Published: 12/01/2023When a tenancy reaches an end, the dream outcome is that the tenant leaves the property as they were given it (reasonable level of wear and tear excepted), the landlord is happy with its condition, and both parties go their separate ways, on good terms, with the tenants having received their deposit back in full. As letting agents, this is the outcome we want every time a property is vacated, and in many instances this is achievable…..however, not always. Between us, we have handled many disputes over the years and this has given us vast experience of the possible scenarios we may face when a tenancy terminates. Having this knowledge means we can work with the tenants before they vacate to communicate our expectations as lettings agents and the ones the landlords will have when the keys are passed back to them. If you have lived in a property for several years, then a certain degree of wear and tear is unavoidable. It would be unreasonable of anyone to think otherwise.
What is an inventory?
Before a tenancy commences, an inventory of the whole property is completed. The purpose of this document is to lay out the exact condition of the property at the point the tenant moves in. It covers possessions inside the property (including white goods and fixtures and fittings etc.), the property's condition (any existing damage and/or wear and tear to the property or furnishings), and cleanliness. Before a tenancy commences, a property should already be cleaned to a professional standard, and the inventory should reflect this. Some lettings agents write these inventories themselves, and others use the services of a third-party inventory clerk; either way, the document should be accurate and cover everything – by which we mean absolutely everything!
When a tenant is provided with their inventory, it is then their turn to cross-reference it with what they find when they first arrive. We are confident that our guys are accurate – and, most importantly, fair – but this is a tenant’s opportunity to have their say. This process brings several benefits, all designed with everyone’s best interests at heart. If damage is found, we want it fixed for our tenants; it is also our responsibility to ensure the property is looked after to the highest possible standard. If the inventory says the property is spotless, but a tenant finds otherwise, it is down to them to note it. It is their chance to protect themselves from any disagreements at the end of the tenancy. We always encourage a tenant to make us aware of any necessary repairs or cleaning found when the tenancy commences so that we can resolve it quickly and efficiently and update the inventory accordingly. If these matters are addressed immediately, it saves nasty surprises further down the line.
What disputes do we encounter?
One of the most common disputes that letting agents face at the end of a tenancy is regarding the cleanliness of the property. The inventory says one thing and the tenant another. But whether the tenant has lived in the property for six months or six years, there is no way our team could remember everything about the property when the tenancy commenced – hence our reliance on the inventory. This document is there to ensure our checks are done thoroughly and that any proposed deductions are justified. However, there is often a dispute that the property wasn’t clean when the tenant moved in or that repairs were not addressed. We appreciate the frustration this may cause, but if the tenant did not check the inventory and these issues were not noted, we must go by the original document. Because if this was your property, I am sure this is how you would want us to act. In a nutshell, if you take on a tenancy at a property, firstly, make sure you have an inventory and secondly, please, please, please ensure you follow our advice and check it. That is your chance to protect yourself from disputes further down the line. Finally, ensure your deposit is protected in one of the government backed schemes. At Gray & Toynbee, we use the TDS.
Another dispute that comes up regularly is regarding wear and tear at the property. When an end-of-tenancy check is completed, one of the things we look at aside from cleanliness is how well the property has been looked after – conditions of carpets, condition of décor – everything. At the end of the tenancy, we look at the condition of these things when the tenant moved in versus once they leave. Now while we expect the cleanliness to be of the same standard (a professional clean means a professional clean), wear and tear is a whole different ballgame and is very much dependent on who has lived in the property and for how long. If a family has lived in a house for many years, it would be expected that there is more wear and tear in the property that that caused by a single occupant with a six month tenancy. The carpets may well have some marks, and there are sure to be a few scuffs on the walls – if a home is let out to a family, then this is standard living conditions. But the key word here is ‘reasonable’. The reasonable level of expected wear and tear will, of course, differ significantly between a one-year tenancy and a ten-year tenancy. As a reputable letting agent, it is our job to ensure the decisions made at the tenancy's end are fair.
Who are the TDS?
The TDS are one of the approved deposit protection schemes. By law, any deposit held under an Assured Shorthold tenancy must be protected in one of these schemes. Everything we do is in line with their guidelines and this scheme sets out the rules that we must follow to make the end of tenancy process fair for everyone involved. It also monitors how we hold a tenant’s deposit, how quickly we must release it, and acts as the independent third party if there is an end-of-tenancy dispute. If a disagreement cannot be resolved between the parties directly involved, the organisation acts as a non-bias mediator, using evidence presented by both parties to determine settlement. They are there to ensure everybody is treated fairly, and we are proud to be members.
What happens when a property is vacated?
Once you have given Notice to vacate your property, we will provide you with details surrounding the end of tenancy process. In brief, a check out report will be compiled the following working day after your tenancy end date. The check out clerk will use your inventory as a starting point and the resulting report will detail any cleaning and/or maintenance required and will indicate who is responsible for each issue. Both you and your landlord will receive a copy of this report and we will discuss any proposed costs before, hopefully, reaching agreement on any deposit deductions. We aim to complete this process as quickly as possible and will keep you updated every step of the way.
If you have any concerns about the end of tenancy process, then please do not hesitate to contact us. We want to help.