Landlord & tenant dispute

by Readers Question

10:26 AM, 9th June 2015
About 3 years ago

Landlord & tenant dispute

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Landlord & tenant dispute

Some tenants I know have recently moved out of a rented property and are having some issues with their landlord/owner and the agents who are trying to take the entire deposit and ask for additional costs to be covered. I was under the impression a deposit is all that a landlord can keep, rather than asking for additional payments too. I have detailed the issues below and would be grateful of any advice: Landlord and tenant dispute

  • The agents completed their bit of the inventory (which they initially said the tenants never returned upon moving in but subsequently had to backtrack when they eventually found it) to detail any damage etc. after the tenants had left the house with the owner present, which means that it was not completed on an impartial basis. Is this usual practice?
  • This inventory filled out by the agents was done rather unprofessionally as it used offensive/unfair terminology, e.g. stating that items were ‘filthy’ when they clearly were not (e.g. the hob was described as ‘filthy’ but this was cleaned weekly by their cleaner and almost every time after use) and then when things weren’t supposedly ‘filthy’ using sentences such as ‘surprisingly the oven had no issues’
  • I say that it’s unfair terminology because, as mentioned above, the tenants had a weekly cleaner and so the property was kept in a much better condition than it would have been if they had not had a cleaner
  • When they moved into the property, the agents hadn’t even been to the property since the owner had carried out previous paintwork and the agents asked the tenants what the condition of the property was like. So they didn’t even know the condition of the property themselves and are now trying to argue it was left in a worse state, which seems slightly unfair and means it is simply the owner’s word against the tenants’!
  • There were two cats in the property (which the owner said he wasn’t aware of but the tenants mentioned this on the original application and so perhaps the landlord did not read this but the information was definitely provided so the tenants surely cannot be blamed for that?)
  • They are saying that there are issues over the carpets due to the presence of the cats. There are potentially some scratches and scuffs on the carpet but certainly not to the extent that they are claiming. They are saying it’s so bad that the carpets need to be replaced throughout. Considering there were numerous rugs owned by the tenants throughout the property in order to minimise carpet scratches from the cats and considering there was a weekly cleaner to remove hair from the carpet, it certainly does not warrant a replacement of the entire carpets.
  • However, because the landlord has already decided to replace the carpets (and that the tenants should pay for this) he has already started redecorating (before the deposit dispute has been concluded) and is not protecting the carpets as he is set on replacing them (they have been using dust sheets but obviously haven’t been taking as much care as they are set on replacing the carpets, resulting in paint splodges on the carpets). This repainting is not only taking place before there has been an agreement on the claimed damages to the property (supposedly the landlord is expecting the tenants will pay for this repainting etc) but also the damage the paint is now causing to the carpets has removed any evidence of damage to the carpets caused by the cats so it’s difficult for the tenants to be able to prove that the damage to the carpets was only minimal, as the tenants believe it was.
  • It might also be of note that the landlord is now selling the property (it’s on the market and went on the market a few months before the tenants vacated) it seems then that, as there has been no interest so far, the repainting and new carpets proposed could be to try and boost the sale of the property.
  • The photos used on the inventory were very old photos and did not accurately represent the property when the tenants moved in. However, the tenants did sign this inventory so it could be argued that they should have ensured the pictures were up to date. The photos however are not clear enough anyway and are rather blurry and so cannot accurately show the points that the agents are making as you cannot see what the property supposedly looked like before from these photos – even though the photos are so out of date anyway that the house didn’t even look like that (e.g. the photo of the stairs shows a wall with striped wallpaper, when the wall was painted white when the tenants moved in).
  • There were black marks from the gas fire from previous use before the tenants moved in and this had been misted over with new paint. When cleaning these walls during the tenancy, the cleaning rubbed off the light mist of paint to reveal the covered black marks (not made by the tenants) and the tenants are now being blamed for this. The cleaning was stopped as soon as it was apparent that it was removing the light coat of paint and revealing the black marks.
  • As the tenants themselves admitted that they had created two rips in the lino flooring in the kitchen, they have been honest and upfront with regards to the damage they have caused so obviously feel offended that they are being blamed for other issues that were either already there when they moved on or issues that are being exaggerated now.

I would very much appreciate help as to where the tenants stand on this matter, as the agents are trying to argue that the landlord should keep the entire deposit and be paid for the extra ‘damages’ caused, e.g. replacement of carpets.

Many thanks

Martha Hill-Cousins



Comments

Mark Alexander

10:31 AM, 9th June 2015
About 3 years ago

Hi Martha

Use of words such as filthy are subjective.

The burden of proof always rest with the landlord/agent.

Deposits must be returned with 14 days unless a dispute is raised via the depoisit protection provider.

Landlord or tenant can refuse arbitration by the deposit protection provider and elect to have a case heard in Court.

The Courts can award unlimited damages, subject to the burden of proof resting with the landlord/agent, as explained above. The claim for damages is not limited to the amount of the deposit.
.

Alison Walker

16:17 PM, 9th June 2015
About 3 years ago

From my understanding fair wear and tear has to be allowed and if carpets, for instance, need to be replaced you have to take the age of the carpet into consideration. Therefore if the carpet is 3 years old then the most a landlord can claim is 2/5th's of the cost of replacing. If the carpets are older than 5 years then you are unable to claim anything from a tenant as you would be expected to replace carpets every 5 years (even though we know they last longer than this) If my understanding is wrong I'm sure someone here will correct me.


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