There are several key steps that landlords should take at the start of every new tenancy to ensure they are able to provide suitable evidence if they are faced with a dispute over the deposit when the tenant moves out.
Firstly, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement should be used, and signed by both the landlord and tenant. The AST should clearly state all the terms of the tenancy, and importantly should spell out what is expected in terms of cleanliness of the property at the end of the tenancy, always allowing for fair wear and tear.
The AST acts as your legal contract with the tenant so make sure it is clear.
Landlords should also produce an inventory that is signed and dated by both parties when the tenant moves in. Rent account statements must be kept up to date and invoices or receipts for any repairs or work done on the property should be kept as evidence.
When the time comes to move out, the landlord and tenant should meet for a check-out inspection, so both can come to an agreement over the return of the deposit.
Eddie Hooker, CEO of my deposits, said: "Landlords can take steps to ‘dispute-proof’ themselves before the tenancy begins, to ensure they have all the necessary evidence in the unlikely event of a dispute at the end of the tenancy.
"By taking some simple precautions, landlords can minimise the risk of being left out of pocket in the event of damage to the property or unpaid rent.
"This is a timely reminder as student landlords prepare their properties for the return of university students."
A recent survey by my deposits found more than half of landlords and letting agents now use photo evidence in their inventories.
Nick Lyons, Managing Director of inventory management firm No Letting Go said: "Inventories are now a vital part of setting up a tenancy to prove the condition of a property when the tenant moves in. More landlords are adding photographs to their written inventories for peace of mind. It’s vitally important that landlords not only list the contents of the property but also clearly describe the condition."
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