In 2007 the government appointed the tenancy deposit bodies and introduced the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. The scheme aims to protect tenants from the unethical landlords and letting agents who were, according to the government, unfairly withholding the return of deposit monies from them at the end of a tenancy.
Under the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme where property is let, the deposit must be controlled by an independent third party rather than the landlord or agent. That third party returns the deposit to the tenant at the end of the tenancy unless the Landlord can show that there are reasons to withhold repayment, e.g. for damages or cleaning.
The tenancy deposit bodies appear to have developed a, somewhat unfair, reputation with landlords for being biased towards tenants. This has been further reinforced by the statistics released last year which show that 92% of cases have been found in favour of tenants and that landlords lost over £12M – and that’s just the cases that actually went all the way to adjudication.
However, in defence of the deposit bodies, they are not biased in favour of the tenant. Their attitude is simply that the deposit money rightfully belongs to the tenant unless the landlord can prove that there is a justifiable reason for keeping it. To prove it the landlord must have strong evidence. That means a thorough inventory detailing the property, its contents and their condition at the start of the tenancy and a comparative check out report at the end highlighting the differences in condition.
Good landlords have always conducted inventories on their properties, albeit fairly basic ones in most cases, but a simple checklist of contents is no longer sufficient. The burden of proof lies squarely with the landlord and the corroborative evidence must be watertight.
Without strong evidence clearly detailing the disparity and cleanliness or condition, the adjudicators will indeed find in favour of the tenant.
Why leave it to chance?
It is therefore essential for the landlord to have a professional, independent, inventory backed up by visual evidence (before and after photographs) of the damaged or dirty item. However, the problem with photographs is that you need thousands of them to cover all the possible areas that might be damaged. It is for this reason we chose to use high definition video to support our inventories as a half hour video recording can amass evidence equivalent to tens of thousands of still photographs.
Of course landlords are being hit from all sides by charges. However, when you consider that the cost of a professional clean will likely exceed £100, and that you have no chance of claiming that money from the tenant without a proper inventory, a reasonably priced video inventory is something every prudent landlord should have each time they let a property.