The recent First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber) decision of Ritchie v Finlayson highlights the importance of providing sufficient evidence when making a claim against tenants for damage to the let property and contents.
When a tenant vacates a property there may be times when the property is not left in the same condition as it was at commencement of the tenancy. This could be a result of wear and tear or it could be as a result of failure on the part of the tenant to take reasonable care of the property.
While fair wear and tear is to be expected, what can a landlord do where the condition of the property has gone beyond fair wear and tear, and damage has occurred?
The landlord?s initial remedy will be a claim against the tenant?s deposit. However, this claim may not cover the full costs incurred by the landlord in reinstating the property.
Thereafter, the landlord will require to recover the remainder of the costs incurred via the First-tier Tribunal.
In Ritchie v Finlayson the landlord raised a claim for payment against the tenant seeking a payment order in the sum of ?2,642. The landlord sought to recover his costs in replacing missing or damaged items, cleaning costs and repairs required to doors and walls. The tenant defended the action and the Tribunal determined that the award due to the landlord was only ?42.65.
The main reason for the landlord?s lack of success was owing to his inability to produce appropriate evidence to support his claim. There had been no formal check in or check out inventory to show the state and condition of the property at commencement/termination. Further, the landlord failed to produce receipts confirming the age and cost of items purportedly damaged and failed to produce invoices in support of his cleaning costs.
Here are our top tips for landlords to avoid difficulties when pursuing a claim for damages:
- Be reasonable. You cannot claim for fair wear and tear i.e. damage that happens through ordinary day-to-day use of the property.
- Landlords should provide an inventory with dated photographs to the tenant when they move in to the property. Ideally both the landlord and tenant should sign the inventory to confirm the condition of the property at move in.
- When a tenant moves out of the property a check-out inspection should be carried out. Landlords should give the tenant the opportunity to be present at the check-out. A check-out inventory should be produced with dated photographs.?Ideally this should link back to the check-in inventory so that any damage can be identified. Again, ideally this would be signed by both the landlord and tenant.
- The landlord should make a claim against the deposit and any sum awarded to them should be offset against the cost incurred to reinstate the property.
- Landlords should retain receipts for furnishings/goods left within the property; these should be contained within the inventory.
- If landlords require to instruct a contractor to carry out work on the property they should retain all invoices/quotes.
By following the above steps, a landlord should be in a position to produce sufficient evidence to make a claim for payment of cleaning/damages via the tribunal if required.
Should you have any questions in relation to this blog, please do not hesitate to get in contact with our Private Rented Sector Team.