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Do you have questions about deposit disputes 

02 August 2021 2487 Views
Do you have questions about deposit disputes 

Through our FREE online deposit dispute webinars, we’ve trained thousands of landlords and letting agents about how the dispute resolution process works, and the steps they can take to have more successful dispute outcomes. One thing we’ve noticed is how often the same questions are raised by those joining our sessions. To help you avoid pitfalls with your disputes, our adjudication experts have answered the most commonly asked questions we receive

What is the burden of proof? 

Many landlords don’t realise that the burden is on them to prove they have a legitimate claim to a share of the deposit, whilst the tenant has no obligation to prove their position. This is because the deposit remains the tenant’s money until the landlord has successfully proven their claim.

Landlords submit their evidence in support of their claim and tenants provide their own evidence supporting their position in response. It’s then sent to an independent, impartial adjudicator, who reviews the evidence and decides how the deposit will be repaid.

What kinds of evidence can I submit?

You can submit different types of evidence, depending on what the claim is for. Here are some of the most common examples of the type of evidence you may need:

  • Signed check-in and check-out inventory reports

  • Signed tenancy agreement

  • Signed reports of periodic inspections of the property

  • Invoices, estimates, receipts and quotes

  • A statement of the rent account

  • Date stamped photos or video recordings. If you choose to submit a video recording, please make sure you clearly guide the adjudicator around the house, explaining which room you are in

  • Copies of any correspondence between the landlord and tenant

  • Witness statements

  • Screenshots for texts and WhatsApp messages

To give your claim the best chance of success, you should at the very least provide a copy of the tenancy agreement, and check-in and check-out report.
If you'd like more information about each of the evidence examples above, head over to our 'What makes good evidence web page'.

Why are inventories, check-in and check-out reports needed?

Preparing for a deposit dispute starts at the beginning of a tenancy, with a great inventory and check-in report. An inventory can help avoid a dispute over the deposit when tenants move out, because it proves what state the property was in when the tenants moved in. Learn more about getting your inventories right every time.

When it comes to the end of the tenancy, the check-out is vitally important. It's a chance for all parties to review the condition of the property and have an open and honest conversation about the deposit and agree on any deductions. We have an easy to follow three step process to make 'moving out' seamless.

Where can I find a good example of an inventory?

Although we can't disclose evidence from specific dispute cases, the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks has some good examples of different layouts and approaches.

When should I perform periodic inspections and what should I look for?

As a landlord, it’s vital that you carry out inspections on your rental property throughout the year. It’s a good way to make sure the property is being looked after by your tenants and to see if there’s any maintenance needed on the property.

Landlords have the right to enter their property to carry out an inspection, if they give their tenants at least 24 hours’ written notice and the tenants grant access. A landlord can only enter a property without a tenant’s permission in an “emergency” situation.

Regular checks throughout the year allow the landlord to check on general wear and tear, highlight if any repairs are needed and more importantly make sure the tenants are looking after the property. On the other hand, don’t do checks too often – an overprotective landlord runs the risk of upsetting their tenants. Seasonal inspections are more than enough to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Do I need signatures on inventories, inspections and check-outs

The tenant signature is the most important as it confirms their agreement to the condition at the time. If the tenant hasn’t signed and returned the inventory, evidence such as an email or proof of postage, shows that they were provided it and given the opportunity to respond may be useful.

It's also useful to get tenants to sign inspection reports. If they refuse to sign the check-out, make sure to submit the report and supporting evidence anyway. The adjudicator will make the decision based on the evidence provided, not solely on the presence of the tenant’s signature on the check-out report.

If a tenant sends an email or text message to confirm they agree with the check-out report, that’s acceptable evidence for the adjudicator.

What is betterment? 

The landlord should not end up, either financially or materially, in a better position than they were at start of the tenancy, or than they would have otherwise been at the end of the tenancy after having allowed for fair wear and tear.

Put in simple terms, if a carpet was brand new at the start of the tenancy, and the tenancy lasted for two years, it would be a two-year-old carpet at the end of the tenancy. If it was damaged beyond repair and the landlord was claiming the full cost of replacing the carpet, this would lead to betterment.

What is fair wear and tear

Adjudicators can only fall back on the legal definition of fair wear and tear, which is the "reasonable operation of natural forces". As there are so many variable factors which affect fair wear and tear, we look at the evidence presented to us to make a reasonable conclusion as to what we believe has happened.

Landlords can only claim where the damage exceeds fair wear and tear. This is particularly important in disputes where the tenant has lived in the property for a long time. For example, the adjudicator is unlikely to make an award for a claim for redecoration costs where the tenant has lived in the property for five or more years, as the landlord would probably have needed to redecorate anyway, regardless of anything the tenant has done.

Here are some useful life expectancy guides created by ARLA Propertymark:

Do you have questions about deposit disputes 

About The DPS

At The DPS, we don't play around when it comes to deposit protection. For over 13 years, we've driven ourselves to provide the best service to letting agents and landlords. We’re rated excellent by our customers on Trustpilot and protect more tenancy deposits than anyone else in the UK. We run regular FREE dispute resolution webinars, open to all landlords and letting agents, to help you have more successful dispute outcomes. Find out more about how we can help you at www.depositprotection.com/join

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