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Monday, August 02, 2010

Tips on Tenancy Deposit Disputes 8: Independent Inventories

Tip 8: Use an Independent Inventory Agent
Winning and avoiding disputes is all about preparing for them before they happen, and the Inventory and Schedule of Condition is one of the key ways that landlords’ can protect themselves in advance. If the dispute is over damage, which at least 50% of them are, the inventory is the first piece of evidence that the adjudicator will look for, and is likely to be the document on which the decision in the case depends. There are exceptions; cases where the inventory is of less importance to the overall outcome, but these tend to be claims where the inventory is not considered reliable for whatever reason.
Landlords may be tempted to cut corners by completing the inventory themselves. Although an independently prepared inventory might set landlords back around 10-15% of a month’s rent, I would not advise the Blue Peter approach. The amount you stand to lose in a dispute far exceeds the potential savings, especially after you account for the cost of your time spent surveying the property in intimate detail and typing up a long and involved schedule of condition. In any event, if you complete the work yourself, you may have difficulty persuading an adjudicator that your own inventory represents an objective, unbiased record of the condition of the property.
There are many different types of inventory agency, some of which appear to claim to be regulated by various bodies. To the best of my knowledge, these bodies have no official standing and I have never heard of an adjudicator being remotely swayed by the letters after an inventory agent’s name. Better to choose your inventory on the strength of the evidence that they gather for you. Some provide no additional evidence, some take supporting photographs and some will even video your property. The bottom line is that the better evidence you have at your disposal, the stronger your claim over a disputed deposit will be.
Tom Derrett is the Principal of Deposit Claim, an ex-adjudicator and an expert on the Deposit Protection Schemes.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

UK laws on protecting a tenant deposit changed for the good of the tenant in April 2007, when the Tenancy Deposit Protection regulations came into force.
People taking an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) who 1) Pay a Deposit; and 2) whose Deposit can be used if the tenant falls into arrears or messes up the property are owed duties by the landlord (*provided that the annual rental is no more than £25,000 PA, though as of October 1st 2010, that amount will rise to £100,000 PA). They are that the Landlord must pay the deposit into one of the approved schemes and that the Landlord must also give the tenant specific information to his/ her deposit and the scheme into which it is placed. If this is not carried out within a given timeframe, then the tenant can take the Landlord to Court and the Landlord will be forced to pay a set amount of money under a Strict Liability court ruling.
The Landlord may make defend the claim or even make a counter-claim if they believe that you have breached the terms of the AST, but this cannot be used as mitigation and has nothing to do with the tenant claim. Courts have usually ordered that the Landlord make a separate claim.
The property that you rented must have been one that you occupied as you main home and one where the Landlord did not live at the property but lived elsewhere. If the Landlord lived at the property, they will not usually have to protect the deposit, although the rules are quite complicated (Paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 of the Housing Act 1988).
The claim is always against the person who received the deposit, if it was the Landlord, then the claim is against them, if it was an Agent, then they are directly responsible for the deposit. The law says that the ‘Landlord’ includes anybody that is acting on their behalf and if in doubt, sue the Landlord. If there is more than one of them, make a claim against them all. Note that the address has to be in England or Wales. If you are unsure of who the responsible person is, make the claim against the Landlord.
You can find out who the Landlord (registered proprietor) is by asking the person to whom you pay the rent. They have a duty to provide the information to you within 21 days, failure to do so is a Criminal Offence under UK law. Many Landlords try to hide their details through their Agent but the Agent cannot refuse to provide the information that you request.
The legislation is to protect tenants in the UK and not provide them with a windfall payment. However it has been shown that the Courts do not take kindly to Landlords that wilfully ignore, or seem to wilfully ignore the basic and simple regulations.
AUTHOR – Kenni James - FREE and professional legal advice for UK tenants
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