Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

As a landlord, the onus is on you to take action to avoid deposit disputes and to ensure that you win the ones that you cannot avoid. There are a few things that you can do that will really help.

1. Tenancy Agreement
Without a signed tenancy agreement you can forget all about winning any dispute. That said, just getting a pre formatted tenancy agreement from WH Smiths may not protect you as well as you hope. There is no substitute for spending half an hour with a lawyer you trust when it comes to getting a legally compliant agreement that contains all the clauses you need for your particular circumstances. It may cost a bit more, but you will probably reuse it many times during your letting career.
2. Protect The Deposit
If you don’t protect the deposit properly, you run the risk of losing the dispute on a technicality. If you don’t protect it at all, you may end up giving all the deposit back to avoid being sued by the tenant…   …or worse.
3. Get An Inventory
Landlords who do their own inventories or, worse, don’t bother at all, are leaving themselves wide open. Without a record of what the property was like when the tenant moved in, they could gut the place and you might not win a claim on the deposit. I’ve blogged about inventories before here.
4. Hold A Check Out Meeting
It is considered best practice to invite the tenant to the check-out meeting. I have heard rumours that some adjudicators are now insisting on it, although I haven’t seen any evidence yet. Invite the tenant by email if possible, so you can prove you did so, and if they want you to reschedule the meeting and it’s not too much bother, do so. The statistics show that where the tenant attends a check-out with the landlord or inventory clerk, they are much less likely to dispute your claim on the deposit.
5. Give The Tenant A Notice Of Dilapidations Within 10 Days
If you do have to claim on the deposit, give the tenant notice of what you intend to claim for and an estimated cost within 10 days. Some of the schemes insist on it and it is good practice in any case. If your estimates turn out to be inaccurate, explain why to the tenant. Don’t add items after the 10 day deadline unless you really have to. It looks bad if the amount keeps going up and up. It will only make the tenant want to dispute your claim, where a small compromise on cost might save you a lengthy dispute.

Tom Derrett is a Deposit Protection Consultant and runs ADR Solution, helping landlords and letting agents to claim protected deposits.

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