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1. How to resolve property damage disputes

As a tenant, it is your duty to report any property damage to your landlord. By doing so, you and your landlord can establish what has happened and whether or not you were at fault. Given that 40% of all tenancy deposits are returned with agreed deductions, it is important that you and your landlord agree upon a fair and reasonable agreement for both parties.

One of the most effective ways to resolve a property damage dispute is to keep an inventory of the condition of the property when you move in. If you and your landlord create an inventory which cites the precise condition of the property when you move in, then you can easily resolve whether the property damage was caused as a direct result of your actions, or whether it was natural wear and tear. Simple measures, such as noting the condition of the walls, windows, doors and paintwork, when you move in may prove vital when it comes to resolving any property damage deposit disputes.

The term wear and tear has been defined by the House of Lords as “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces”. Furthermore, the Deposit Protection Service state that “it is an established legal principle that a landlord is not entitled to charge his tenants the full cost for having any part of his property, or any fixture or fitting “…put back to the condition it was at the start of the tenancy.” Landlords should therefore keep in mind that the tenant’s deposit is not to be used like an insurance policy where you might get ’full replacement value’ or ’new for old'”. Therefore, you and your landlord should outline in your tenancy agreement what is regarded as reasonable wear and tear and what is regarded as property damage, as well as outlining the terms under which tenants are required to replace damaged items. By doing so, both you and your landlord equip yourselves with a contractual agreement that is fair and reasonable for both parties involved.

If you have damaged the property during the course of your tenancy and repairs are needed, then there is a process which you and your landlord are required to follow in order to ensure that your landlord receives sufficient compensation and so that you retain a fair portion of your deposit:

The Tenant: As a tenant you are required to report any property damages to your landlord as soon as they occur. By doing so, your landlord can begin to repair these faults within 24 hours thereby preventing the damages from escalating into a more serious problem. You should report these damages to your landlord in writing as well as over the phone. Once you have done so, you should keep copies of all letters written to and from your landlord as well as logging any phone calls or correspondence which took place. Moreover, you should take photos of the property damage as soon as it occurs as well as documenting the methods through which your landlord resolved these repairs. If you and your landlord cannot agree upon a fair deduction from your damage deposit, then you can present this evidence to your tenancy deposit scheme’s dispute resolution service.

The Landlord: Your landlord is required to write to you concerning any repairs which took place. The letter should include the individual costs of each repair, receipts or invoices for any repairs and replacement purchases, an explanation of how much money will be deducted from your deposit and an explanation of when your reduced deposit will be returned to you. According to the Deposit Protection Service, it is necessary for your landlord to illustrate any costs incurred in respect of repair/ replacement work being carried out. This evidence should be itemised fully, to enable an accurate breakdown of the costs being charged for each type of work undertaken. Only receipts or invoices corresponding to claims being made against the deposit are necessary. If these cannot be provided, an explanation should be provided indicating why this evidence is not available”.

Furthermore, both you and your landlord should be present for a final property inspection at the end of your tenancy. During this inspection both you and your landlord will agree upon the final condition of the property and how much of your deposit you will retain. It is advisable to bring your inventory checklist with you to this inspection. By carrying out these measures, both you and your landlord can reach an amiable agreement regarding the condition of the property wherein can retain your full deposit.