Your tenant is moving out – Here’s what you should check before giving the deposit back
There are tens of thousands of pages across the World Wide Web which are in favour of tenants in London alone. But when it comes to the advice favourable to the landlords there’s a serious lack of data. Thankfully we’ve gathered some inside information which will surely come in handy when your tenant is about to leave the rental property.
There may be dozens of reasons why your renter or you have come to the decision to end the contract but we’re not going to go through them now. Let’s concentrate on the simple fact that your tenant is moving out. According to your signed agreeement, your tenant has an obligation to return the property in the same condition they’ve receive it in (minus damages caused by wear and tear) so don’t bustle about giving the deposit back just yet.
There are some things you should check first if you don’t want to find yourself in a rather unpleasant situation. Remember, as soon as your tenants vacate the property and the deposit is returned, it’s extremely difficult to claim back any damages you’ve noticed after so it’s imperative to check everything thoroughly during your final inspection.
In the next paragraphs, we’ll give you some pieces of advice which we’ve gathered straight from the source. We’re pretty sure that you might find this article quite useful so read on carefully and let us hear from you in the comment section below.
A checklist may not fly a plane but still, even Han and Chewie use one in Star Wars, so we've created this detailed checklist, which will definitely spare you some hassle. Now let’s get straight to the point.
What to do before your tenant leaves the property
- First there comes the Plumbing:
- Check if all taps actually work, and water flows as it should. Turn on the taps of all water outlets in the house. Have in mind that’s hardly enough to just check if the water flows – let it run for several minutes to ensure that there are no overspills from the drains. Don’t forget to remove the drain covers as well to ensure that there are no obvious and visible blockages. Don’t neglect outside/garden taps if there are such.
- Flush all toilets to ensure the water flows without any problems.
- While you’re still in bathroom check the boiler as well.
- Check the outside drains for blockages. Ensure they aren’t overflowing or have a permanently high water level.
- It may be nasty but check the plug holes. Ensure that they’re thoroughly cleaned by your tenant. You definitely don’t want to remove the hair, leftovers or whatever else your tenant has decided to put through them by yourself.
- Check all ceramic and plastic fittings on sinks, bats and showers for cracks and chips.
- Irregular water pressure is the first sign if there are any pipes blocked so check that the pressure and flow from all taps are as they should be. The reason for a pipe blockage most commonly occurs because of abusive substances being wrongly disposed of down the sink. If that’s the case, the responsibility should fall onto the tenant.
- Moving on to the Electrics:
- When it comes to the white goods or the electrical items – don’t rely only on visual inspections. Carefully test each item and ensure that it is in full working order. Check all appliances thoroughly - inside and out. Don’t rely only on appearances, and especially don’t rely on your tenant’s word alone. Pay particular attention to the cleanliness of the items, especially the white goods. You should necessarily open the oven and ensure that it’s properly cleaned – you would be surprised by the number of tenants who don’t bother to scrub it even once during their stay in your home. Check under the extractor hood as well. You don’t want to find congealed fat, grease and food residue when it’s already too late.
- The plug points are the next thing you should carefully inspect. If they are properly working don’t forget to check if the plastic plug socket covers aren’t broken or cracked – it happens more often than you can imagine.
- Let there be light by ensuring that all light switches work, and again, check that the actual switches are in the condition they should be in.
- Ding Dong – who’s there – the inspection checking if the doorbell works. A lot of landlords generally forget about this one - don't be one of them and mark this bullet point as checked.
- Last but not least check if the fire/smoke alarms are still working without setting the flat on fire of course. You never know if your tenant has tried to remove them by some unknown reason.
- When it comes to the Fittings:
- Doors are expensive to replace so first ensure that you can open, close and lock all of them smoothly. Look for significant cracks/splits in the doors, especially where the lock is.
- Ensure that all of the windows can be opened, closed and locked as and then again look for any chips and/or cracks.
- If there’s laminate/hardwood flooring in the property, look for breaks, chips and unevenness. Floor panels shouldn’t expand or dislodged. Have in mind that this kind of damage cost quite a bit to be fixed and can be cleverly covered by furniture so double check the flooring before your tenant leaves.
- Unfortunately, tenants have the bad habit of leaving junk behind so always check if the outside and inside bins are completely empty. It is the tenants’ responsibility to dispose of all rubbish before they vacate the property.
NB! - Have in mind that it’s common for premises to remain vacant for weeks during the viewing process. If there are unpleasant products left in the bins, it could kick up a stink (especially in the summer) and attract wildlife. That’s not exactly the most welcoming situation to present to prospective tenants during a viewing.
Pro tip! - While the property is empty, you can apply for council tax exemption. It might be a thoughtful choice which many landlords took advantage of but this means that you will be out of the list for garbage collection and the responsibility to take all of the leftover rubbish to the dumpster will be all yours.
- We’ve come to the Furniture:
- If you’re providing a furnished property, make sure every item is still there. You definitely should have an Inventory Form to assist with the process so let the checking begin.
- Jump around cuz’ it’s time to check literally everywhere – around, beneath, behind, on top, under and even inside. Look carefully basically everything on every possible way. Pieces of furniture can strategically cover lots of damage done by your tenant while living at your property. Stains on the carpet, cracked flooring even a hole in the floor - the list goes on and on. We’ve seen a lot so mandatory lift the nightstands.
- While moving your household properties around give each furniture piece a test of stability and usability. In other words, lay down on the beds and sit down on the sofas – just to make sure that everything feels safe and sturdy.
- Now let’s talk about the Storage:
- Let’s start big. Your tenant is the one who should remove all the unwanted furniture drag in the property during the rental period. Too often tenants buy temporary furniture with the intentions of leaving them behind when it’s time to vacate. Even though they may consider this as a betterment if you don’t want some Ikea inspired look they should take it all with them when leaving.
- Ensure that all of the items from outbuildings are removed. The shed, the garage, the loft, the attic – those are all perfect for storing tons of tenants’ unwanted items, so be sure to check them as a part of your final inspection.
- At last, make sure that all cupboards and drawers are completely empty before your tenant leaves.
The belongings left behind:
Be especially careful with this one. Have in mind that you’re liable for all the stuff your tenant has left behind. Taking on the responsibility of disposing of anything by yourself is a legal minefield. It’s considered as private property so you can even find yourself in the middle of a legal battle if you throw away any kind of personal belongings.
According to the law - landlords must store items of value for a minimum of 14 days. This includes furniture, electrical goods, clothing, and literally everything else, even a hairpin can have some sentimental value attached so don’t touch it. The only exceptions here are the perishable goods.
There's more - you’re obligated to send the tenant (or each of them if you have let the property to more than one) a letter by recorded delivery stating your name and address, the items left, where they are held and the date after which the items will be disposed of. You must give a reasonable amount of time for the items to be collected.
If you don't have a forwarding address, before you dispose of the items, you must be able to demonstrate that you've made reasonable efforts to find the owners. This could mean to use even a tracing agent.
It’s a necessity to keep copies of letters, receipts for deliveries and agents' reports. If the items are not claimed or you cannot locate your former tenants, keep records of the disposal or sale of the items.
Don’t forget even for a moment that you are dealing with a property that is not your own and if you do not take these precautions you could be liable for a claim for damages from your former tenant.
Wear and tear or damage - which is which
There is a very fine line between
fair wear and tear and
damage and as long as there aren’t any specific laws or rules about it, since the issue is simply too wide-ranging, the situation can be quite arguable and open to a variety of interpretations.
To be precise, the House of Lords defines
fair wear and tear as
reasonable use of the premises by the Tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.
You should know that the tenants cannot be held liable for
fair wear and tear, and it should not be flagged as signs of damage through your final inspection. And this is where the controversy comes along. While tenants will happily justify every harm as fair wear and tear, landlords are equally as eager to chalk it up as damage.
The first obvious example that comes in mind is the carpeting, which naturally wears over time with normal use. This means that you can’t seek compensation to replace carpets if they’ve naturally worn away over normal usage. Basically, the longer the tenancy, the more the natural wear.
Legally, the landlords should not become in a better position materially than they were at the start of the tenancy, so be reasonable and don’t ask too much. The simplest thing you and your tenant can do is to rely on common sense and meet somewhere in the middle.
On the final day
of your tenant’s departure, take all the meter readings (gas, electricity and water) together so you have the same figures. It’s always good for the landlord to ensure that firstly, the tenant has informed the appropriate companies they’re vacating, and secondly, the meter readings are correct, especially before re-letting the property.
After going through all of the above it’s finally time to officially take your keys back. Make sure you have all sets of keys returned before returning the deposit. Any excuse like:
Oh, I only have one set of keys with me,
I left the other pair at work,
I’ll drop the other set off next week or whatever else is simply unacceptable. Never give the deposit back without all sets of keys are presented.
If the tenant owes you rent, you may deduct it from the deposit, or bring a claim to the county court. Note that you will not be able to claim for unpaid rent after you have re-let the property.
Pro tip! - If you’re about to put your property back on the rental market our professional cleaning services await you. Our qualified team of professionals know how to make your place flawless and can guarantee you a higher paycheck each month. So don’t hesitate to give us a call and learn more about our special offers.
NB! - Don’t forget about The Move Out Letter.
Well, that's all folks.