What Happens at the End of a Tenancy?
In last months instalment, we looked at management of the property through the tenancy term. In this months edition, we will look at what happens when notice is given and the tenants eventually vacate. Where an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement has been entered into, the tenants are normally required to provide one month’s notice of their intention to vacant. Alternatively, if a landlord asks the tenants to leave, they will need to provide two months notice to vacate, this is a formal document served in a prescribed format. During the notice period, we will arrange to carry out a final inspection at a suitable time to meet with the tenants to ensure everything is in order. We will, of course, be checking in the first instance that the final month’s rent has been paid and ask the tenants to cancel their usual method of payment so that no further monies are received after they leave.
The tenants will already have been provided with a copy of the inventory from when they moved in. You will recall from our last newsletter article that the inventory is a full photographic and written record of the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy. This document provides a point of reference for both the agent and the tenant and will need to be checked off carefully, outlining any points of concern during the process. First of all, we will be looking at the general decorative condition of the property and the overall cleanliness. A landlord must give allowance for ‘fair wear and tear’ so the odd mark to the décor here and there caused by everyday usage has to be accepted. However, if the wallpaper has been torn, ripped or scribbled on, the landlord could reasonably expect for this to be repaired by the tenant.
Secondly, overall cleanliness is often a ‘grey area’. The original inventory should outline the condition of the fixtures, fittings, carpets etc. and will normally make particular reference to the condition of any appliances provided. As a rule of thumb, if a property has been hoovered, dusted and cleaned throughout and this reflects the original condition, there should be no issues. The agent would normally pay particular attention to the cleanliness of the oven, fridge, bathroom fitments (including sealant and grouting) and also any particular stains or spillage marks on the floor coverings.
Furnishings may have been provided in the first instance. Attention must also be paid to the general cleanliness and condition of sofas, armchairs, mattresses and other upholstered items. Again, ‘fair wear and tear’ should be allowed for, however, physical damage – tear marks etc. need to be addressed.
Final utility readings will need to be taken including gas, electric and where necessary water. After these have been logged the appropriate utility providers (including the council tax will need to be advised).
It is usual practice to take a forwarding address for the tenants, confirm bank details for the repayment of the deposit and ensure finally that none of their belongings remains in the property. All of the keys will need to be returned (including window lock keys), the property would normally be left secure with the heating set on low (depending upon the time of year) whilst it remains vacant.
In most cases, agents and tenants are able to agree that everything is in order, however, occasionally such agreement cannot be reached.
Any ‘dispute’ may involve just one point of concern or possibly many. Every effort should be made to illustrate this to the tenant often with the help of the photographic records provided with the inventory.
If all else fails and the situation cannot be resolved the dispute(s) should be raised with the arbitrator acting for the company protecting the tenant’s deposit. This is done ‘on-line’, all tenant deposit schemes offer this facility, they will require a copy of the checkout report by the agent, including detailed notes of the item(s) in dispute along with a copy of the original inventory. Both parties will be asked to make representations to the arbitrator and in the meantime, the registered deposit monies will be ‘ring fenced’ until a full and final decision has been made. This can usually take a few weeks, however, the process is fair and reasonable and both parties will be bound by its findings. Whatever the decision the tenant’s deposit monies will be distributed accordingly.
Landlords – don’t forget the tenant’s deposit monies can be used to compensate for non-payment of rent or to address physical concerns with the final condition when the tenancy finishes. It can only be used when a mutual agreement has been made with the tenant or alternatively a dispute resolution has been reached by the arbitrator.
This concludes our series of recent articles ‘Are you a first-time landlord…?’
If you are a landlord looking for help and advice please contact your local branch of Robert Ellis, we would be more than happy to help.
Thank you for listening.