The process of checking tenants out is a lot more involved than collecting the keys and making arrangements to return the deposit. This article considers the steps needed once notice has been given to avoid any pitfalls.
Assuming the correct notice has been given and an end date has been established, the first step is to confirm, in writing, that any notice has been received and is being processed.
While the tenancy agreement will contain everything the tenants need to know, it's important to familiarise them with key terms of the tenancy agreement, after all, it may have been several years ago since they last saw it. It's best practice to write to your tenants and confirm what keys issues need to be addressed.
- Explain when the last rental payment is due and to cancel any standing order.
- Make the tenants aware viewings may be carried out during their final stay
- Remind your tenants of the standard of condition you expect the property to be left in:
- Clean carpets
- Clean furniture, upholstery, curtain etc
- To return any decorating that's been carried out back to original
- Defrost freezers and leave switched off refrigerators with doors left open
- Deep clean any appliances
- Ensure gardens are left neat and tidy
- Ensure all waste is removed from the property including any waste bins
- Obtain the tenants forward address
- Obtain the tenant's bank account details for the deposit return promptly
You'll need to make arrangements with the tenants to collect the keys which is often best carried out at the property. That way, you can walk through any issues found with the tenant in person.
Explain Damage Assessment and fair wear and tear
Prevention is often easier than rectifying issues after the fact, so it's a good idea to explain to tenants while they are still in the property what the consequences maybe if items are found to be damaged in the property. Explaining this at this stage increasing the chance of a property being returned in a suitable condition.
It's a good idea to include 'a guide to deposits disputes and damages' from the deposit scheme. While lengthy, it would help answer any questions the tenants may have about the process.
Carry out a fully conditioned inventory
If a landlord feels their property hasn't been returned to them in a suitable condition, the only way they would be able to make a claim against the tenant's deposit (if the tenants didn't agree), would be by providing evidence.
The best evidence that a tenancy deposit scheme would consider useful is a fully conditioned check out inventory combined with a fully conditioned check in inventory taken at the start of the tenancy. It's the two reports combined that compliment each other - one does not work without the other. An inventory should be detailed enough to show:
- clear photos of every item,
- have them date and time stamped,
- have the document signed by the tenants to show they accept the document as being fair and accurate.
If an inventory isn't taken at the end of the tenancy, and the tenant disagrees with any deductions you'd like to make at the end the tenancy, a landlord would find it extremely difficult to make a successful claim against them.
Understanding what deductions can be made
This is quite a complex area and one that deserves it's own article. For more information, download the TDS Guide to Deposit Disputes and Damages which goes over this process.
Rectify issues and Negotiate any deductions
At this point, tenants would be expecting to receive their deposit back so if there are issues that need rectifying, you'll want to carry them out right away. If using contractors, you'll need to keep copies of all the invoices as this would be evidence you'll need in the event of any dispute.
Once all the work has been completed you'll need to formally explain your findings to the tenants, and have them sign their approval to deduct any funds from their deposit. When compiling this document, it's a best practice to explain the following:
- Show condition of the item in question at the start of the tenancy
- Show condition of the item in question at the end of the tenancy
- Explain which clauses in the tenancy agreement they have allegedly breached
- Explain what actions have taken
- Detail the costs and explain any adjustments
Hopefully, at this point, the evidence will be self-explanatory and tenants should agree to any deductions. If not, however, landlords will need to negotiate and explain the findings with the tenants until an agreement has been reached so the deposit can be returned.
In the case of deposits being protected with the TDS (like ourselves), landlords have 10 days to return a deposit, unless there is a dispute where it's understood it will take longer. The TDS can only adjudicate any dispute if the tenancy ended in the last 3 months.
We make this process easier for Landlords
As you can see, the check-out process is quite involved. For our managed service, we take care of all above as standard, however, for landlords who choose to manage the property themselves, we undertake all the work for a charge of £180 inc VAT. It's a great way for landlords who are able to manage their property themselves but might find it difficult to find the time to give as much attention as this process needs.
For more information or help, get in touch and we'll be happy to assist!