Is this my property?
The tenant moves out and you are confronted with a place that you don’t recognise as yours. What was a pristine rental property looks decidedly dishevelled. What can be done?
You should have a deposit, if not why? If the tenancy was pre 6th April 2007 then you are likely to be holding it yourself, otherwise it will be under the provisions of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Either way you need dig out the property inventory you prepared when the tenants moved in and use this as a basis for any action.
Quality of your paper work
Success in keeping winning some of the deposit for repair will very much depend on the quality of the ‘paper work’dating from before the ‘check in’ / ‘check out’. The detail of the property inventory recording the condition of the property is most key. You will have ideally used a pro-forma such as the FREE Inventory Form available on Property Hawk alongside a selection of photos to illustrate the property's condition. Most importantly, all these should need to of been counter signed by all the tenants to confirm that they agree with the descriptions.
How to make that judgement
Assuming the property inventory was well prepared you can use it to make a factual assessment of what was down to ‘fair wear and tear’; and what damage the tenant should legitimately pay for.
The tenant is likely to insist that you can’t expect the place to be in the same condition as when they moved in because of the shear fact that scuffs and marks occur during day to day occupation. Where do you stand?
Understanding fair wear & tear
This is where landlords have to apply the principle of fair wear & tear to the condition of their property
There is nothing in statute which defines ‘fair wear and tear’. The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has however produced some useful guidelines for its’ members on what to consider when coming to a view on it.
A landlord cannot expect to end up, either financially or materially in a better position than he was in at the commencement of the tenancy or than he would have been at the end of the tenancy having allowed for fair wear and tear.
A landlord is cannot expect to charge their tenants the full cost of an item or property, neither can they look to get any fixture or fitting “put back to the condition it was at the start of the tenancy.” as this would be perceived as betterment.
Therefore, a landlord can only look to seek compensation to :
The apportionment technique
To avoid betterment landlords can use a method called apportionment. This enables the costs of ‘fair wear and tear’ to be split into measurable pieces to which a monetary value can be assigned.
Here is an example:
1. Minor damage to an item, a small to medium stain or mark on a carpet or mattress etc – perhaps £15 - £35 e.g. the cost of a “spot” clean or, this amount as the tenant’s contribution to a full clean of the whole item, or as compensation for the diminution.
A small to medium size chip or mark, scratch or burn on a kitchen worktop – perhaps £5 - £25. A landlord could of course decide to a purchase a new item, to have a new carpet put down or a new kitchen worktop installed if they wished, but they cannot lawfully charge the tenant for the full cost.
The costs should be apportioned and shared between the parties on the principles given above. E.g. cost of new carpet £500 – apportioned £465 to landlord, £35 to tenant.
2. In the rare circumstances where damage ( to the worktop/carpet/mattress/ item etc) is so extensive or severe so as to affect the achievable rent level/lettability or quality of the property the most appropriate remedy might be replacement and to apportion costs according to the age and useful lifespan of the item.
Below is an example of how this might be calculated.
(a) Cost of similar replacement carpet/item = £500-00
(b) Actual age of existing carpet/item = 2 years
(c) Average useful lifespan of that type of carpet/item = 10 years
(d) Residual lifespan of carpet/item calculated as (c) less (b) = 8 years
(e) Depreciation of value rate calculated as (a) divided by (c) £50 per year
(f) Reasonable apportionment cost to tenant calculated as (d) times (e) = £400.00
Record the facts
Landlords need keep an accurate record of the state of their rental property and have it signed by new tenants on moving in if they are to stand a chance of claiming any justifiable figure from a tenant's deposit.