UK tenants are staying in their properties for longer which will inevitably lead to a rise in wear and tear disputes, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).
While the average length of a tenancy contract was 16.5 months in 2009, latest studies show that it has now increased to 19.3 months.
It says that on the one hand this is a good thing as landlords do not need to worry about having an empty property, but on the other hand, longer tenancies mean tenants and landlords are more likely to end up in a dispute over the deposit.
The longer a tenant stays in a property, the more likely it is that the property will be subject to wear and tear, and when this occurs, a landlord could decide to hold on to the deposit in order to cover the cost of repairs and cleaning bills at the end of a long term tenancy.
It points out that damage and fair wear and tear needs to be independently and expertly assessed, in order to provide solid grounds for any charges raised against the tenant.
It is a hard area for landlords and management companies to try and undertake themselves, as any damage missed at check-out cannot be later charged to the former tenant, ultimately leaving the landlord to foot the bill.
According to the AIIC, the most common damage found in rental properties includes iron burns on carpets, cigarette burns, soiled marks on baths and UPVC window sills and frames, heat damage to polished wooden furniture and stiletto heel imprints on wooden floors and vinyl.
‘Landlords and tenants have different expectations when it comes to fair wear and tear issues, so it is no wonder that so many tenancies end in dispute,’ said Pat Barber, chair of the AIIC.
‘Normal wear and tear is a fact of life with rental properties, just as it would be at home, but if landlords and agents wish to avoid the hassle of arguments over who is responsible for damage, prepare a thorough inventory of the condition of the property that details the condition of everything in it. And since a detailed inventory is designed to protect both the landlord and the tenant, it is not unreasonable to suggest splitting the cost of having one professionally prepared,’ explained Barber.
‘Most tenants are aware when they have caused actual damage to a property and usually try to hide the damage subtly, which is why is it absolutely vital for landlords and management companies to ensure that no proverbial stone is left unturned when looking for damage at check out,’ she added.
She pointed out that there needs to be a distinct difference between fair wear and tear and actual damage. For example carpet tread will flatten over time where there has been foot traffic, but cigarette burns, stains or soiling will require a charge.
‘The best way to avoid costly deposit disputes is to ensure you have a comprehensive inventory in place at the start of any new tenancy and that a thorough check-in and check-out report is completed. Members of the AIIC are experts in assessing fair wear and tear and have the knowledge and experience to take into account all factors and make a reasonable judgement as to whether something is fair wear and tear or not,’ said Barber.