Determination Of Fair Wear And Tear (2)- Tope Ojo

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Inventory & Schedule of Condition reports / Check Ins

As many as 70% of letting agents don’t have a formal check-in procedure in place which can have disastrous repercussions for the landlord. When a tenant moves into a property he / she should accompany the inventory clerk on a tour of the property to agree the content of the inventory report – and where necessary, the clerk will record any agreed amendments on the inventory (such as items listed but not found to be present in the property, a difference in opinion ref cleanliness or damage). Any outstanding issues should be noted on the check in report e.g. missing manuals, further cleaning required, missing keys, any other concerns. The inventory and check in report should be signed by both parties ideally on the day the tenant moves in. Problems often occur where letting agents fail to chase up receipt of these signed documents when a formal check in has not taken place, since the tenant can potentially make changes to the property during that period which will then not be listed on the original inventory / check in reports.

 Interim Property Visit reports

Visits to check on the condition of the property should be undertaken every 3-4 months. Not only is this often not undertaken within the agreed time frames, all too often property visit reports fail to document key changes which will have an impact on the acceptable level of wear and tear of the property. Photographic evidence / receipts / estimates which will provide evidence of problems that have been identified / rectified by the tenant should all be included in the interim property visit report. Equally, if a landlord is required to replace an item which has broken down during the tenancy e.g. a washing machine, this must be noted on the interim property report and added to the inventory as an addendum – failure to do this could result in the original damaged item being e re-instated and the tenant having access to a brand new washing machine!

Disputes relating to fair wear and tear often centre on common themes which include:

Cleanliness

What one person deems to be acceptable may be considered to be substandard by another. The important point to remember when it comes to assessing cleanliness is that agreement is reached at the check in stage. For instance, if a property was noted as dirty at the check in and either the agent or landlord arranged for professional cleaning to be carried out after the check in, then the tenant is required to ensure that the property is vacated in a professionally clean condition. The landlord or agent need to ensure the receipt for the professional clean at the check in is provided although the tenant must be given the opportunity to clean the property to a professional standard themselves at the end of the tenancy should they wish to do so. A good rule of thumb is to advise landlords to invest in a professional clean before the tenancy begins, which extends to the overall cleaning of the property (walls / sinks / toilets etc) as well as to carpets and ovens.

Fixtures and fittings

Tenants need to be made aware of the fact that if they choose to introduce new items, which need to be fixed to the walls, agreement must be received from the landlord in advance. Failure to do this will result in the landlord asking for these items to be removed and making a claim to restore the wall back to its former state.

Brand appeal

Most items in the property will have a pre-determined life span but this will also be influenced by the quality of the product, accepting that certain brands have an enhanced reputation for withstanding wear and tear, which is usually evidenced by an extended warranty. If a landlord chooses to furnish the property with cheaper, non-branded goods, it is only fair to accept that these may not last the duration of the tenancy. Failure to observe the above guidance may result in the breakdown of what should be a harmonious relationship between landlord and tenant – and most importantly, will also activate the inconvenience and enormous distraction of a potential dispute case.

(CONCLUDED)     

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