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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tips On Tenancy Deposit Disputes 46: Check-Out Fees

Tip 46: Claiming For Check Out Fees
It is increasingly common to see deposit protection claims where the landlord is seeking a deduction from the deposit to pay for check out fees. Almost without exception, the check-out fees relate to the cost of a check-out inspection by a third party inventory company.
Third party inventories and reports are industry best practice and protect the tenant every bit as much as the landlord. With this in mind, it seems perfectly fair to me that the tenant should be expected to bear half of the cost. The deposit protection system exists to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords, but it also necessitates third party inventories in order that both parties can use the system fairly. Paying the for half the expense of the inventory is the indirect cost to the tenant of deposit protection.
Of course, just because I think it is fair, doesn’t mean that deposit protection adjudicators will decide these cases in the favour of the landlord. The adjudicator will refer to the tenancy agreement to determine whether the claim is enforceable. If the tenant has agreed to the check-out fee in the contract, the adjudicator will uphold it. If the fee is not mentioned in the AST, you can more or less forget it.
You would be surprised how many landlords and agents don’t know what clauses are in their contracts. Many times I have decided claims where the landlord was certain that there was a no smoking clause or a specific pet agreement in the contract when there wasn’t. It’s always worth getting a lawyer to draw up a contract that properly protects you and your property, so that you know where you stand.
Tom Derrett is the Principal of Deposit Claim, an ex-adjudicator and an expert on the Deposit Protection Schemes. Tom helps landlords to claim money through the deposit protection schemes. 

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The Editor said...

Hi Tom - interesting comments on the check out fee. Do you have any examples of wording for a tenancy agreement that would be considered to be enforceable?

Tom Derrett said...

A common one I see is, under tenant's covenants:

To attend the check-out meeting at the end of the tenancy.

To pay the cost of preparing a check-out report at the end of the tenancy, and to pay for the cost of a rescheduled check-out meeting if the Tenant fails to attend.

...but always check with a solicitor if you are not sure.

Sophie said...

Hi Tom,

Wondered if you can help us. We are moving out of a flat and are expected to pay a £150 check-out fee. However, no check-in was done - the inventory was not updated and we simply picked up the keys to the flat, no one came with us to inspect it. So should we pay this fee? It seems unfair. If we refuse will the agent take it from our deposit?