The recent move by the Nationwide Building Society Group to enable its borrowers to offer their tenants the option of a longer term contract looks like good news for landlords. However, according to Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC), longer tenancies will inevitably lead to a rise in wear and tear disputes.
On the one hand this is a good thing as landlords do not need to worry about having an empty property, but on the other hand, longer tenancies mean tenants and landlords are more likely to end up in a dispute over the deposit.
The longer a tenant stays in a property, the more likely it is that the property will be subject to wear and tear, and when this occurs, a landlord could decide to hold on to the deposit in order to cover the cost of repairs, redecoration and cleaning bills at the end of a long-term tenancy.
Damage and fair wear and tear needs to be independently and expertly assessed in order to provide solid grounds for any charges raised against the tenant. Quite simply, this is not an area for landlords or management companies to try and undertake themselves, as any damage missed at check-out cannot be later charged to the former tenant, ultimately leaving the landlord to foot the bill.
Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC, said, “Landlords and tenants have different expectations when it comes to fair wear and tear issues, so it is no wonder that so many tenancies end in dispute. Normal wear and tear is a fact of life with rental properties, just as it would be at home, but if landlords and agents wish to avoid the hassle of arguments over who is responsible for damage, they need to prepare a thorough inventory of the condition of the property that details the condition of everything in it. And since a detailed inventory is designed to protect both the landlord and the tenant, it is not unreasonable to suggest splitting the cost of having one professionally prepared.
“Most tenants are aware when they have caused actual damage to a property and usually try to hide the damage subtly, which is why is it absolutely vital for landlords and management companies to ensure that no proverbial stone is left unturned when looking for damage at check out.
“Obviously, there is a distinct difference between fair wear and tear and actual damage – for example carpet tread will flatten over time, where there has been foot traffic, but cigarette burns, stains or soiling will require a charge.
“The best way to avoid costly deposit disputes is to ensure you have a comprehensive inventory in place at the start of any new tenancy and that a thorough check-in and check-out report is completed. Members of the AIIC are experts in assessing fair wear and tear and have the knowledge and experience to take into account all factors and make a reasonable judgement as to whether something is fair wear and tear or not.”
According to the AIIC, the most common damage found in rental properties on longer tenancies are:
- Iron burns on carpets and cigarette burns to furniture, upholstery and floor coverings
- Soiled marks and scratches on baths and UPVC window sills and frames
- Heat damage to polished wooden furniture
- Stiletto heel imprints on wooden floors and vinyl
- Damage to walls from contact with furniture items
- Damage to kitchen worktops from knife cuts & saucepan burns
The AIIC is committed to excellence and professionalism in the property inventory process and works hard to ensure that all landlords, tenants and letting agents understand the importance and benefits of professionally completed property inventories.