Almost half of tenants in England and Wales do not attend a "check-out" at the end of their tenancy, according to figures published by The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS).
During checkouts, landlords or their representatives record the condition of the property in comparison to when the tenants arrived, and that forms the basis of any claim for deductions against the deposit. Celsium always recommends that the tenant, or a representative of the tenant, attends both the check-in and check-out.
The DPS recommends that tenants attend; however, 48% of respondents to The DPS’ recent survey of 8,035 tenants said they had not attended, and almost half (46%) of tenants who did not attend said that they had either not been invited or were not informed of the date or time.
Julian Foster, Managing Director of The DPS, said, "Check-outs are one of the most important stages of any tenancy. By viewing the property and discussing its condition together, tenants and landlords can resolve problems quickly and help prevent longer disputes, for instance, over the return of the deposit. It’s vital that landlords enable tenants to attend – and that tenants go along when invited.”
The DPS has also issued its top ten tips for landlords to help ensure that checkouts are successful, but these are useful from a tenant's perspective - forewarned is forearmed!
If you can’t agree deposit deductions with the tenant, you enter The TDS' Alternative Dispute Resolution process, where an adjudicator will use evidence like the inventory to compare the property condition at the beginning and end of the tenancy.
The adjudicator will need to judge how reliable the inventory is. Those considered to be the best evidence will usually:
have been prepared by a third party such as a professional inventory clerk
contain dated photos
have been signed by the tenant
Don’t forget – the adjudicator won’t visit the property, so the inventory needs to give as clear a picture as possible. The inventory shouldn’t just be a list of items. It should include the condition of:
fixtures and fittings
any furnishings or other items
An inventory should be completed for each new tenancy. It should also be done every time there’s a change of tenant at the property, even if it’s a multiple tenancy and not all the tenants are leaving. If a new inventory can’t be created, adjudicators will consider updated or annotated versions of the original.
Check-out evidence should be completed as soon as possible after the tenant returns the keys. If the tenant has left the property without attending a check-out inspection, the check-out evidence should be compiled as soon as possible. The tenant doesn’t have to attend the check-out inspection, but they should be encouraged as it will be easier for both parties to agree the results.
Inventories can be the deciding factor in a dispute (and can even prevent them occurring) so it’s really important they’re clear and detailed.
There’s no set layout to inventories but information should be clear and methodical. The check-in report will need to be as comprehensive as possible, but the check-out report can just note any changes to the condition of the property and contents.
An explanation of the condition of an item should be descriptive. Words like "fair" and "OK" can be interpreted in many different ways, and might not help the case. It’s important to state if an item is brand new.
Make sure labelling is consistent across the reports. For example, changing the label of bedrooms from "front, middle and back" in the check-in report to "bedrooms 1, 2 and 3" at check-out can make it difficult for the adjudicator to be sure they are comparing the same rooms.
Photos must be good quality, and clearly show the alleged damage or defect. If the inventory has been photocopied, photographs can be unclear and the adjudicator may not be able to make out any damage. Electronic versions of the photos are much easier for adjudicators to judge.
If you would like any further information about tenancy-related issues, please contact Stuart Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courtesy of The DPS.