Now you see it, now you don’t…
This case study highlights the need for properly completed check-in and check-out reports recording an accurate and complete record of the condition of the property for the start and end of the tenancy.
The tenant raised, at the end of their two-year tenancy, a dispute as they were unhappy that the landlord was wanting to claim the full amount of their deposit for various items in need of repair. The check-in report was completed by the agent, but was vague about the condition of items, saying only that they were ‘clean, bright and fresh unless otherwise stated’.
The check-in report had no detail as to the condition of the décor, fixtures, fittings and furnishings, e.g. whether items were new for the start of the tenancy or if the décor was freshly painted; nor was it clear that the property had been professionally cleaned throughout. There were no photographs taken which might have helped the adjudicator to compare the items in disrepair at the end of tenancy.
The parties agreed that the landlord had inspected the property prior to the end of the tenancy and issued the tenants with a list of items that needed putting right.
The landlord claimed that the works were necessary to return the items to the same standard as the check-in report.
The evidence presented to TDS did not include any check-out report to support the claim. The agents submitted what could only be described as a ‘statement of claim’, a list compiled following the landlord’s visit prior to check-out.
Although this list included amounts to be deducted from the deposit for making good, no estimates or quotations were provided. The tenant stated that the items claimed for had been put right before he left the property, which the landlord and agent denied.
While many photographs were taken during the landlord’s visit, these were of limited use without similar photographs taken at the start of the tenancy – or without a more detailed check-in report, against which a comparison could be made.
The adjudicator found that he could not be certain about the condition of the items claimed for at the start of the tenancy.
Given the length of the tenancy, the expected level of wear and tear that would otherwise have occurred, and with no further evidence to confirm the exact state and condition in which the tenant left the property after the landlord’s visit, it was not possible for the adjudicator to conclude that the tenant had failed to meet his obligations.
After adjudication, the agents produced several photographs taken of a few items at the start of the tenancy. These had not previously been referred to by any of the parties before the adjudication was completed.
TDS can only adjudicate based on the evidence submitted by the parties. It is up to the parties to present their claim in full including any relevant information they want the adjudicator to consider.
So what are the key points here?
- Make sure you submit all the evidence you want the adjudicator to consider.
- Produce clear, concise and accurate inventory and check-in/check-out reports – ideally signed by the parties. We can still consider an unsigned document but will want to see, for example, that a tenant was sent a check-in report and given the opportunity to agree its content.
- The adjudicator will still consider reports that are not from independent inventory clerks – but are likely to place less weight on their contents. A landlord will need to produce more evidence than his/her word alone, to establish the property’s condition.
- For more information for agents, landlord and tenants, see our guide to inventories, check-in & check-out reports and schedules of condition:
- and our guide to Deposits, Disputes and Damages:
* Sandy Bastin is head of adjudication at the TDS