Top tips for landlords dealing with disputes

Suzy Hershman, Head of Adjudication at mydeposits gives her top five tips to help landlords dealing with deposit disputes…

I’ve been an adjudicator for over seven years. That means I’ve spent lots of time meeting and talking to landlords and agents during dispute workshops.

It seems the same questions come up over and over again. Particularly common topics for discussion are around issues like evidence and the condition of the property at certain times.

I’ve put together a few tips based on my experience on how best to deal with your tenants and your property throughout the tenancy.

These will help you limit the chances of a dispute happening, and how you can deal with one if it does.

1. Disputes start at the beginning of the tenancy

Be sure to complete important documents properly before the tenancy start. This will limit the chances of a formal dispute later. You should have a detailed check-in inventory and a written tenancy agreement that sets out both yours and your tenant’s obligations.

As long as both you and your tenant are realistic, reasonable and clear about your responsibilities, there should be no reason for a deposit dispute.

2. Carry out a mid-term inspection

The average tenancy lasts between one and two years. During that time a lot can happen. Inspecting your property regularly and dealing with issues swiftly can save both you and your tenant time and money. It can also help you avoid a formal dispute at the end. Just remember to give your tenant at least 24 hours’ notice if you plan on making an inspection.

3. Understand who your tenants are

The number and type of tenants that live in your property will affect how much wear and tear there is. For example, families and students may cause more than a professional couple.

You should bear in mind that you might have to cover any extra maintenance when the tenancy ends, and that this may not count as negligence on behalf of the tenant. A tenant isn’t responsible for reasonable wear and tear. That includes anything that will inevitably happen over the course of the tenancy.

You should consider and compare the condition of the property at the start and end of the tenancy when deciding whether or not to deduct any money from the deposit.

4. Don’t add claims AFTER the check-out inspection

These claims are not usually successful in a formal deposit dispute. If a landlord makes claims of tenant negligence after the check-out inspection, you will need further evidence to succeed.

You should do a detailed final inspection on the day or within 48 hours of the tenant moving out. This must record the exact condition of the property at the time. It will only be in extenuating circumstances and with robust evidence that further claims may be considered.

5. You can’t claim for the full replacement cost of an item or area damaged by your tenant

As a landlord, you’re not entitled to end up in a better position than you would have been if the tenant had not caused any damage. This means adjudicators must ensure that any award is fair and proportionate. This is the case no matter how long or short the tenancy was.

For example, a new build property only has a certain lifespan before it needs to be redecorated. So after the expected wear to the property over a 12 month tenancy, partial damage to a wall doesn’t entitle you to the full cost at the end of the tenancy.

More info

Watch Suzy’s’ latest video interview with the London Rental Standard for more advice on how to handle deposit disputes.

For more info on what you can and can’t claim for when making deposit disputes including how to claim for some common issues, see our guide ‘The rules of claiming for deposit deductions.’

Mydeposits is an official partner of the London Rental Standard. It offers special discounted rates for landlord and agent accredited members. We have protected tenancy deposits for over 55,000 landlords in London since 2007.

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