Making a Claim on a Tenant’s Deposit: What you need to consider

As a landlord, when you let a property to a tenant you are entitled to think that they will treat it with respect and leave it in good condition at the end of the tenancy. If a tenant has caused damage to the property, or contents, then you are entitled to claim compensation for that damage by a deduction from the tenant’s deposit.

However, you are not entitled to betterment. What is betterment? That is claiming for something in full, for example, when it is halfway through its expected life. So, for instance, if a sofa is expected to last for 15 years from new and the tenant causes damage to it and leaves after 7 years, the landlord would not be entitled to claim the full cost of a replacement sofa. At the most, he would only be able to claim half the cost, because otherwise he would be benefiting from the tenant’s deposit. In addition, it may also be practicable to have the sofa re-upholstered at less cost than replacing it anyway.

When considering claims from a tenant’s deposit, fair wear and tear always must be taken into consideration. Even this can be tricky, because a stain on a curtain, for instance, could well be the fault of the tenant, but the curtain fading over time as a result of constant sunlight falling on it is not. It has simply come to the end of its expected life and would have needed replacing anyway.

Another thing that needs to be taken into account is the level of wear and tear. It is generally expected that the amount of wear and tear in a rental property is higher than in owner-occupied properties because there is often a more frequent change of occupants. The tenant cannot be held liable for deterioration to the condition of the property – other than for cleaning – if they have used the property reasonably.

Then again, when it comes to fair wear and tear, there are other issues to consider, too. For example, a single retired person in their seventies is likely to cause less wear and tear than a family with two young kids.Even the various areas of the property can vary, too. For example, a property may be carpeted throughout with the same carpet, but it will get more wear and tear in the hallway and the living room than in the bedrooms or a study. Indeed, fair wear and tear can be defined as the amount of it that might be reasonably expected as a result of a tenant’s everyday activity on a normal basis.

Furthermore, the quality of the materials and contents will also have a bearing on the overall life expectancy. A cheap carpet may look good for two or three years but will certainly deteriorate far faster than a top-quality carpet that might be expected to last for 25 years or more. And it will deteriorate even faster if there are young kids running about, along with pets, if you have allowed them.

If you are making a claim for damage to your property, it needs to be explained in clear terms so that both the tenant and an adjudicator can understand it. So, for example, if there is a very large stain on a carpet, you might explain that it was caused by the tenant and that you have tried to have it cleaned by a professional carpet cleaner, but it has not been possible to remove it. The carpet cost £x, and you have an invoice showing that. It came with a warranty that it was suitable for heavy domestic use for at least 15 years, but it is only five years old and must now be replaced. Hence, you would claim for two-thirds of £x – the cost of the carpet – and the cost of the attempted cleaning.

All of this depends, of course, on keeping good records and on an accurate check-in and check-out report. This is why so many landlords and letting agents use the inventory service that we provide at Reports2Go. We cover the Cambridge area with our inventory service, and our inventory clerks are all Property Mark qualified (https://www.propertymarkqualifications.co.uk/) and insured.

We will save you a considerable amount of time on inventory, and we use the special app which we have developed, in order to ensure that every report is as accurate as it can possibly be.

Panos, 14 May 2021

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