London Landlord Deposit Disputes Highest In the UK
When it comes to the end of a tenancy and the return of the tenant deposit, there are plenty of things that can go wrong, wherever your property is based.
However, according to a recent report, London landlord deposit disputes appear to be the highest in the UK.
This blog delves deeper into the reasons behind landlord/tenant disputes in London and what can be done to avoid these disagreements altogether.
London Deposit Disputes
According to Property Wire, London is home to the highest cases of rental disputes between landlords and tenants.
This data comes from Ome, a deposit replacement membership scheme, who found that a sizable 37% of all rental disagreement cases last year came from the UK’s capital. London was followed by the South East with 16% of cases and the North West coming in at 11%.
Why London? It could be partly due to the fact that rental prices are far higher, demanding hefty deposits. The greater the sum being argued over, the more likely both parties will want a return on their investment.
Common Causes of Deposit Disputes
The data showed that the number one reason for deposit disputes across the majority of the UK, including London, was poor communication. Whereas, in the South East, the most common cause was cleanliness at check out.
Other common reasons for disputes include;
- Damage to property
- Missed payments
- Inventory discrepancies
Landlord Deposit Dispute: Wear and Tear
What constitutes fair wear and tear is an issue that often occurs at the end of the tenancy, as the definition can vary from person to person. Our guide on fair wear and tear sets out what is considered to be normal and unavoidable wear and tear and how to help tenants prevent further damage.
Landlord Deposit Dispute: Cleaning
Cleanliness at check-out was another common issue when it came to rental deposit disputes last year. This can be avoided through regular property inspections and investing in a pre-check out service.
How to Avoid Deposit Disputes
If you’re a landlord or letting agent in London, minimising the chance of disputes will most likely save you time and money in the long term (not to mention stress!)
Here are some of the ways you can avoid a dispute in the first place;
Tenancy Deposit Protection
Ensure the deposit is protected in a tenancy deposit scheme as this is a legal requirement. Failure to do so could lead to your tenant demanding a full return of their deposit or more.
Tenancy Deposit Return Time Limit
At the end of a tenancy, landlords must return the deposit within 10 days after any deposit deductions have been agreed.
Invest in a Professional Inventory Service
One of the most important steps you can take to avoid deposit disputes is by starting the tenancy right with a thorough and professional inventory.
A professional inventory report will set out the condition of the property and its contents at check-in, highlighting any changes at the end of the tenancy. This vital document provides evidence to support you if you need to deduct from the deposit. For example, if there is damage to the property or furnishings beyond normal wear and tear or if there are items missing from the final inventory.
An inventory report signed by the tenant is your best protection if your tenant decides to raise a dispute over deposit deductions. Without it, you are very unlikely to recover the funds for maintenance and repair.
Consider a Pre-Check Out Service
Another way to avoid a dispute is to provide tenants with a pre-check out service at the end of their tenancy. As part of this service, a property clerk will visit the property and provide advice to tenants on what maintenance needs to be undertaken in order to have their full deposit returned.
The benefits of a pre-check out service include smoother transitions between tenants, less maintenance needed and therefore less chance of deposit disputes.
Regular Property Inspections
Organising regular property inspections to your rental helps to minimise the chance of disputes as experienced clerks can check that the property is being properly maintained by tenants and reduce the chance of damage at check-out.
It may sound obvious, but this is a common problem amongst landlords / letting agents and tenants, particularly in London. A breakdown in communication or negative feedback can lead to a lack of trust and a greater chance of deposit disputes when you reach the end of the tenancy agreement.
To avoid this, it’s best to give a positive first impression to tenants and maintain regular and honest lines of communication.
Landlord Deposit Dispute Advice
If issues can’t be solved through direct and honest communications, it may be worth seeking the advice of a dispute resolution service to resolve the issue. An impartial adjudicator will be able to assess the dispute and hopefully come to an agreement that is acceptable to both sides.
If it comes to this, having a detailed inventory report is vital. At No Letting Go, we provide professional inventory reports to landlords, letting agents and property businesses throughout the UK. With expert local branches around the country and the latest property technology at our disposal, we’re experienced at helping property professionals protect their investment.
Find your local London property inventory service here.
Don’t let a deposit dispute affect your business, explore our property inventory service today.
What if your tenant moves out without paying their utility bills or council tax? Does it fall on you as the landlord to pick up the pieces?
This is a common question among both landlords and tenants, and it needs clearing up. So, who is responsible for unpaid utility bills? Let’s find out.
Are Landlords Responsible For Unpaid Utility Bills?
Not usually. As long as it is the tenant’s name on the bill, and it is stated in the tenancy agreement that tenants are responsible for utilities, landlords are not liable for unpaid bills left over by tenants.
However, as a landlord, there are some steps you will need to take to protect yourself if you find yourself in this tricky situation;
- Always tell the local council when a new tenant moves in. You will need to provide the names of the new tenants and the contact details of the previous tenants so they can get in touch if needs be.
- Inform the energy suppliers of the property of any change in tenancy (this includes gas, electricity and water)
- Encourage new tenants to change the name on the utility bills as soon as possible.
- Make a note of the meter readings at the start and end of each tenancy so you have a record for the utility companies.
- Ensure your tenancy agreement clearly states that utility payments are the responsibility of the tenant.
- Keep a signed copy of the tenancy agreement in a safe, easily accessible place.
What Bills Are Tenants Responsible For?
This depends on the tenancy agreement you have in place.
Commonly, tenants are responsible for the following bills;
- Council tax
However, this is not always the case. Let’s look at two different situations;
Utilities Registered In The Tenant’s Name
When bills are registered in the tenant’s name, the tenant is responsible for paying them from the date they move into the property. However, they are not responsible for any debts left behind from previous tenants. It’s important for tenants to check the meter readings on move-in day so they can supply their energy providers with the correct readings at the start of their tenancy.
In this case, landlords are not required to pay any remaining payments after their tenant has left. The utility companies will have to chase the tenant themselves, meaning the issue is out of your hands.
Utilities Registered In The Landlord’s Name
You can choose to register bills in the landlord’s name and ask the tenant to pay you for their usage. This can be helpful for short lets, or if you rent out a room in your own house. However, if the tenant leaves without paying, you may be responsible for paying the outstanding sum.
To avoid this situation, always follow the steps outlines above.
End Of Tenancy Utility Bills
To end a contract, most utility suppliers require a few days notice before the end of a tenancy. As long as the bills are in the tenant’s name, this is entirely their responsibility to organise.
If there is outstanding debt left over and…
- The utilities are in the landlord’s name
- Or the tenant failed to register for utilities whilst living at the property
You may be able to prove the tenants were living at the property if you supply a copy of the tenancy agreement. However, this will depend on the individual policies of the utility companies.
Who Is Responsible For Bills During Void Periods?
If your property is empty for any period of time, the owner of the property is responsible for utility payments.
This is why it’s best to keep energy usage to a minimum in between tenants. However, during the winter, we recommend keeping the heat consistent to protect against mould and damp and avoid further maintenance costs in the long run.
If your property is left vacant for an extended period, you will need to organise regular vacant property inspections to check for leaks or mould.
Who Is Responsible For Utilities In Multiple Occupancy Properties?
If there are several tenants living at a property, disputes can often arise regarding bills. The main thing to remember is that whoever’s name is on the bill is ultimately responsible.
This means, if all tenants in a house share or HMO rental property have their name registered to a utility bill, they are all equally liable to repay debts, even if it’s only one tenant who hasn’t paid.
Property Management Help From No Letting Go
One of the simplest ways to avoid disputes and protect your investment at the end of a tenancy is to have all of your property reports in one easily accessible place.
All of our check in reports come with utility checks and meter readings included to help landlords and property professionals keep on top of their responsibilities.
Keen to learn more about how our flexible reporting could help? Find our full list of property inventory services here.
As a landlord, you’ll understand the importance of finding reliable tenants that pay the rent on time. One way to secure this is through comprehensive tenant reference checks. But what happens if a potential tenant fails their credit check?
Renting to tenants with bad credit doesn’t necessarily spell disaster. If the tenant ticks all the right boxes, there are ways to get around this issue and protect yourself and your investment.
What Is A Tenant Reference Check?
A tenant reference check helps landlords and letting agents decide if a tenant is likely to be reliable and pay each month’s rent on time.
In addition to a credit check, tenant referencing can look for;
- Proof of identity
- Proof of employment
- Current salary
- Bank statements
- Proof of benefit claims
- Right to rent in the UK
- A previous landlord reference
What Is A Credit Check?
A credit check looks at the tenant’s credit report and financial history, spotting any times they have missed bill payments or have fallen into arrears. This is analysed to produce an individual credit score.
A credit score can range from around 0- 900 points, depending on the score system used. A good credit score could be anything above 750 points.
What’s The Minimum Credit Score A Landlord Should Accept For A Tenant?
An acceptable credit score will be dependent on the scoring system used, as they differ between referencing agencies. However, when a tenant’s credit score comes back as poor or very poor, you may want to think about asking some further questions.
What Causes A Bad Credit Scoring?
A poor credit score can be caused by a number of issues, some more concerning than others when it comes to potential tenants.
Here are a few of the more serious reasons for a poor credit rating;
Naturally, being in debt can negatively affect a tenant’s credit score as it suggests that they struggle to manage their money and are not financially stable. If this issue is uncovered by a credit check, you may think twice about entering into a tenancy agreement.
Being Declared Bankrupt
This should set major alarm bells ringing for landlords as it suggests the tenant has had difficulty managing repayments in the past.
County Court Judgements
A County Court Judgment (CCJ) is when a tenant is forced to repay a debt by the courts. If this shows up, it’s not a great first impression.
Late Credit Card Or Loan Repayments
If a tenant has struggled to pay credit card repayments in time, this doesn’t bode well for rent payments.
There are also a number of issues that can affect credit scores that don’t necessarily mean a tenant will struggle with their finances;
Not Having A Credit History
One reason for a poor credit rating that is particularly common among younger tenants and students is not having a credit history at all. If the tenant has never taken out a credit card or loan and has never paid bills from their bank account, they won’t have a credit trail to check, resulting in a low score.
This is a likely occurrence if you rent to students or young adults who have just left home and doesn’t necessarily mean that the tenant will be bad at managing their money.
Only Making The Minimum Credit Card Repayments
Credit scores can be affected if the tenant only makes the minimum repayment on their credit card each month. The assumption is that they are struggling to keep up with all their outgoings, however this isn’t always the case.
Not Being On the Electoral Roll
Not updating addresses and personal information can affect credit score, as can not being on the electoral roll. This step is easily forgotten when moving house and doesn’t prove the tenant will be unreliable.
No Proof Of Address
If a tenant hasn’t been responsible for paying bills at their previous residence or were not named on the tenancy agreement, it can be difficult for the referencing agency to determine proof of address.
How Important Is Good Credit?
As we explored above, good credit isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to finding a good tenant. Equally as important is whether they fit your target tenant profile.
If you’ve been struggling to rent out your property or think the tenant will make a good fit, there are ways to get around bad credit.
How To Rent to Tenants With Bad Credit
Poor credit rating alone doesn’t mean you should give up on a tenant if they tick all the other boxes. Here are some ways to minimise risk;
The first thing to do when a potential tenant’s credit check comes back as poor, is to find out why. If it was down to late or missed payments it may be best to steer clear, however if it’s something as simple as a lack of credit history then it needn’t stop you from going ahead with the tenancy.
Ask To See Previous Rent Payments
Seeing proof of regular, timely rent payments for a previous rental arrangement will help to ease your concerns about their responsibility as a tenant.
Charge a Larger Deposit
If a tenant has a low credit score, it’s likely they will be prepared to pay a slightly larger security deposit to make up for it. This will give you extra leverage when it comes to recovering costs at the end of the tenancy.
Ask For A Guarantor
One of the best ways to protect yourself if a tenant has poor credit is to ask for a guarantor. A guarantor will be able to cover any costs if the tenant is unable to pay, giving you extra protection.
The guarantor will need to sign the tenancy agreement along with the tenant and have secure financial status.
Ask For A Previous Landlord Reference
One sure way to find out if a tenant is reliable is to ask their previous landlord.
Here are some questions to ask;
- Did the tenant pay rent on time each month?
- Did the tenant look after the rental property?
- How often did the tenant raise issues with the landlord or letting agent?
- Were any complaints received from neighbours regarding the tenant?
- What condition did they leave the property at the end of the tenancy?
- Would you feel happy renting to the tenant again?
Ask For Rent Upfront
While this may be a lot to ask and not always in scope, a tenant with a high risk credit score may be prepared to pay rent upfront. Paying the first six months of rent upfront will ease any initial worries and give the tenant time to prove their reliability.
Receive Payments By Direct Debit
Asking for rent payments via direct debit is common practice these days and is especially important if you’re concerned about a tenant’s financial responsibility.
Shorten The Tenancy
If you’re worried about the reliability of a tenant, setting a shorter, probationary rental period in which the tenant has time to prove their responsibility could be a good idea. If you experience late payments or other issues, you can terminate the tenancy early.
Talk To The Tenant
You can tell a lot from a frank, face-to-face conversation. If your potential tenant willingly discloses their credit issues and can provide a reasonable explanation for the low score, you will be much better placed to make an informed decision.
How To Organise A Tenant Reference Check
Although credit checks aren’t the only way to choose the right tenant, it is important to perform tenant referencing so you aren’t caught out further down the line.
As a busy landlord, you may want to delegate this task to a professional tenant referencing company. Placing this responsibility in the experienced hands of a recommended referencing company will minimise any risks and help the process go smoothly.
Protect Your Property With No Letting Go
In addition to choosing a reliable tenant, a comprehensive inventory is one of the best ways to protect your rental property.
At No Letting Go, we offer unbiased property inventory reports to help safeguard your property against damage and recover essential costs at the end of a tenancy. All the way through from Schedule of Condition, to check in and property visits, our property clerks are there to simplify the rental process and save you time.
Interested in hearing more? Head to our website to discover the full range of property management services we offer.
The subject of lodger deposits has always been one of a great many grey areas for both landlords and tenants.
Given the fact that every penny of the deposit money technically belongs to the tenant or lodger, and that deposit disputes can take time and money, it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure both sides fully understand their rights and obligations.
From carrying out a comprehensive check-in inventory at move in, to knowing your rights as a landlord, letting agent or lodger – we explore how to negotiate the return of the lodger deposit.
What is the Difference Between a Lodger and a Tenant?
The difference between a lodger and a tenant is:
- A tenant pays rent and lives in a property you own but do not live in
- A lodger lives in the same property as you and pays rent
Negotiating the return of a deposit if you are a lodger, living in student halls or living at the same property as your landlord is a slightly different process to that of the standard rental property tenant.
The most important difference in regard to rights, is that landlords and letting agents are not required to place a lodger deposit into a deposit protection scheme.
In comparison, lodger agreements are called licenses rather than tenancy agreements and landlords are legally permitted to give a reasonable notice period anywhere from 14 days to 28 days. The time period should be set out in the original license and agreed upon by both landlord and lodger.
How Much Is A Deposit?
A standard lodger’s deposit tends to be one month’s rent. However, this isn’t fixed and some landlords and letting agents demand up to 6 weeks.
Negotiating the Return of a Lodger Deposit: First Steps
When the time comes to begin negotiating the return of a deposit, the first step is for the lodger to request the return in writing. Lodgers should write directly to the landlord and ask them to return the deposit, being sure to keep copies of all correspondence in both directions. You may be required to produce evidence of such requests at a later time, so it’s a good idea to hold onto them.
The best time to return the deposit to a former lodger is after they have moved out with their possessions and you have checked the room thoroughly for any damage.
Lodger Deposit Protection
What’s different about this particular scenario is the way in which lodgers are not considered short-hold tenants, which means the landlord is not under any legal requirement to protect deposits using an appropriate tenancy deposit scheme. This doesn’t necessarily affect lodger’s actual rights when it comes to the deposit in general but can affect the negotiation and deposit return processes.
Establish a Deadline
Most professional landlord inventory services in the UK agree that problems generally occur when lodgers are not direct and/or demanding enough when it comes to requesting what is rightfully theirs. If the deposit should have been returned but has not, the best course of action is to begin with a written request for its immediate return with a specified deadline – something like two weeks.
Lodgers can also take the opportunity to ask in the letter why the deposit has not yet been refunded, along with whether or not they can expect any deductions to be made and the respective reasons.
If unsure how to go about this, there are plenty of useful templates available online.
Lodger Deposit Disputes and Deductions
As a lodger landlord, you are required to clearly list and explain any deductions to be taken from the deposit. If you fully agree with your lodger that the deductions are fair, you can confirm your agreement and arrange for the remaining deposit to be refunded.
If deductions are made, though no breakdown or explanation is provided, lodgers can request that this is done urgently. And if there are any deductions you do not agree with, you may need to dispute the deposit.
What are Reasonable Deductions?
Landlords and letting agents can deduct money from the lodger’s deposit if the lodger has any outstanding rent or if they have caused any damage to their rented living space. Damage above the level of fair wear and tear could include damage or stains on furniture or furnishings or missing items from the inventory.
Lodger Agreement Deposit Return: Court Action
From time to time, disputes cannot be resolved through talking alone and you may find that your lodger takes court action. Lodgers can also claim online through the Courts & Tribunals Service.
For a claim to be successful, it will need plenty of documented evidence of attempts to recover the deposit manually, as well as evidence in regard to the condition of the rented space at check-out.
Landlords do have the option of making an offer before the case proceeds any further.
Don’t Skip the Inventory Report
One way to ensure the return of the lodger deposit goes smoothly, without resorting to the courts is to have a detailed inventory report in place.
- Provide evidence of the condition of the room or property at the start and end of the lodging period
- Provide evidence of the condition of furniture and furnishings
- Provide lodgers with check-out information to minimise disputes
If you’re a resident landlord or a letting agent looking to take the stress out of the inventory process, find out how No Letting Go can help with our wide range of property inventory services.
Before renting a property in the UK, the landlord you are dealing with will ask you to pay an up-front deposit. This will usually be to the total of one or two months’ rent. The general reason for taking a deposit is to give the tenant an incentive to look after the property; however, while most landlords are trustworthy, as a tenant, handing over such a large amount of money to someone you don’t know has to be seen as a risk. Therefore, it is essential that you know your rights and responsibilities.
Here are some tips on how to protect your deposit when moving into a rental property.
Make sure the landlord is a member of a Tenancy Deposit Scheme
As of 6 April 2007, all deposits taken by landlords must have been safeguarded by a Government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme. There are three schemes available and landlords are free to choose which one to use; safeguarding each deposit and informing the tenant of the scheme used within 30 days or receiving the money.
Before handing over any money to a landlord or signing any home inventory, UK residents are urged to check that the landlord is part of a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. It is also essential to keep a receipt of payment as evidence.
Understand the tenancy agreement
Tenancy agreements may seem overly wordy and tedious, but they contain essential information about what you can and cannot do while renting a home. Rental agreements often contain clauses related to the keeping of pets, and certain aspects of the home; if you do not clearly understand these clauses and do not abide by them, you may lose your deposit.
Also essential is a full home inventory. UK-wide inventory company services specialise in providing comprehensive reports into the condition of a property and its contents before a tenant moves in to a home and after they move out. A landlord will generally provide you with such an inventory and it is important that you read and agree with it before signing, otherwise you may be accused of causing damage that was pre-existing.
It can be wise to hire a home or flat inventory company of your own to carry out a report before moving in and out of a property. This will help protect you in a dispute over deposit.
Don’t make changes without permission
If you wish to make any changes to a property, such as replacing doors or painting walls, make sure that you get permission IN WRITING before doing so.
Look after the property
Remember, as a tenant it is your responsibility to look after a property. This means causing no damage and returning it to its original state at the end of the tenancy. Most disputes between landlords and tenants are over the general state of cleanliness. Not keeping a home clean is a silly way to risk losing your deposit.
Only use regulated agents
To avoid rogue landlords, only rent from agents that are regulated by one of the following professional bodies:
- National Federation of Property Professionals (NFoPP)
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS).
When hiring a home or flat inventory company, it is recommended that you use a member of the AIIC (Association of Independent Inventory Clerks).
If you believe that a landlord is wrongly holding your deposit and they cannot be convinced to give you it back, it is possible to have a court settle a disagreement. The court will look at all of the evidence in the case and make a decision on whether a landlord should return part or all of the deposit.
In the event of a dispute, a home inventory will be vital in helping a court decide a case, although it should be said that the evidence contained within inventories often prevents disputes reaching court.