Immaculate floors, clean walls, and furniture sitting where it’s supposed to be – returning to a spotless let after a tenancy ends is the dream for most landlords.
Yet reality is often far from ideal, with strange stains on the walls, damaged furniture, and tons of rubbish not uncommon. These are the kinds of disagreements that cause major arguments at home–between tenant and landlord, disputes that can escalate to a court.
Here’s a guide to help save both parties the headache, as well as ensure the property’s as close to ready as it can be for its next tenant.
Set Expectations At The Start Of Tenancy
The best way to avoid messy disputes and a messy property, is to make sure everyone’s on the same page right from the beginning. An inventory or check-in report will be indispensable for quantifying cleanliness which should be the landlords responsibility. Tenants are often told that the property has to be as clean as they found it, and check-in reports will give both parties a clear and objective measure of what that means.
The list should include the condition of appliances and furniture. You’ll also want to spend a little more effort into detailing areas that see heavy use, such as the kitchen or bathroom. We also recommend taking pictures to further eliminate guesswork when the time comes to compare the state of fixtures and items.
Conduct A Thorough Final Walkthrough
Final inspections are your last chance to catch violations that you should deduct from the deposit. Landlords won’t want to rush this process. After the deposit is returned, it’ll be very difficult to make claims. In some cases, you may no longer be able to contact former tenants.
So make sure to scrutinise every nook or cranny. While marks and gunk on floors and walls are much more noticeable, the mess might be hiding in places that are easily overlooked. Water and electric utilities such as faucets, flushes, outlets, and light switches should also be tested to ensure everything is in working condition.
Kitchens are notorious for harbouring nasty surprises. Don’t forget to pop the oven open to check if drip trays are clean. Rangehood filters are also typically overlooked by tenants when doing general cleaning, and so accumulate a fair amount of grease. Check if refrigerators have been defrosted properly and haven’t been overrun by mould.
Make Fair Deductions
Charging a cleaning fee at the end of residencies has been illegal since 2019. However, it is within a landlords rights to deduct from the deposit to cover cleaning and repair costs.
These deductions are typically the main source of disputes at the end of a residency. As a landlord, it’s important to be able to distinguish what is and what isn’t fair wear and tear. For instance, worn carpeting is to be expected, especially for long-term tenants. However, wine or coffee stains on the carpet are completely avoidable with proper care.
Many landlords also falsely believe that it’s acceptable to swap old for new. Also known as “betterment”, this happens when landlords gain a landlord gains more materially at the expense of the tenant. If the carpet was already stained before tenants move in, they can’t and shouldn’t be expected to pay to replace it by the end of their contract.
Settle Disputes Professionally
Disputes can still arise between tenants and landlords even after terms have been negotiated and agreed upon. Between 2021 to 2022, 31,276 claims were made against deposit schemes across England and Wales. Exactly half of these involved cleaning, according to a report by The Dispute Service.
While resolving disputes isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun afternoon, there’s no reason you can’t be amicable. If you can’t come to a resolution on your own, it’s best to hire an attorney to facilitate the process.
In the UK, you can hire a dispute service for free if you’ve registered the tenant’s deposit with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme provider. In fact, landlords are required–with a few exceptions–to register deposits under these schemes for protection at the start of a tenancy. Landlords who fail to do so could be penalised with a hefty fine.
Evidence will be crucial. Gather receipts from repairs, statements from contractors, and take comparison photos of the contested area or appliance–anything that supports your claim. Adjudicators will use these to make their decision after both parties have made their cases.
Make sure to file a claim no longer than three months after a tenant moves out. Any longer and dispute services will no longer accept the case.
They’ve Finally Moved Out, What’s Next?
By law, you can’t force a tenant who’s on their way out to hire a professional cleaning service. You can get lucky with a tenant who’ll do that on their own, but in most cases people try to clean a property by themselves to save money.
While the property may be left clean enough to satisfy lease agreements and release the deposit, there’s no substitute for professional work. Hiring a service ensures that you can set the highest standard for cleanliness for your next tenants.
If you already have a tenant scheduled to move in at a specific date, make sure to leave enough time for post-tenancy clean up. You may find issues that take a little more time to fix, such as nicotine stains on walls or mould growth.
As a landlord, you’ll encounter a mixed bag of tenants. While some will make post-tenancy clean up a breeze, many more can leave your property in disarray. Expect disagreements, but with careful documentation and inspection, you can make fair claims that will minimise the cost you have to pay to restore your property and get it ready for the next occupants.
If you’re interested in listing your property with us, please head to our website or get in touch on 0117 911 8663.