The best way to avoid tenant disputes is to ensure that you the landlord have followed all the laws and guidelines set out by the government.
Communication is key, it is important to stay calm and communicate as much information as possible to ensure that both the tenant and landlord are aware of what is expected and what is agreed upon. Where possible, ensure that any communication is done in writing.
Ensure that the tenancy agreement has been agreed by both the tenant and landlord. Obligations for both the landlord and tenant should be clearly outlined and detailed. Both the landlord and the tenant should have a copy of the tenancy agreement. A check-in inventory should be given to the tenant
Regular inspections of the property are a great way of dealing with any potential issues quickly and before they become a bigger problem, saving you and the tenant time and money.
It is important to ensure that you give your tenant at least 24 hours notice of your plans to visit the property. The inspection time and date should be convenient for the tenant and they are entitled to be present during this time.
Wear and tear
As a landlord it is important to understand that age related wear and tear will happen and is not due to negligence on the tenants part. A reasonable amount of wear and tear is to be expected and will not be the tenant’s responsibility.
As mentioned earlier, regular inspections could bring to light any potential maintenance issues that can be addressed sooner rather than later.
Take into account the number of people who will be living in the property, is it a single person, a couple or a family. This will manage your expectations of general and reasonable wear and tear.
You should fairly compare the condition of the property before and after the tenancy and decide whether or not to deduct any money from the deposit based on this.
The check-out inspection should be conducted on the day or within 48 hours of the tenants moving out and should be done in detail. This is to record the exact condition of the property. The check-out inspection must be done before any other people set foot in the property, such as maintenance, painting or remodelling.
You will not successfully be able to claim for any damages after the check-out inspection has taken place.
Claiming replacement costs
Any claim for replacement costs for damaged items must be fair and proportionate. As a landlord, you will not be able to claim any amount that would put you in a better position than you were in had the tenant not caused any damage.
Reasons to withhold the tenant deposit
If there is any outstanding rent when the tenancy comes to an end, then the landlord may deduct the amount from the deposit. If the deposit does not cover the unpaid rent then the landlord may take the claim to court.
The tenant is responsible for ensuring that the property is left in the same condition as when they moved in. Therefore, the tenant would be responsible for the cleaning costs to ensure that the property is cleaned to the standard which they moved in initially. The landlord may deduct a reasonable amount to ensure that the property is cleaned to the standard it was when it was handed over to the tenant at the start of the tenancy.
Damage to property that is over and above reasonable wear and tear. This may include any damage or infestations caused by pets.
Lost or broken items such as furniture and fittings.
The landlord may deduct for general maintenance due to neglect.
If the tenant wishes to redecorate, they must obtain permission from the landlord first. If the redecorating work is not done to an acceptable and reasonable standard accepted by the landlord, then the cost redoing this can be deducted.
Deposits cannot be withheld for the following reasons:
Fair and reasonable wear and tear, especially over a long tenancy
Any costs for property improvement or redecoration of the property for the next tenant
Maintenance to the property to ensure that the property is safe and habitable
Cost of gathering evidence or legal fees in preparation for a legal dispute
It is important:
to stay calm
be fair and reasonable
communicate in writing and keep a paper trail
try and find a positive solution
If all else fails, seek an unbiased mediator to assist with the dispute.