The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) is warning landlords that they are exposing themselves to a greater risk of deposit disputes if they carry out their own inventories
This is supported by recent research which shows that half of landlords have experienced a dispute over the return of the deposit when their tenant comes to move out, with 88 per cent saying the most common grievance is cleanliness. (Source: Total Landlord Insurance, August 2012).
In addition to having a tenancy agreement, the importance of ensuring other formal agreements and procedures are in place, such as an inventory and schedule of condition, have been highlighted.
The perception that inventories are an expensive procedure is thought to be the deterrent for many landlords who choose to carry out their own. In fact, the average cost for a 2 bedroomed furnished property is approximately £70 and interestingly, results found that 65 per cent of landlords recognise that an inventory is the most important form of evidence in the event of a dispute.
Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC comments:
“It is vital for landlords and agents to ensure they have ongoing dialogue with tenants and that they get all the paperwork right at the start and at the end of a new tenancy agreement.
Aside from ensuring there is a fair contract in place at the start of a tenancy agreement, landlords should have a professional and detailed inventory which will enable both parties to be treated fairly and reasonably. By opening a dialogue and using an independent inventory clerk, disputes can be resolved quicker and without the hassle that is often experienced at the end of a tenancy period.
Many tenants fail to leave their property in the same condition at check-out and are often very surprised when they are told that professional cleaning is required. Tenants rarely treat their rented property in the same way as they would a property they owned themselves. Unfortunately accidents do happen during a tenancy and tenants need to realise that they must take financial responsibility for things that are beyond normal wear and tear.
Landlords and tenants need to recognise that inventories and check-in/check-out reports are of equal advantage to landlords and tenant. They aid communication at the end of the tenancy and help settle disputes and reduce the chance of a formal dispute through a tenancy deposit protection scheme.”
Having an impartial and qualified inventory clerk carry this out means there is less opportunity for either party to dispute the documentation.”
Ten ten tips to avoid a deposit dispute:
1) Make sure the property is thoroughly clean, a receipt from a professional cleaning company will resolve any disputes on cleaning problems at the end of the tenancy.
2) Gardens – if the property has a garden make sure it is in a tidy condition and that you have supplied the necessary garden tools and mower to enable the tenants to leave the garden in the same tidy condition.
3) Furnished properties – leave only what is necessary for the type of tenant you are hoping to attract. A country house let is very different from an executive town apartment but similar rules apply. Don’t leave lots of extra pictures, ornaments, bedding and kitchen equipment. AIIC members are often dismayed to find all cupboards full to bursting with no room for a tenant’s belongings.
4) Unfurnished properties – should only contain white goods – it is usual to supply fridge, freezer, cooker and/or washing machine but again this depends on your tenants requirements.
5) Make sure that you get a proper detailed inventory of your property. This is the most important protection you can have. It should list the garden, interior décor, fixtures and fittings and contents in such detail that there will be no room for arguments at time of check-out.
6) Pets – if you accept tenants with pets you must expect some additional wear and tear at the end of the tenancy. Make sure your tenancy agreement has a ‘pet clause’ that requires the tenants to thoroughly clean and fumigate if necessary all soft furnishings and upholstery and the end of the tenancy. However if the pet causes real damage such as badly scratches doors, chewed carpets then you can rightly expect your tenant to be responsible as you would with any other let.
7) Be responsive to problems – during the tenancy you should act quickly if the tenant experiences any problems such as equipment failure, leaks or other things that are a landlord’s responsibility. A happy tenant makes for a happy landlord.
8) Be realistic at the end of the tenancy. A professional inventory clerk will be able to compile a full check-out report and will be know the difference between wear and tear issues and damage. They can apportion costs appropriately. If you are doing your own check-out, take into account the original condition of an item, the age and quality at time of check-in and the length of tenancy. Sometimes the type of tenancy is important too – was this a single person let or a family of six with two large dogs. This type of let will dictate how much is attributable to normal wear and tear and how much is the tenants responsibility to pay for putting right.
9) Make sure your tenant attends the check-out appointment, this is the time to explain all the problems and possible charges to be noted on the check-out report that you will send them shortly afterwards. This is the time to get the tenants contact details, take meter readings and check that all the keys have been returned.
10) Resolve your check-out issues as quickly as possible, communicate with the tenant and keep them aware of everything that affects their deposit.
The AIIC is a not for profit membership organisation and is committed to excellence and professionalism in the property inventory process. The AIIC works hard to ensure that all landlords, tenants and letting agents understand the importance and benefits of professionally completed property inventories.