two as well as preventing you from losing future business.
On the issue of saving money…
Don’t forget that UKALA members benefit from heavily reduced deposit protection fees with mydeposits. Protection with mydeposits’ insurance backed scheme starts from as little as £10 – a saving up to £20 per deposit – meaning that you can save the cost of UKALA membership by protecting just two deposits a month.
For more information about UKALA and the host of other benefits available through UKALA membership, visit www.ukala.org.uk .