One of the most common topics we handle in the Landlord Advice Team is the issue of deposits.
Landlords often complain to us that, after spending a lot of time preparing evidence for adjudication, they end up receiving very little back to cover their losses.
Despite the adjudication process being more than 10 years old, there has been little in the way of study into the experiences of landlords and agents on how they feel the deposit adjudication process works.
What little there is suggests that the majority of people who prepare evidence for the process do so with no legal training and without clear enough guidance on what to provide.
This often results in landlords not receiving all of the money they have lost fixing the property. It is little surprise then that many landlords feel the deposit system is biased against landlords.
This week’s call was typical of this kind of thinking.
The landlord called us, having previously lost out three times before, because the tenant had failed to clean the property at the end of the tenancy. He wanted to ensure he would actually be compensated for the costs of professionally cleaning the property if the tenant failed to do it this time.
This landlord had originally called us at the start of this tenancy and we stressed upon him the importance of performing a thorough inventory at check in and check out.
This helps to create a standard by which the tenant’s care for the property can be judged.
A property that is professionally cleaned at the start of the tenancy, according to the inventory, should be up to the same standard at the end.
The tenant is expected to return the property in the same condition that they found it after all. We also strongly advised him to get the tenants to sign a copy of the inventory to show they had received it.
With a couple of weeks to go until the tenant moved out, I advised the landlord to write a letter to the tenant outlining everything he needed them to do before the end of the tenancy.
This included things like, painting the walls back to their original colour if the tenant had changed it, and reminding them that the property was cleaned to a professional standard when they moved in.
It sounds simple, and all of the things pointed out in the letter are in most tenancy agreements already, but a study on successful deposit strategies found that the most successful agents were those that sent these letters to the tenants beforehand.
This reminder letter makes clear the expectations on the tenant, so if they breach them the landlord is far more likely to receive the money back.
The landlord contacted us this week to let us know that for the first time, he had been successful with his deposit adjudication.
The tenant had ignored the letter, and the check-out inventory stated that the property had not been cleaned at all. The deposit company, satisfied the tenant had caused the landlord an identifiable loss, paid the cost of the cleaning from the deposit.
LAT manager, Rupinder Aujla, said “It’s always great to hear that the team has been able to help one of our members.
“While there’s never any guarantees with deposits, it’s always sensible to make sure you’ve made it clear to the tenant exactly what they need to do before they leave to avoid unpleasant surprises.”