Deposits - what are the most common claims?
The protection of deposits has been a mandatory requirement since 2007. Over the last decade, the act of registering a deposit has become an industry standard for letting agents and landlords, similar to drafting a tenancy agreement or requesting tenant references.
There are three deposit protection schemes - The Deposit Protection Service, mydeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme - who recently came together to produce a comprehensive guide to deposits, disputes and damages in 2017.
There has recently been a rise in the number of firms offering alternatives which don’t require deposits. However, conventional deposit protection with one of these three schemes remains the most commonplace procedure for agents and landlords.
With the help of the industry report, we take a look at the most common claims made by landlords and agents at the end of a tenancy as well as how the awards process works.
What are the most common claims at the end of a tenancy?
When it comes to making a claim for all or part of the deposit from a tenant, there lies a burden of proof with the landlord or agent. They must prove their claim successfully by supporting it with sufficient evidence to make a case for their deduction. If they can’t do that, the adjudicator will rule in favour of the tenant and they will be entitled to take back their deposit.
Here are some of the most common issues raised at the end of a tenancy and the types of evidence required to make a successful claim:
- Garden issues
Necessary evidence: If the garden has not been maintained to the standard set out at the start of the tenancy, you'll need to provide the tenancy agreement alongside signed copies of both the check-in and check-out inventories. As with most claims, supplementary photographic evidence or indication of inspections and visits are also likely to help your cause.
- Outstanding bills
Necessary evidence: In this instance, when the tenant has not been directly paying the bills, you will need to provide a copy of the tenancy agreement as well as copies of any outstanding or unpaid bills from over the course of the tenancy.
- Rent arrears
Necessary evidence: Bank accounts statements and full statements of the rent account will likely go down well with the adjudicator. What's more, if you can prove you have contacted the tenant - either via email or letter - about outstanding rental payments, this evidence could also come in handy.
- Additional cleaning
Necessary evidence: Cleaning is often a more complicated claim and it is for this reason that it is one of the most common. Landlords or agents will be required to provide the tenancy agreement as well as inventory reports. Timed photographs and evidence of correspondence or inspections will supplement the claim. The adjudicator will make the decision based on whether the property was returned in the same condition it was let, rather than the amount of cleaning required by the landlord.
- Property damage
Necessary evidence: The two pieces of evidence which will almost certainly be required by the adjudicator in this scenario are the tenancy agreement and signed check-in and check-out inventory reports. On top of this, you could also provide photos and proof of mid-term inspections of the property to help substantiate your claim.
How are awards calculated?
Awards are calculated by adjudicators based on the claims made by landlords (or their letting agents). Adjudicators - employed by the deposit protection schemes - are independent experts who are enlisted to make a decision on awards based on the evidence they receive.
They judge how much money is due to each party by weighing up the evidence provided and determining whether the renter has broken their tenancy agreement and whether the landlord is likely to suffer a financial or material loss as a result.
The protection schemes are keen to stress that adjudicators are completely impartial and that it is the landlord or letting agent's job to convince them that they have a right to a financial reward based on the claim they have made.
How can agents and landlords prepare for making a claim?
As you can see from above, the key point for agents and landlords is to make sure they have access to the necessary evidence - the more you can provide, the better.
It's important to remember that although tenants are required to return the property in its original condition, there are exemptions for fair wear and tear. The idea of making a claim is not to make money for landlords and agents, but entitle them to recompense in the event that the tenant breaches their tenancy agreement.
Landlords and agents are also routinely advised to keep up a dialogue with their tenants as, in many cases, a few conversations can encourage both parties to come to a fair agreement without claims having to be made to the deposit protection schemes.