‘All good things must come to an end‘, the old saying goes, and where good, rented homes are concerned, the end is often when problems arise. Landlords and agents seem to believe that the property can be found in the same condition at the end of your tenancy as it was at the start. Anything less and they want to make to deductions from your deposit. There’s rarely proper consideration of what the House of Lords defines as ‘reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.’ This is a very real problem. Too many landlords and agents are slow to acknowledge that wear and tear is not, actually, damage. Here’s a link to some very helpful information about wear and tear on >> mydeposits.co.uk site.
End of tenancy cleaning is another common area of disagreement. Earlier this month, Renters’ Rights London received an email from a couple who had decided to move back to Eire. They had given the appropriate notice to end their tenancy on 12th August. They’d also booked a holiday from the First of this month so their boxes had been shipped to Dublin by the time they dropped the keys of their former home back to the agency, on their way to the airport.
Their tenancy agreement included a clause which stated that the flat had to be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy. If the flat had not been very clean when they moved in, this would have been unreasonable. But as the flat had been immaculate at check-in, the clause is reasonable. This couple always enjoyed a good relationship with the managing agents, so had asked the agency to recommend a cleaning company. Apparently, the agents always use the same cleaning company, describing them as “reliable and excellent”. And the agency kindly agreed to hand the keys to the cleaners, as well.
Four days later, an email from the landlord himself came as a shock. The email said that, as cleaning had not been carried out in accordance with contractual terms, £288 would be deducted from their deposit before it was returned. Photographs, showing carpets that had not been vacuum cleaned properly and rubbish bags in the kitchen, were attached.
The couple forwarded that email to the cleaning company, requesting an explanation and a full refund. When the cleaning company wrote back, offering a refund of just 33%, the exasperated couple contacted Renters’ Rights London for advice. The response of that cleaning company is not something Renters’ Rights London can advise on, though. Still, the landlord proposed deduction of £288 for poorly-executed end of tenancy cleaning of a one bedroom flat. This seems excessive.
If a landlord wants to make deductions from a deposit, that landlord must first show how the tenant is liable for the cost. The renter is obliged to return the property in the same condition as they found it, but allowing for fair wear and tear. The tenant is not responsible for replacing items that have deteriorated through wear and tear. That’s just the effects of normal usage across time. Even if an item was brand new at the start of the tenancy, it can’t still be brand new at the end. Other than that, if the property is not returned in an acceptable state, the renter is liable for whatever is wrong but no more than that. It was not a good idea to leave the flat without having inspected the quality of the cleaning work. Still, a charge of £288 seems too high.
Happily, the deposit was protected in line with legal requirements. Now, the couple could go to the alternative dispute resolution service (ADR) of the deposit protection scheme. ADR is designed to be a free, quicker and more accessible way (than going to court) to deal with such a dispute. No-one can be forced to use the ADR service, though. In this case, If the landlord refuses to use ADR, the couple could go to court. If they do so, the deposit scheme will keep the money until they receive a court order for release of the deposit.
On the other hand, if all parties agree to ADR, the adjudicator will decide whether the landlord is entitled to keep any of the money and if so, how much. All three deposit protection schemes produce useful guidance to ADR. This is well worth looking at, as it advises on what they would consider in a dispute. If the same matter were to go to court, the court would be likely look at it in a similar way.
Plan ahead. At the start of your tenancy, give some time to taking the best, date marked, photographs you can get. Then, store them in a cloud (google drive and google photos offer ample storage space, with every free gmail address). Be sure to capture anything like a cracked bathroom tile, marks on walls or signs of wear, however minor, on the carpet. These things will only get worse. During a six month tenancy, there should be very little wear and tear but over the course of a year, there is likely to be deterioration in the stair-carpet of a house shared between four people, for example. Whatever your situation, keep your own record of how your place actually looked when you moved in, if you possibly can. Hopefully, you’ll never need this but just like agreeing the inventory, it’s part of ensuring and securing your rights as a renter.
What Sort of Housing Do Older Renters Want?
On 18th September, AgeUK London and Positive Ageing in London are hosting a joint event on housing. If you’re over 50 years of age, it’s a good chance to put forward your views on key priorities for the Mayor of London’s new London Housing Strategy. Perspectives from council tenants, housing association tenants, private renters, home-owners and homeless Londoners, hidden or otherwise, are all important in this.
Expert speakers on the day include Debra Levison (Greater London Authority), Sharon Haywood (London Tenants Federation), Jane Minter (Care and Repair England) and Robert Taylor (Camden Federation of Private Tenants). The event is free to attend, although registration is essential. A light lunch will be provided
>> HOMES FOR OLDER LONDONERS REGISTRATION
Hackney Council has launched its Better Renting campaign to support private renters and decent landlords in the borough. Better Renting will highlight what needs to change to create a system that is less unfair to 32,000 renters known to be living in the borough. The campaign focuses on four themes:
Fairness for tenants because renters need stability.
Hackney Council is in favour of longer term tenancies, an immediate end to agency fees, and a ban on ‘no DSS’ advertisements. DIGS (Hackney Renters) have been running their #yesDSS campaign for a while now so they’ll be as pleased as we are to know that they have the full support of Cllr. Sem Moema (Mayoral Advisor for Private Renting and Housing Affordbility).
Tackling criminal or ‘rogue’ landlords because renters should enjoy decent homes
By promoting a more robust ‘fit and proper landlord’ regime and publishing a register of properties and landlords, including a list of convicted landlords, Hackney aims to put a stop to landlords renting out properties which are unfit for human habitation.
Supporting professional landlords
Professionalism matters. Hackney will offer willing landlord routes to accreditation, information and training on their legal responsibilities.
More affordable rents
Rents in Hackney have risen 20% in the past five years and until our human right to housing prevails over and above market ideology, there’s not much anyone can do about that. However, Hackney Council is committed to the principle that rent increases should be capped at the rate of inflation, to make the cost of renting more predictable. This is, surely, a modest and entirely reasonable ambition. If rent increases were actually limited in this way, the cost of renting in Hackney would have increased by only 9%, rather than rocketing up by 20%.