Deposit query, delay with obtaining quotes for repair

by Readers Question

5 years ago

Deposit query, delay with obtaining quotes for repair

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Deposit query, delay with obtaining quotes for repair

I have 3 tenants who recently vacated a property. During their rental I only dealt with one of the tenants and we went through the check out procedure thoroughly so that he understood what was expected. On the day of the checkout the property was very unclean and the inventory clerk explained to the tenant that cleaning would have to be done. The clerk was also concerned to note that handles had been broken off the windows. The tenant explained they had not been able to open them, yet had never mentioned this to us. We have since had a repair man in who has told us that the windows have ceased up inside completely and he will have to drill through each window in order to release it, patch it up etc. It will be quite a big job. They have ceased up due to rust. We noticed when they were checked out that the boiler was off, that they used cold water only and we suspect that they did not use the heating (fans were all turned off too). Presumably the resulting condensation (no ventilation as windows were closed!) has rusted the mechanics of the windows. Once the tenants vacated and we were able to pull furniture away from walls, we can see black mould developing there, evidence of lack of ventilation and condensation. Deposit query, delay with obtaining quotes for repair

They vacated early July but the first appointment we could get for the window repair man was 26th July. Now that he has seen the extent of the problem, it may take some time before we know on costs, particularly as windows are included in our service charges, therefore the costs of these may be applied to the service charge and we would then only need to pass on to the tenant the cost of our portion of this charge. That cost though would not be known for over a year, though with a bit of digging around we might be able to know what the charge is in 3 months or so.

We have written to the lead tenant letting him know that we are doing all we can to find out costs for the windows, but meanwhile we await his final bills. We still await those final bills from him, 3 weeks after he has moved out. He also lives just around the corner from the flat and knows my husband is there presently doing some internal work, so could pop round at any time.

My question is- what do I do regarding his deposit. There are other deductions which we will have to make, but they are more straightforward. I would like to return as much of his deposit as possible, but the windows may only cost £100 or it may be £1000 – it really depends on how the management company deal with it. We want to be fair, but on the other hand don’t want to leave ourselves with a bill. At the very minimum all broken handles will need to be fixed. These are clearly shown on the inventory as being OK at the beginning of the tenancy.

I have dug around trying to find out rough costs for these, but have drawn a blank.

Any thoughts?

My question mainly goes out to other hands on landlords who have to deal with this regularly and who have not been able to return the deposit as quickly as 10 days.

I would appreciate your responses, thanks very much.

Yvette



Comments

Mark Alexander

5 years ago

Hi Yvette

It's an interesting question.

I've never had a deposit dispute go to arbitration and I never want to. My aim is always to get the agreed refund back to my tenants within a couple of days. I know they generally want/need the money ASAP so I always think that an offer to refund ASAP actually gives you a bit more negotiating power.

Let me give you a few examples of recent cases I dealt with.

One of my tenants had organised a professional cleaning company to go into his property the day before he checked out to return to India. I got a phone call from him on the day to say that his cleaning company had let him down. He needed his deposit to be refunded ASAP as his checkout was at 11am the following day and he was flying out that evening. I had previously agreed that I would refund any agreed deposit electronically at the checkout meeting so that he could withdraw the cash from the bank prior to his flight. His main worry was that would no longer happen. I told him not to worry and that we would agree something when we met. The place was in need of a professional clean at checkout but other than that all was good, save for having to do a bit of redecoration due to fair wear and tear. I was in no rush as I wanted to keep the property vacant for personal use over the Christmas period anyway. I asked him what he thought I should deduct. Obviously he replied "I don't really know" to which I replied, which cleaning company were you using and how much were they charging? £375 he said. Not bad I replied, so how much do you think I should charge bearing in mind that I now need to re-book them, let them in etc? I see what you mean he said, can we agree on £500? And that was the basis the deal was done. We did the cleaning ourselves, he got his money prior to flying away and everybody was happy. He's since returned to the UK on another contract and I gave him a glowing reference.

Second story - this one was just last week. On checkout we noticed that a wired smoke alarm was missing. Similar scenario, I called a company who said it would cost around £50 to replace. Tenant agreed to that and the balance of the deposit was refunded. I've just got the bill and it came in at £110.

Moral of the story is that you will win a few lose a few but always try to be fair.

The final point I would make is that I always ask the tenant to agree to any deposit deductions and the refund. This is documented on the check out inventory.

I hope that helps 🙂
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Yvette Newbury

5 years ago

That's exactly my aim - I've never been to arbitration and hope I never have to, so don' t want any delay on our part to convince the tenant to make that call. I'm confident that most issues can be sorted out by being fair and straightforward and keeping communications open.

Your examples are helpful, thank you.

Mary Latham

5 years ago

Under deposit protection legislation we must return all undisputed funds within 10 days of the end of the tenancy. For the money we withhold we need a written quote or an invoice and this must be give to the tenants.

Landlords should not get involved with utility bills - if this is what you mean by tenants providing bills - that has nothing to do with us and is a contractual agreement between the tenant and the utility company and deposit should not be withheld in relation to bills. If your AST has a clause to cover Data Protection, as it should, you can send a copy to the utility companies with readings at the start and end of each tenancy. We must do this with the water bills within 28 days and there is no legal obligation to do so with the other suppliers but it does help them to get paid. If you went to dispute they would be in favour of the tenant at this point and you should probably deal with this without further delay

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Mark Alexander

5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mary Latham" at "29/07/2013 - 16:06":

I think the final bills Yvette was referring to were the bills from the window repair man. At least that's how I read it. I could be wrong.
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Mary Latham

5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "29/07/2013 - 16:16":

This is what I read

"We have written to the lead tenant letting him know that we are doing all we can to find out costs for the windows, but meanwhile we await his final bills. We still await those final bills from him, 3 weeks after he has moved out."

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Yvette Newbury

5 years ago

Thanks for your comments Mary. I completely agree the contract is between the tenant and the utility provider, but that doesn't stop us from needing sight of those final paid bills. In our area all utilities (including council tax) are very keen to pass on costs to the landlords and we have had a few problems with both despite the steps we always take. We contact all utility providers at the beginning and end of tenancies passing on the new tenant details; contact utility providers during the tenancy to ensure accounts are all set up and confirming our details if there is a void period and we are responsible for the bill. Just occasionally we get a hiccup eg. British Gas claiming no bills had been paid for 5 years and asking us to pay. Thankfully we keep everything so were able to furnish them with old tenancy agreements, with our communications informing them of change of tenancy etc and it was sorted. Just recently, on this particular flat we have had requests from the council tax claiming that the tenants weren't paying and requesting that we pay, despite the tenants contacting them, and us replying to their constant demands for tenancy agreements, asking questions on the tenancy etc. It's all part and parcel of our role and I am not complaining, but being aware of how keen they are to pass on costs to Landlord we always ask for final paid bills from tenants and we are surprised the tenant has not sent them to us yet.

Any problem with the bills and we have been asked to pay a deposit for the continued supply at the property (£200). Most utility providers are also keen for us to convert our flats to prepayment meters, and we have worked hard to ensure this does not happen in our flats as having had one once, it caused so many problems on a tenancy transfer we would rather not be involved with those.

But this is not the issue, as usually we receive all these paid bills within 10 days and does not cause a delay to deposit return.

I appreciate your comments and am going to try and find out how much those upvc handles would cost to supply and fix and take a punt on the cost (as per Mark Alexander's example above) so that we can sort out his deposit, and at the same time hurry him along with those paid bills. I am not comfortable holding someone else's money for any longer than I have to, despite the fact that the tenant is happy, so far, with our progress.

andrew townshend

5 years ago

many years ago i refused to return a deposit (before we had to protect them) as the property had been left in a disgusting state, it took 3 transit van loads to the tip, the tenant took me to court and won . the thing is in 99% of cases courts will always side the poor tenant .

Mark Alexander

5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yvette Newbury " at "29/07/2013 - 17:08":

From memory, we live and operate in a similar area (Norfolk).

I inform the Utility providers of meter readings and check in and check out and also the tenants names. Meter readings are also on my inventories, which tenants sign.

I can assure you that if you do this, there is no way a Utility company can hold you liable for the tenants bills. If they try if on send them a copy of the signed inventory and tenancy agreement. If the tenant has absconded and isn't present at checkout, always take a very clear date stamped photograph of the meter readings as additional evidence if called upon.

I hope that helps.
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Puzzler

5 years ago

Why not be proactive and get quotes even though you may not be implementing the work? Then you will know how much to expect and you will be helping the management company. Just a word of warning - if your tenants can be held responsible for the damage then the management company may say that your flat must pay for the repairs as the other flat owners should not have to subsidise you. In which case it's even more important that you get your quotes asap and agreement from the tenant. If you really need the bills invite him round to resolve the deposit and tell him to bring the bills with him.

Joe Bloggs

5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mary Latham" at "29/07/2013 - 16:06":

hi mary,
can you please elaborate on DPA clause in TA's?

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