What to do when a tenant checks out of a rented property
WITH moving home scoring high on the list of life’s most stressful experiences, the last thing anyone needs is additional tension in the form of a dispute between tenant and landlord.
However, a study has shown that 10 per cent of tenancies do end in disagreement, with the main grievance relating to property owners holding back deposits to cover cleaning and repair costs. According to Belvoir Lettings, issues surrounding deposits tend to arise due to a lack of communication between the two parties or because neither party is fully aware of its rights.
“A check-out is required to allow the release of the deposit,” explains Chris Duffy, who owns the Belvoir office on Priory Place in Doncaster. “But it’s important to remember that check-out is very much reliant on the check-in at the start of the tenancy.
“If you do a good checkin, with extremely thorough documentation, then the checkout will be easier. It follows on that a competent check-out of your current tenant will help ensure an uncomplicated check-in of the next. Without a check-out procedure, there is nothing to determine whether the tenant has caused any damage or whether the landlord needs to carry out any upgrade work.
“Following the correct procedure is essential. It serves several key purposes – and without it there may be delays in releasing the deposit and any property upgrades needed for the next tenant cannot be assessed.”
Fortunately most disputes over deposits can be avoided by taking simple measures.
Here are Belvoir’s top tips for a stress-free end to a tenancy:
Understanding agreements: Tenants must ensure they thoroughly understand the conditions and rules outlined in the tenancy agreement. If anything is unclear they should ask for a full explanation from the landlord or lettings agency.
Deposit schemes: All landlords are required by law to protect all deposits with a Governmentapproved scheme within 30 days of receiving it. Only one scheme (the DPS) is custodial – holding the deposit in a dedicated account. All others are insurance based with lettings agents holding deposits securely in their own client accounts.
Inventory: The property has to be left in the same condition that it was when the tenant moved in. Both tenant and landlord should be mindful that the law, and many assured short hold tenancy agreements, allow for fair wear and tear. It is therefore good practice to agree on what constitutes “fair” in this respect. To do that properly it is vitally important that there is an inventory – ideally a photographic one with plenty of detail. Model and serial numbers of appliances should be recorded – particularly if these are newly installed. This avoids any potential risk of them being swapped for an inferior replacement. Without an inventory, which should have been signed by the lettings agent and tenant, a landlord is unlikely to be able to deduct any money from a deposit as there will be no proof as to what condition the property was in at the beginning of the tenancy.
Inspection: Before the rental property is vacated the managing lettings agent will inspect the property to decide on how much of the deposit is to be returned to the tenant. An agent will be able to identify issues that the landlord may pick up on, thus giving the tenant time to put right any problems before the final inspection.
Evidence: Take and date photographs of any existing damage to the property as it is found on the moving-in day. Tenants should then ask their landlord to sign the photos so there can be no dispute at the end of the tenancy.
Meter reading: During checkout, accurate meter readings are crucial. If possible, take photographic meter readings that can be presented so that everybody knows the end-oftenancy readings. This prevents any outstanding bills being attributed to the landlord.