Cleaning emerges as the most common problem for landlord tenant deposit disputes

The most common cause of a deposit disputes in the private rented property sector in the UK is cleaning, increasing from 46% in 2010 to 56% in 2013, according to new data from the Tenant Deposit Scheme (TDS).

Cleaning has consistently been the most common dispute in cases brought to the TDS and is now at the highest level since the start of the scheme. Damage to property makes up the second most cause of disputes at 43%, followed by redecoration at 30%, rent arrears at 17% and gardening at 13%.

The new research also shows that 55% of disputes came from tenants, with 21% receiving 100% of the amount in dispute. Some 45% of disputes came from landlords and agents, yet only 19% received 100% of the amount in dispute.

Pat Barber, chair of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC), believes that cleaning is such a big problem because of the general lack of respect for property by tenants; the rise in pets kept in rental property and a change in tenant’s hygiene standards.

‘Time and time again, landlords and agents are increasingly faced with dirty properties at the check out stage. Many tenants fail to leave their property in the same condition when they leave a property and we have seen many properties left in a filthy state,’ she said.

‘The main problems are dirty ovens and fridges, stains and marks on carpeting and flooring, bathrooms which have not been cleaned for months and pet hair and excrement on floors, furniture and soft furnishings,’ she explained.

She gave as an example a property that was left in a very poor condition. No cleaning had taken place during the tenancy. The oven was full of grease with food still present. All carpets were heavily stained and the tenants had kept a dog without the landlord’s permission. Door frames were badly chewed and there was a strong smell of dog urine everywhere. Even after cleaning the smell remained and it was discovered that the urine had soaked through the carpets and seeped into the floor boards, a very difficult problem to solve without huge expense.

‘We often find that tenants are often shocked to realise that professional cleaning can cost anything from £10 to £20 per hour depending on the area and type of work required. Some tenants claim that cleaning issues are just normal wear and tear. The simple answer is that if an area or item was clean at check in it should be left clean at check out. It something can be cleaned then it should be. If any dust or crumbs are present then this is clearly not clean,’ said Barber.

‘It’s vital that landlords and agents do a thorough check in and check out, so they have the right proof of condition at the start and end of a new tenancy agreement. At the check out stage, the tenant should be made aware of the areas requiring cleaning and the potential cost involved,’ she added.

According to the AIIC ovens cause the most problems. If it was listed as completely clean at check in, it must be left in the same condition. Burn marks to any part of the appliance means it is not clean. Tenants are amazed that professional oven cleaning costs between £50 to £80.

Stained and marked carpets are also a very common problem with some tenants trying to hide stains with rugs and furniture. Tenants are also known to cut out the stain and fill the hole with carpet they have cut from a hidden part of the property such as under the bed.

Heavy lime scale to kitchen and bathroom fittings can be a problem in certain locations and the response of tenants is often to say it is not their as it is a hard water area.

Grease deposits throughout the kitchen, surfaces and cupboards may look clean but will feel sticky to touch. Another common problem is thick dust and cobwebs, particularly around furniture and on the ceilings.