Buy-to-let landlords are well within their rights to make appropriate deductions from a tenancy deposit when a tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement, such as causing damage or not paying rent, but they must avoid charging for things that they cannot prove.
When renting out a property, most landlords opt to take a deposit from the tenant prior to the tenancy starting, but disputes can often occur when the condition the property is not the same at the end of the tenancy, as it was at the beginning.
However, while fair wear and tear has long been a grey area for landlords, mainly because it tends to vary from case to case, that does not mean that landlords have the right to charge for deposit deductions without being compliant with the rules, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).
That is why since the introduction of mandatory deposit protection schemes, an accurate schedule of condition has become almost as important as the tenancy agreement itself.
As well as being used as evidence in a dispute, a detailed and precise inventory completed at the start of the tenancy, and again when the tenancy ends, also underlines exactly what is expected of the tenant, while it can also help landlords avoid a disagreement in the first place.
“Tenants are becoming increasingly savvy and persistent – they won’t put up with deposit deductions that they feel are unjust,” said Patricia Barber, chair of the AIIC.
“Although it is only a minority, those agents and landlords who do charge for things they can’t prove should think twice about this practice. Alongside being immoral, it could cause financial and reputational damage to a business,” she added.
To help enjoy a risk-free tenancy, it is generally good practice for a landlord to have an inventory, which records the condition of the property with written notes, photographic evidence, as well as details of the contents, including fixtures and fittings.
Barber continued: “Photo inventories allow all parties to make a fair comparison of the property’s contents and condition at the beginning and end of the tenancy.”
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