The Deposit Protection Service has issued seven ways to help agents and students in England and Wales arrange accommodation check-outs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Changes in regulation on 13 May mean physical visits to properties in England and the creation of rental check-out reports — which set out the condition of a property at the end of a tenancy — are now possible as long as agents, inventory clerks and contractors follow government guidelines.
Below are the DPS’ seven guidelines:
1: Take date-stamped pictures for the check-out report: Taking time-stamped photographs or videos of the property’s condition on moving out helps landlords to verify the check-out report, could avoid a dispute and encourages the efficient return of deposit money. Landlords in Wales, where restrictions on house moves from occupied properties continue, should consider asking their student tenants to collect this evidence. If the check-out didn’t take place as a result of the lockdown, keeping a clear record of what happened (and when) enables The DPS to assess each case on its merits and arrive at a fair outcome.
2: Keep contact details up-to-date and stay in touch about the check-out report: If a check-out report is possible, tenants and landlords should swap up-to-date mobile numbers so they can call, text or email each other throughout. Keep copies of all communications, especially if there is a delay or dispute because an adjudicator will want to see the steps the landlord took to reach an agreement.
3: Read the small print about cleaning: Around 63 per cent of landlords who enter the DPS’ Dispute Resolution Service cite cleaning amongst their reasons for a claim. During the pandemic the landlord may have to organise a full professional clean after the tenant leaves the property to minimise potential spread of the virus but, unless one took place before start of the tenancy or the tenancy agreement stipulates one is required, the tenant generally does not have to cover the cost.
4: Students and landlords cannot use deposit money to pay rent: Students should tell their landlords if they experience financial issues so that both sides can discuss options, e.g. rent deferments. Students experiencing problems paying their rent cannot ask for their deposit money to make up the shortfall or cover the final month’s rent before moving out. Landlords that have reduced a tenant’s rent cannot make a claim from the deposit to make up the payment. Landlords offering payment holidays should spell out in writing, eg via email to the tenant that they must pay the deferred rent once the crisis is over.