End of tenancy management - Dos and Don'tsBefore the tenancy ends
Do get in touch 6 weeks before the contract is due to expire to find out what your tenants intentions are. Are they looking to stay for another 6 month term or are they thinking of leaving? If they are leaving make sure you have their notice in writing at least 4 weeks before hand. This isn't a legal requirement (if the tenancy is coming to the end of a fixed term) however you want to make sure you have enough time to plan. This may include marketing in the last few weeks to arranging contractors to attend after they have left.
Do set expectations prior to the tenants leaving. A comprehensive end of tenancy letter outlining what you expect to be completed, such as cleaning of all windows internally, skirting boards, professionally cleaning carpets (if this is part of their contract) etc, will go a long way in minimising any potential disputes in the future.
After the tenancy had ended
Don't let tenants back in after the end of tenancy and especially not after a check out report has been compiled. Firstly it would invalidate the check-out report as you are allowing post report changes to be undertaken. Also, if you hand the keys back to the tenant for the property and don't accompany them you could be in a sticky legal situation should they decide not to give the keys back to you in regards to possession of the property!
Of course they still may also not clean/redecorate/garden to the standard you expect and could cause more damage. You would also need another check out report complied which would take time or cost more.
Do get quotes from professional contractors. Should the tenant have had an end of tenancy letter outlying the expectations with enough notice then they should have had ample opportunity to undertake the required work. Any cleaning/gardening/redecoration should then be costed for by professional reliable contractors and negotiated to be paid for from the deposit.
Don't let anyone else access the property before the check-out report is completed either, (such as cleaners or builders) as the inventory clerk will only be able to record the condition of the property at the time of his visit, so if your contractors have made any changes you won't be able to prove it otherwise.
Do make sure your claim is fair.
What is fair wear and tear?
Tenants and landlords will always have a differing opinion as to what is 'fair' when it comes to wear and tear on a property!
Every property and tenancy is different, so there is no hard and fast rule as to what is fair. There are however key considerations to be made, such as the type of property; is it a 4 bed family home or one bed flat? What type of inhabitants; a family with 2 young children and 2 dogs or a single occupant? And overall length of tenancy; 6 months or 6 years?
As an example, if a single occupant of a 1 bedroom flat resided there for 6 months and at the end of the tenancy the walls were heavily scuffed and scratched in the living room, then the claim for redecoration would be higher if the same were at a larger property that had a longer tenancy to a family.
What can I claim?
You will not be able to claim on making your property better than what it was at the start of the tenancy, so In most instances, the total cost of putting the property right will need to be apportioned in order for the claim to be fair. An apportioned cost takes into consideration the age of the item, its condition at the start and end and the cost to put right.
Everything in a rental property will have a life span (and unfortunately these are much lower than we would like to think!) and it will differ dependent of the item. Even decoration on walls can differ dependent on which room it is. For instance the decor of the walls on a bedroom is 7 years, but the hall stairs and landing has a lifespan of only 3 years due to the nature of the use of the room.
ARLA (The Association of Residential Letting Agents) gives comprehensive guidance on this, so if you are using the services of a qualified agent or independent inventory clerk they should be able to advise. They will not however be able to tell you how much to deduct as ultimately this will need to be your decision.
When compiling your claim with your supporting evidence (such as the check in and out reports) it is worth showing your calculations to be sure the adjudicator is aware you have already apportioned the cost fairly.
Cleaning is a direct cost and should not be apportioned. Dirt is classed as tenant damage, but you will need to prove it is dirtier than at the start of a tenancy. This is where having a detailed inventory at the start and at the end is essential as everyone has a differing idea about what is or is not 'clean'. Having a report which highlights the differences in cleanliness makes it much easier to establish tenant liability.
Do make sure your property is at the very least 'domestically clean' at the outset for the initial check in report, otherwise it will make it more difficult to put a strong claim against the deposit for cleaning.
Finally, do keep an objective mind. This is especially difficult if you are emotionally attached to the property and the tenants have not left the property in the way that was expected of them.
Remember that once a property is let it should be treated like a business, so keep records of everything and deal with the facts as they are - don't waste time on speculating why the tenants did or didn't do something, just get on with getting it fixed for your new tenancy and putting forward a professional claim to cover your reasonable costs.
For more information about how McCartan Lettings can take the stress out of end of tenancy management, give them a call on 01792 430100