Avoiding Tenancy Disputes with Your Landlord
When you’re renting a house or flat you hand over a deposit to the landlord who then returns this when you leave, minus any deductions for damage.
Provided you agree to this, everyone goes on their merry way. Disputes arise when both the landlord and tenant have a different interpretation over what damage was caused and who is responsible for it. Some items may reasonably be down to ‘wear and tear’, for instance and the tenant shouldn’t be charged for this. This is when, for example, you would expect a sofa to be less springy and slightly worn after a couple of years.
On the other hand, a broken leg on the sofa will usually be caused by the tenant and unless he or she repairs it, the landlord will take money from the deposit to pay for this.
Fortunately, the vast majority of tenancies end amicably enough. Any deductions that are made are usually for professional cleaning and the odd repair. Sometimes, though, things do go wrong.
When Deposits Cause Arguments
The reasons landlords can deduct money from the deposit include for:
- Outstanding bills
- Missing items originally in the flat
- Property damage eg cigarette burns in carpets or broken crockery
- Unkempt garden
- Damage caused by negligence eg leaving windows open so that water gets in and causes dampness
When Moving Out
Leave the flat tidy and clean together with ensuring all bills and rent are paid, and your landlord will be favourably disposed towards you. This is a good sign for when it comes to checking the inventory to see how much deposit you are entitled to get back. To do the following on your last day in the tenancy:
- Repair any furniture or items you’ve damaged
- Take the rubbish out to the bins (including any of your belongings that you’re not taking to your next place)
- Clean the flat thoroughly
- Cut the grass (if there’s any) and tidy up the outside area (if that’s part of your Tenancy Agreement)
- Light a scented candle for an hour or two so the place smells nice for your landlord turning up
Preventing a Minor Disagreement Becoming a Legal Dispute
During your tenancy communicate well with your landlord. That means letting him or her know right away if there are any repairs needed in their property or if there are problems with local kids vandalising the garden etc.
Make it clear, from the start of the tenancy, who is responsible for what eg it is usually the tenant whose duty it is to repair smoke alarm batteries and light bulbs.
Have a Great Inventory
Your inventory will list every item in the flat, from furniture to fixtures and fittings. Not only that, but it will also mention the condition of them. That way this can referred to if there is a dispute over the condition of items. Often photographs will accompany the larger or more expensive items of furniture and appliances. This includes the sofa, TV, fridge freezer, cooker, microwave etc. When you move out the landlord or letting agent will go produce a ‘check out’ inventory, listing the number and condition of goods on the day.
If there is a dispute over items then the tenant must be informed quickly and informed how much money the landlord wishes to withhold from their deposit.
Landlords who inspect properties every three to four months will have an idea of the state of the furniture and fittings anyhow. Provided the landlord gives their tenant at least 24-hour notice, he or she is perfectly entitled to inspect their property to ensure there is no untoward damage.
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