Damage tops landlord and tenant disputes

AFS Team·12 January 2015·4 min read
Damage tops landlord and tenant disputes
Resolving a tenant dispute can be a costly exercise for many landlords but there are steps they can take to prevent such disputes from taking place.
Here at landlordmoneysaving.com we often highlight how a landlord can save money by taking some simple steps to avoid costly bills and help improve their tenant’s life with a smooth running tenancy.
By doing so, a landlord will then avoid having to spend time and money when the tenancy ends in trying to resolve problems. A landlord may also save a hefty repair bill in not having to redecorate extensively or replace a damaged washing machine, oven, furniture or bathroom suites, for instance.
This approach has been underlined by research carried out by the inventory service firm My Property Inventories.

Why a property inventory is vital for a landlord

They found that disputes between a landlord and their tenant may only affect less than 10% of tenancies but when a dispute arises the number one cause for complaint is about damage.
Of the issues that are raised, damage accounts for 58% of them, followed by redecoration and then rent arrears and cleaning.
Danny Zane, a director of the firm, said: “It's important that landlords and agents have all the right evidence and documentation to improve their chances of winning or resolving a dispute.”
He added that landlords lose disputes because they cannot provide the evidence to show that the tenant has damaged their property.
Surprisingly, some landlords lose a dispute because they do not have a letting contract in place.
Other landlords also have unfair clauses in their tenancy agreement while others do not conduct a thorough survey of the property at check-in and check-out.

Landlords should keep all communication

Another big issue for landlords in the event of a dispute, is that many don't keep the correspondence they have with their tenant which could prove to be useful evidence.
Mr Zane added: “With rental properties, wear and tear is a fact of life but if agents and landlords want to avoid the argument over who is responsible for any damage then they need to have an inventory on the condition of the property properly prepared which details the state of everything in it.”
Landlords, he also warned, should be aware that tenants are generally aware when they have caused damage because they try to hide it and so landlords need to carry out a thorough examination of the property itself.
However, properly prepared inventory can be used by both a tenant and landlord to help resolve any dispute in a fair and reasonable way.

Tips on what to do when a tenant moves in

His advice is for landlords to take time-stamped photographs of the most common areas of dispute which include the inside of the oven, the garage or shed and also of the keys that have been handed to a tenant.
He also warns landlords that they should ensure the property is actually fit for a tenant and should be clean with the garden in a good state.
Mr Zane said: “Landlords need to start correctly because things will not improve by the end of the tenancy and they could end up with a tatty property that they won't then re-let easily.”
In reality, that means a landlord will then be left with an empty property that is not having its rent paid and having to spend time and money on redecorating and bringing the property back up to a letting standard.