Dummies Guide to Avoiding a Landlord and Tenant Dispute

How NOT to have a Tenancy Dispute & 10 Top Tips if you do!

We recommend that a landlord seeks legal advice before entering into an agreement with a tenant because the legislation is complex, the obligations on a landlord can be daunting and the fines can be substantial if there is ever a dispute. When a landlord rents a property there are many areas that should be considered, some of which are listed below.

1.  Landlords/Agents – Make sure you have get comprehensive Inventory with Schedule of Condition at check in which notes both the condition and cleanliness of the items.  Also make sure that the inventory is not out of date and been amended many times!!

2.  Landlords/Agents – If a tenant is not at the check in/mid term/check out  – evidence the fact that you have sent a copy of the findings to the tenant and that you have asked them to sign it and note any comments within a set period of time.  Be realistic and fair, if the tenant moves in later than tenancy date because of holiday, allow them that time.

3.  Landlords/Agents – Prepare a Check Out report which is in the same format and order as the Inventory so a comparison can be easily seen.

4.  Landlords/Agents – Formulate a claim for the differences showing between the Inventory and Schedule of Condition as at Check In and the Check Out report and give amounts for each item being claimed with copy invoices and, if landlord carries out repairs/cleaning themselves, put a realistic rate for cleaning and show how many hours it took.  Just because your “day job” is as a consultant at £400 per day, does not mean that you charge cleaning out at that rate!  (Sounds crazy but one landlord did actually try this).

5.  Landlords/Agents – Send a copy of a formal claim with a copy of the check out report or as soon after.  It is again staggering how many Landlords/Agents on their behalf just say I want £XXX without any back up to it.

6.  Tenants – ensure that you get a copy of the inventory & schedule of condition at check in and pay attention to all the things noted.  If it is a poor inventory add  everything in and send a copy back to the agent (recorded delivery or get a receipt that the agents have received it).  However, use commonsense, sending it in 6 months into the tenancy is not and neither is just stating that you did not agree with the check in report at the end of the tenancy.

7.  Tenants – put everything in writing and keep as evidence.  No good saying “I wrote a letter to agent the day of moving into property stating the property was unclean and that there was chips to the bath, or stains to the carpets” if you do not support that with evidence of that letter.

8.  Landlords/Agents – Gone are the days when a landlord can say “I want £XXXX” without justification.

9.  Landlords/Agents/Tenants – If you have a check in/check out report and make handwritten comments on it, don’t make it so illegible that it can’t be read as then the evidence is not clear.

10.  Landlords/Agents/ Tenants – If you have a check out report that you are amending for the check out.  Don’t put those comments in the “tenants comments on check in” column as it is presented that these are the comments as at check in and not check out.  –  All simple stuff.

11.  Landlords/Agents – If you have an oil tank and the tenants are responsible for refilling it – make sure it is in the tenancy agreement and the amount of the oil is noted on the check in so the tenant is aware of the level that has to be topped up at the end of the tenancy.

12.  Landlords/Agents/Tenants – Don’t just send amendments to reports – ask for an inventory to be updated to show the actual position at the start of the tenancy.  Tenants will be judged on the condition of the property at check out by what is in the inventory at check in and it is far more difficult for an inventory clerk to make a comparison if they are working from many pieces of paper.

13.  Landlords/Agents – There is no legal requirement to get an independent party to produce an inventory, however ‘each to their own’ and an independent clerk will be far more impartial as they won’t fear upsetting the landlord.  But make sure it is a comprehensive inventory – no good paying for a ‘professional’ inventory if it is just a list of items with no schedule of condition with regard to both cleanliness and condition.   On this point – I would also add that whilst an agent can produce professional looking reports – how can they be truly impartial if producing the reports as well as advising the landlord as to deductions etc. , which many agents do.  Of course this is a general statement and there are some good agents and landlords who do prepare comprehensive and impartial reports.

14.  Landlords/Agents – Again, no legal requirement to get an independent party to check out a tenant but if can get the same independent person/company  (as they should all work to the same style and level of competence in the same company) so much the better.   Sometimes this is not always possible, but where it is this is the ideal.

15.  Landlords/Agents – Make sure your claim is formalised.  You would not pay for something in a shop if you did not have it itemised and you knew what you were paying for each item.  The same applies to tenants.  They need to know exactly what cost you are putting to each item with supporting invoice, calculation etc.

16.  Landlords –  whilst you may pay an agent to manage your property, some are not very good at it and accordingly they do not manage the dispute process very well.  Some disputes could actually be resolved easily if the agents always referred more to the landlords. i.,e. dispute about cleaning for carpet.  Tenant disagreed, agent took it to the TDS.  Landlord and tenant would have been happy to meet costs 50% between them but no dialogue with landlord on this.

17.  Agents – Put your most logical, the most knowledgeable about property matters and the person with the most common sense to deal with any landlord / tenant disputes.  You will be amazed what statements are made that show an agent’s lack of commonsense.

18.  Agents/Inventory Companies – if you use a numbering code system to note condition, make sure the code is included in the submission.  But be advised this really gives little information as to the condition or an item if it is just marked as “good” “fair” etc.

And if a dispute does occur …

1.  Landlords/Agents/Tenants – Submit all copy correspondence to TDS – just ‘quoting’  it in the response is just one word against another.  Evidence has to be submitted.

2.  Landlords/Agents/Tenants– Leave personal comments out of a dispute.  Many TDS’s responses are a catalogue of irrelevant complaints rather than dealing with evidence in respect of the landlords’ claim or tenants objection to it.

3.  Landlord/Agentss/Tenants  – Don’t expect an adjudicator to just go on how eloquently you put a case.  It has to be evidenced with hard facts.  Many landlord’s claims are not upheld not because the adjudicator doesn’t believe that the tenants could be at fault but that no evidence to

4.  Landlords/Agents/Tenants –   Just to send in photographs with no date they were taken or room they are of or even what they are of – is pretty useless.

5.  Tenants – Don’t use the TDS as a means for getting out of paying the landlord what is fair.  The whole point of the TDS is that they decided what is fair and they can read very easily between the lines and only evidence, not emotion, is used in adjudicating reports.  If it is not right, then it won’t be upheld but if it is it will be,

6,  Landlords/Agents/Tenants – If you refer to correspondence sent or received to substantiate a point – include a copy of it in evidence.  No good saying, I told the agent there was a chip in the bath if the agent then turns round and says ‘no you didn’t.  If it is in writing then it is clear to all and not just “one person’s word against another”.

7.  Landlords  – do not always rely on Agents to put your case across for you.  Some Agents are professionals and will do far better than a landlord in this regard but some are not and repeatedly rely on “words and emotions” rather than “facts and evidence” to put your case.

8.  Agents – Remember, all file notes are evidence so when they are being written bear that in mind.  That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t be accurate, just not ambiguous.

9.  Landlords/Agents/Tenants – Don’t waste time stating irrelevant facts.  If a case has been put, it needs to be defended point by point, by both parties.  Bringing irrelevant, and sometimes personal, comments into the correspondence is not helpful and does not further anyone’s case.

10.  Landlords/Agents/Tenants – Don’t think that if you are most eloquent that you will win the case.  Adjudication is based on evidence and not words!!

Take Heart. The TDS is working and will eradicate unscrupulous and greedy landlords and tenants and therefore the industry will get fairer as more commonsense comes to bear.

Each failed disputes will eventually dissuade landlords from demanding monies from tenants (because hitherto they could) and from tenants trying to get out of paying for items for which they are responsible by challenging the landlords into bringing down their claims in order not to go through the Dispute process. Then we will be left with bone-fide disputes where both parties do have a legitimate argument and can’t agree and need a third party to adjudicate.

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