Only a minority of UK landlords experience disputes with damage top of the list

Over the last 12 months under 10% of UK landlords have experienced a tenant dispute but when it does happen it usually concerns damage, new research has found.

Of the minority who had problems some 66% opted to settle the dispute in court, while 34% managed to resolve issues without the help of the legal system, according to the study by inventory service provider My Property Inventories.

Damage to property was the number one dispute, accounting for 58% of problems, followed by redecoration at 51% and cleaning and rent arrears at 42%.
‘It is so important that agents and landlords ensure they have all the right documentation and evidence to improve their chances of resolving or winning a dispute,’ said Danny Zane, director of My Property Inventories.
‘Unfortunately, landlords are losing disputes because they can’t provide the right evidence to show that a tenant has damaged the property. For example, some landlords are failing to put a letting contract in place, or they have very unfair clauses in the contact. Other landlords don’t conduct an adequate check-in and check-out, or don’t keep copies of correspondence with the tenant which could be evidence in a dispute,’ he explained.
‘Normal wear and tear is a fact of life with rental properties, but if landlords and agents wish to avoid the hassle of arguments over who is responsible for damage, they need to prepare a thorough inventory of the condition of the property, that details the condition of everything in it,’ he added.
He pointed out that usually tenants are aware that they have caused actual damage to a property and will try to hide it. ‘Hence it is vital that landlords and agents ensure that there is a thorough examination of the property and its contents to identify any damage at the check-out,’ said Zane.
‘If landlords have a thorough and detailed inventory, it will enable both parties to be treated fairly and reasonably. By opening a dialogue with tenants and using an independent inventory clerk, disputes can be resolved quicker and without the hassle that is often experienced at the end of a tenancy period,’ he added.
The firm says that the more detailed the inventory the better. There should be dated photographs of the garden, the interior of the shed or garage, inside of the oven and keys handed over to tenants as these are the main areas of problems that occur and are often down to misinterpretation at the end of a tenancy.

‘Remember, you don’t need photos of every single corner of the property. Stick to the important things. Don’t try to produce a completely photographic or filmed inventory without a complete written accompanying inventory,’ the firm says.

Landlords should also make sure their property is fit for letting. On check-in day the place should be completely clean and any garden areas should be tidy, lawns cut, borders weeded etc. ‘If you don't start correctly, then things definitely won’t improve by check-out day/end of tenancy and you'll end up with a very tatty property, which won’t be let easily,’ the firm points out.
It also points out that tenants cannot be charged for improvements or for making good or cleaning things that were wrong at the start and are still wrong at the end of the tenancy.

Tenant signs their agreement at the end and the firm advises that when moving out day comes, it is best to try to make sure that the tenant is present at the check-out and make sure all the problems are explained as nasty surprises later will cause disputes.

Overall it recommends always trying to keep good communication ongoing with tenants and encourage them to report any problems, as and when they occur during the tenancy. ‘This ensures that your property will be kept in as good a condition as possible, and that their negligence will not cause more serious problems and expense for both you and the tenants,’ it adds.