Reports to make or break a tenancy deposit dispute claim

Sandy Bastin

By being well prepared for the start of a tenancy, you should reap the benefit at the end of a tenancy. It will assist in helping you reach early agreement to any proposed deposit deductions thereby avoiding a dispute, or if you are unable to reach agreement on all or part of the proposed deductions and find yourself using our resolution service, you should have the evidence to support your claims at your fingertips.

The most common dispute claims we see relate to cleaning issues and damage to the property and its contents that require repair, and redecoration. An adjudicator will need to understand the obligations of the parties to the tenancy, so a well drafted tenancy agreement is essential.

To support dilapidation claims, the adjudicator will primarily be looking to compare the condition of the property at the start and end of the tenancy. All parties are entitled to rely upon reasonably detailed check-in/inventory and check-out reports, recording the cleanliness and condition of a property and its contents at the start and end of the tenancy, therefore check-in/inventory and check-out condition reports are key to the likely success of any proposed deductions. A claim can fail or succeed depending on the quality and detail of these condition reports.

Condition reports that can make a claim more successful are likely to:

  • be produced at the same time as the start and end of a tenancy
  • be highly detailed to include a general description of the property with a summary of the overall standard of condition and cleanliness
  • comprise a more detailed description of each room and all areas of the property, to include any odours, along with the garden, fencing, garage and any outbuildings, sockets and windows
  • be supplemented by embedded photographs
  • contain records of utility readings, their location and serial numbers, including the level of any oil tank, the number of keys in the property including window keys, and the number of sets of keys handed over, including any fobs
  • contain a description of any appliances in the property to include detail of the make and model
  • be evidenced as agreed between the parties

Condition reports that can break a claim are likely to:

  • have been produced too soon before the tenancy started or have been delayed at tenancy end, leaving room for argument about how accurate the reports are
  • lack sufficient detail and fail to cover every aspect of the property
  • fail to describe each room, or refer to rooms differently to the description provided in the check-in report e.g. bedroom 1, bedroom 2 and front, rear
  • lack photographs in support
  • use coded abbreviations or a numbered scale to describe condition and cleanliness and omit odours
  • not show agreement between the parties

Take a look at the TDS Guide to Inventories, Check-in & Check-out Reports which provides further detail that can be helpful when making a claim. The Inventory Hive app also helps to make it easier to capture all of the relevant information at the right stage of tenancy too.

If you are interested in further guidance relating to deposit disputes, visit the Information Lounge at TDS to browse further guides.

Sandy Bastin is head of dispute resolution at TDS.

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  1. Woodentop

    Crikey this is basic lettings operations. What are you doing in lettings if you do not do this?  
    It is also worthy to note that periodic inspections should have a documented inventory check and any actions required by the landlord or tenant recorded and signed by the tenant before leaving the property and one always done at least 2 weeks before the move out. This allows the tenant the opportunity to correct issues that could form a claim. Only looking when ‘they hand the keys over’ prevents them from doing it themselves at their cost and your into a claim/fight. That pre-move out documented check nails most tenants counter claims …. photograph, photograph, photograph.

    1. A W

      An inventory Check-In & Check-Out “nails most counter claims” too. Sending an email with a copy the inventory Check-In 2 weeks before a tenant vacates and explaining the process does the same job as a visit. It also reduces time taken as well as costs.

      Get a decent inventory company and a property manager who knows what they’re doing and its plain sailing.


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