According to a recent industry report carried out by Homelet, end of tenancy issues are broken down into the following categories:
Damage to Property: 42%
Rent arrears: 24%
Garden condition: 3%
We saw this in the Homelet magazine, an article entitled Landlord Survey 2018 and you can view their most recently published stats and reports here.
So we have put together our top tips for reducing these issues to help ensure a smooth ending to a tenancy, for your landlords and/or tenants:
Issue: Property Damage
For Landlords: It is a horrid situation to get the keys back to your rental property and discover that there is a lot of damage that you were unaware of. The best way to ensure that your property comes back in the way you want is to start off on the right foot, ensure you have a full schedule of condition prepared at the outset of the tenancy. This will give a document for the tenant to agree to at the outset, and one which you can use as a checklist throughout the tenancy and at the end. It is well documented that properties without a good starting document are the majority of those with issues at the end of the tenancy. By starting on the right foot, you give a clear indication of the standard you expect for the return of the property. You should then visit the property at least once every 6 months, and, ideally, in the month before the tenancy is due to end. That way you can see what the tenant needs to do before they hand back the keys and can guide the proceedings. Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but by following these tips you limit the situation. For complete peace of mind you can take out accidental damage insurance for your property, and that will cover damage at the end of the tenancy and it will likely be a lot cheaper than the repair bills!
For Tenants: It is very unlikely that you will go into a tenancy expecting to cause damage, and quite often, damage happens unexpectedly. There are many incidents which we hear about, where the tenant accidentally caused damage (such as a hot iron dropping on a carpet, or hair dye marking the bath or shower). If you are a little accident prone, or if you have children or pets in the rental property, it is advised that you take out Tenant Liability Insurance, which can cover you for up to £10,000 of accidental damage. It won’t cover malicious damage caused by yourself or your guests, however, but we hope that scenario is very unlikely to happen!
For Landlords: When you first let out your property ensure it is de-cluttered, newly painted and professionally cleaned to a pre-tenancy standard. When the inventory-make and schedule of condition reports are carried out, you can add the invoice to the inventory to show that you have used a professional cleaning company prior to handing over the keys. Ensure that you have an understanding with the cleaners that, if anything comes to light on moving day, they will return and rectify the clean, to ensure that the property is perfect for the new tenant/s. That way, the tenancy will require the tenant/s to return the property to the same standard as at the start of the tenancy. If the property is not to the correct cleanliness, and the tenant/s dispute this, you will have a comprehensive report with back-up for the deposit resolution service to work with and you should receive the relevant cleaning cost deducted from the deposit.
For Tenants: If you have received an inventory with a schedule of condition at the outset of the tenancy, please ensure you take the time to read it thoroughly and check-it completely, either with the inventory clerk or on your own, if necessary. This document should tell you the cleanliness of every item in the property and that will be the report used to measure how the property is being handed back. If the report states that the property is professionally clean, then you should ensure it is handed back in the same condition at the end of the tenancy. The problem with cleaning a property yourself is that everyone has a different view on standards of cleanliness, and yours might be different from that of your landlord. If they have paid for a proper clean at the start of the tenancy, and you have agreed that cleanliness in the schedule of condition, then it is only fair to return the property in the same way.
If the property was not professionally cleaned at the start of the tenancy, then your obligation is to leave it as you found it, so follow the document as closely as possible. If you did not get an inventory with a schedule of condition at the start of your tenancy, then the landlord cannot pressure you to do any cleaning that you feel is unfair.
Issue: Rent Arrears
For Landlords: Where possible request payment of rent by direct debit so that you are in control of taking the payment. If you are collecting the rent yourself, ensure that you have a clear grasp of when the rent is due and follow strict procedures for chasing any overdue payments. Set up a 7, 14 and 21 day chasing cycle of email, hard copy letter and SMS text messages. If you have a rent guarantee insurance you usually need to let the company know as soon as the rent is overdue, so that they can take over and chase the payment.
For Tenants: Setting up a Direct Debit payment at the start of your tenancy will help ensure your rent goes out on time so that it is received in your landlord or letting agent’s bank account on the agreed due date. That, usually, is the day of the month that your tenancy started, unless you have arranged for an alternative date (when you may have been asked to make an interim payment to align the rent with the payment date). Your tenancy agreement will state the payment day each month should you need to refer to this information for any reason.
If you fall into difficulties the best thing to do is immediately contact your landlord or letting agent and explain the situation. Remember that your landlord is likely to have outgoings to pay on the property and will be reliant on the money coming in on time, so the more notice you can provide the better for all concerned parties.
Issue: Garden Condition
For Landlords: Gardens are often an issue because they look very different throughout the year and depending on seasons. If a tenant moves in during Spring when all of the flowers are blooming and blossom is on the trees, and they leave at the Autumn / Winter threshold when leaves are everywhere and nothing looks particularly green or colourful, it can be quite a different scenario. Ideally, if a garden is large or well-stocked, a gardener should be added into the tenancy, to ensure that the garden is kept looking its best. If the garden doesn’t warrant a gardener but does have lawn or borders, the landlord should provide the tools to keep things tidy, such as a lawn-mower, strimmer or shears. If there are expensive shrubs or trees, please ensure that these are labelled for the tenant and added into the inventory, with photos of how they look in bloom if the tenancy is commencing out of season.
You can also negotiate clauses with the tenant/s to ensure they look after the garden in the correct way, but remember that not every tenant has green-fingers, and sometimes plants and trees die, through no fault of the person looking after them.
For Tenants: If you are moving to a property with a garden, then it will be your responsibility to take care of that garden. Please ensure that you are fully informed of what that requires at the outset of the tenancy and that you have requested the tools needed to do the necessary work.
If the garden is large or well stocked, make sure that you are familiar with what it will take to maintain the correct upkeep, and if you are not green-fingered, or have no time for gardening, then try to organise someone to do the work for you. Before the tenancy commences you can try to negotiate a gardening clause in the contract, you may pay slightly more rent but the landlord will be responsible for organising the gardener, and they are more likely to know people locally, perhaps they even had someone previously, who could continue to do the work.
If you are vacating a property during Autumn or Winter, please make sure that you clear the leaves from the garden, paths & gutters, as this is a tenant responsibility.
Be careful when cutting shrubs and trees, or weeding borders, that you do not remove or cut down expensive plants or you will be liable for replacing them. Your inventory should have listed any such plants, ideally with photographs.
We’ve put these tips into handy, unbranded PDFs that you can download here:
Landlords- Reducing End of Tenancy Issues