Pull out

TDS: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Harry Crombie

The Good…

Picture this… Your most-important asset – a property – that you’ve had 2 or 3 years of a great tenancy from, is being handed back to you.  The couple moving out have taken care of the flat you once lived in, as much as you would yourself.  It is immaculate inside; clean, no breakages, lightbulbs all working and furnishings put back where you left them.  Their rent has been paid every month on time and in fact, it has been increased during these years.  The couple leave a card saying how much they’ve enjoyed living there but they’re moving to a house they’ve bought.  It is a scenario we’d all love to have. 

If a tenant moving out after a trouble-free tenancy was as easy as this, would there be any need for an Agent?  Though, the reality is that things are never this straightforward.  In fact, in recent years, they have become far more complex, mainly since the introduction of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), but also as would be homeowners are renting now, rents are higher and the industry overall has had a kick up the backside to encourage more transparency and professionalism, so expectations are generally a lot higher, from both tenants and landlords.

In years gone by, the work of the agent (and self-managing landlord) meant that tenants had little or no recourse on the return of the deposit – whatever we said… stuck.  Now we have situations of timescales, criteria, legislation, reporting, 3rd parties, adjudication, penalties and schemes.

Tenants have better and improved rights, deposits have to be protected (with penalties up to 3 x the value of the deposit if it isn’t), they have support from TDS if there is a dispute over the deposit return and Agents and landlords have to act quickly and fairly.  There is a case to suggest that there is more favour towards the tenant when there are disputes.

The Bad…

Now picture this… You have a detailed inventory from a clean and well-maintained property, carried out regular inspections during a tenancy, carried out repairs in good time and communicated with the tenant well.  The tenant has moved out and your detailed check-out report shows damage, cleanliness issues and a shortfall of last months’ rent.  Not as pretty a picture as before.

Luckily you have a tenant moving in the property in 10 days’ time, but time is of the essence to rectify these issues.  You line up the cleaners to clean in a couple of days, the various handymen and contractors are coming in to get the property all looking good and ready for the new inventory and the next tenancy.

However, you still need to deal with that deposit.  You apply through the TDS website and claim for cleaning bills, loss of rent and damage beyond “fair wear and tear”.  This takes time.  You need to wait on invoices, process these, judge what is fair and what isn’t and reclaim what is right for you.  The contractors need paid, so you are out of pocket for this.  Your mortgage still needs paid, so you need to top up the loss of rent.  These are all costs that aren’t fair for landlords, after providing a home for someone.

The tenant then disputes it all directly with you so there is a back and forth with evidence and why there are deductions.  Heated email and phone call exchanges ensue.  Your time is taken up whilst you deal with this.  All the while remaining calm and collected as you are a service provider and no-one wants to give bad service, as you don’t want to receive bad service.  You put your deposit return through TDS and the tenant disagrees

The Ugly…

Next… well, this process could last up to 30 days of waiting until the tenant agrees or disagrees.  Then finally the tenant will get the undisputed amount back to them within 5 days, though the amount you are claiming - the cleaning, repairs and loss of rent - remains with TDS.  It then goes to adjudication.  You pull together your inventory, check-out report, invoices, fact-based evidence and compile this all into a report.  Again, this takes time for you and you can wait a further 20 working days for an answer.  Even then, there can be further contesting and more delays.  Remember, you are out of pocket at this stage.

Finally, you get what you claimed, almost 3 months after the tenant moved out.  It could be as little as £200 or as much as £1200.  Either way, you’ve waited, spent time dealing with paperwork and evidence, the angry conversations with the tenant and empty wallet!  All this is a one-off, but something you haven’t dealt with and doesn’t leave you with confidence in renting to people again.

Thankfully, this is where we come in. 

Every day, we deal with the public.  We are a service industry, there to fix problems, keep people happy and ensure our clients' investments are protected.  Stephanie, fully qualified with her PropertyMark/ARLA accreditation, deals with check-outs every day, has the experience, knowledge and patience to deal with tenants who question deposits.  Claire has pulled together a team of excellent, trustworthy contractors who efficiently sort out repairs, clean and get the property ready, yet have favourable charges and payment terms.  Cat manages to get the contractors into the property during the turnaround, all the while ensuring compliance.  Shannon in Accounts already has the evidence of any arrears dealt with. 

The team here at Murray & Currie deal with this all the time, as things are rarely straightforward.  We deal with the frustrated tenants and reason with them, we take the impact of this, remaining calm and collected.  We work to tight timescales and are every ready.  We have support and infrastructure, systems and processes, which ensure these issues are dealt with correctly and we manage to avoid going as far as Adjudication on the most part.  We set expectations and give this peace of mind.  We don’t always please the tenant and bear the brunt of this.  It may make the working day that bit more stressful, but we come back again the next day ready to do it all again.  That is our role here… and at no extra cost.