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Deductions for bathroom sealant & redecorating after > 5 years

Started by MARS, March 03, 2024, 07:19:49 PM

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MARS

Hi Everybody, thanks for the excellent forum and very helpful content.

I just wanted to ask about deductions my landlord/agent are proposing after a tenancy of just over 5 years.
I believe that we cared for the property very well, and left it in good, clean condition, so I was expecting the checkout process to go smoothly. The checkout inspection was arranged for the day after the tenancy ended. This was quite inconvenient for me, but I managed to rearrange my work commitment to be there for the inspection.

When my wife and I arrived at the property for the inspection there was already somebody there doing an EPC inspection, and shortly later the inventory clerk (employed by the letting agency) also showed up. We chatted shortly, handed over the keys and asked if we would join them for the inspection.
They informed us that they had already checked the place and that everything looked fine and we didn't need to be there. They also said that they preferred tenants not to be there for the inspection, but as the clerk had said that everything looked fine we were satisfied with that.

The agent used a platform called The Depositary to manage the check out process, and it informed that the agent would request the return of the deposit within 10 days. After 10 days, nothing had happened so I logged in to TDS and requested the return of the full deposit.
After that, the agent sent the check-out report which included around 50 findings, all marked as tenant liabilities. This was a bit of a surprise given that the checkout clerk had said that everything looked fine.

Some examples of the types of findings along with comments from me:
  • Discoloured silicone sealant around the bath/shower: I would have thought that this was a perishable item.
  • Faint mould marks around the front door: There were mould marks around the door noted in the check-in report. I kept the property well-heated and ventilated, but I needed to regularly clean some areas to manage mould spots. I would say that the mould situation was better than when we moved in. I even bought a dehumidifier to help with this as the landlord refused to replace the downstairs bathroom extractor fan which was not working when we moved in.
  • Smears on one of the living room walls: Just before the end of the tenancy I tried to clean the living room walls with sugar soap solution as the paint looked old and not very bright. The walls were not newly painted when we moved in (I would estimate that it was original paint from when the house was built almost 20 years ago). Cleaning them just left smears, so I gave up, and the cleaner told that the walls would just need to be repainted.
  • Many other small issues. The check-out report was generally far more detailed than the check-in report and even included at least one additional line which wasn't in the check-in report (including fabricated original condition description).

Almost a month after the tenancy ended the agent proposed quite large deductions via the Depositary platform. These were for redecorating, replacing sealant, and cleaning as I remember - they have shut down my access to The Depositary.

What would be the best way to handle this? It will take a long time to respond to each of the ~50 findings. Many of the things are minor and were left in similar condition, but were covered in more detail in the check to report. Others seem like fair wear and tear or natural degradation, such as the bathroom sealant. The repainting of the wall is something which I wonder about - we lived there for over 5 years, and it wasn't newly painted when we moved in, so I would think that it's fully depreciated, although perhaps I shouldn't have tried cleaning it.

Many thanks for any guidance.

HandyMan

From what you say, all of these items sound like normal wear and tear, and in any case after 5 years occupation, should not be claimed by the landlord. None of these claims are likely to be allowed by the deposit company's independent dispute adjudicator.


I would contact the landlord in writing and say that you refute all of their claims for the reasons given above. Say that if the landlord does not return your full deposit you will contest all the claims via the company's dispute resolution service. Say that the independent dispute adjudicator will make their decision based on the original check in report and the length of time that you have lived there.

If the landlord does choose to proceed with dispute resolution, you will have no option but to contest the claims, however you can do that by grouping them together, eg. "Claims 1-5, 13-19... disputed because no evidence of condition is provided in the check in report". "Claims 23-19... disputed because this is minor wear and tear consistent with 5 years occupation of the property", and so on.


Download the How to Present Your Case to a TDS Adjudicator Guide here https://www.tenancydepositscheme.com/deposit-disputes/
It will show you good and bad styles of presenting a case.

MARS


Quote from: HandyMan on March 04, 2024, 10:03:59 AMFrom what you say, all of these items sound like normal wear and tear, and in any case after 5 years occupation, should not be claimed by the landlord. None of these claims are likely to be allowed by the deposit company's independent dispute adjudicator.

Thank you for your reply. I've already emailed the agent and they don't seem to recognise the concept of fair wear and tear - at least they have said that the landlord rejects my proposal and still claims for these items. I'll write to them again and copy in the landlord and see what the response is. If that fails I'll take it to the scheme's dispute resolution following the guidance you shared - thank you :)

This is a large agency with around 10 branches, and I would have expected them to know what fair wear and tear is.

Hippogriff

Of course they know what fair wear-and-tear is - they're just trying to mug you off.

jpkeates

In case it helps, the legal definition of fair wear and tear is the "reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces". So washing the walls would be fall under that for me, nothing unreasonable about that.

heavykarma

Some of the queries I have read on here over the years just leave me dismayed. Some landlords must go round a property with a magnifying glass, looking for every little mark or scratch. We' ve had landlords trying to get the whole house recarpeted for example, when just one room has some damage.
I have maybe been far too lenient, but my priority is always to get the place fit to relet, not argue about a lick of magnolia.

MARS

Quote from: Hippogriff on March 07, 2024, 11:57:28 AMOf course they know what fair wear-and-tear is - they're just trying to mug you off.
I thought it was more likely to be that. I wondered if their inspection clerks get some kind of bonus for every tenant liability they make up.

David

The others have all made good points, it is definitely fair wear and tear, also while you should hand back the property in the same condition it was let to you, save wear and tear, there is also the matter of the age of things at the property.

That bathroom might not have been changed or repaired for 20 years, they might have used bathroom sealant from Poundland rather than say Wickes.  The same applies to white goods and just about everything.

I have helped many Tenants where a Landlord has tried to invent damages, usually after a deposit protection claim letter before action has been served.

The most shocking thing is the terrible comment by the Agent, for a damages claim to succeed the Landlord ideally needs the Tenant to be present at both inspections and to sign both of them as accepted.  I have come across at least a dozen of those very long and tedious inspection reports.  One took an inventory of chairs that were in the living room when let but in the dining room when surrendered, they listed them as missing.

There is also a lesson here for Tenants and Landlord to take copious photos and videos before and after the Tenancy, zooming in when necessary.

Also Tenants need to report issues by email with a CC to another email when there are issues with the property, such a mould.

Landlords should also put on record any breach they notice, for example that the Tenant has a dog or cat and they noticed staining on X date.

False deductions are one of the biggest causes on Deposit Protection sanction claims, a Landlord may fail to serve the Prescribed Information on a number of tenancies and never rectify that defect for later tenancies, the sums payable can be huge and bring huge legal fees too.

The Deposit Protection legislation was brought in to prevent his "entitled Landlord" type who see it as a redecoration fund, not that we don't have "entitled Tenants" who take some aspects of guidance and law a bit far at times.



Quote from: MARS on March 03, 2024, 07:19:49 PMHi Everybody, thanks for the excellent forum and very helpful content.

I just wanted to ask about deductions my landlord/agent are proposing after a tenancy of just over 5 years.
I believe that we cared for the property very well, and left it in good, clean condition, so I was expecting the checkout process to go smoothly. The checkout inspection was arranged for the day after the tenancy ended. This was quite inconvenient for me, but I managed to rearrange my work commitment to be there for the inspection.

When my wife and I arrived at the property for the inspection there was already somebody there doing an EPC inspection, and shortly later the inventory clerk (employed by the letting agency) also showed up. We chatted shortly, handed over the keys and asked if we would join them for the inspection.
They informed us that they had already checked the place and that everything looked fine and we didn't need to be there. They also said that they preferred tenants not to be there for the inspection, but as the clerk had said that everything looked fine we were satisfied with that.

The agent used a platform called The Depositary to manage the check out process, and it informed that the agent would request the return of the deposit within 10 days. After 10 days, nothing had happened so I logged in to TDS and requested the return of the full deposit.
After that, the agent sent the check-out report which included around 50 findings, all marked as tenant liabilities. This was a bit of a surprise given that the checkout clerk had said that everything looked fine.

Some examples of the types of findings along with comments from me:
  • Discoloured silicone sealant around the bath/shower: I would have thought that this was a perishable item.
  • Faint mould marks around the front door: There were mould marks around the door noted in the check-in report. I kept the property well-heated and ventilated, but I needed to regularly clean some areas to manage mould spots. I would say that the mould situation was better than when we moved in. I even bought a dehumidifier to help with this as the landlord refused to replace the downstairs bathroom extractor fan which was not working when we moved in.
  • Smears on one of the living room walls: Just before the end of the tenancy I tried to clean the living room walls with sugar soap solution as the paint looked old and not very bright. The walls were not newly painted when we moved in (I would estimate that it was original paint from when the house was built almost 20 years ago). Cleaning them just left smears, so I gave up, and the cleaner told that the walls would just need to be repainted.
  • Many other small issues. The check-out report was generally far more detailed than the check-in report and even included at least one additional line which wasn't in the check-in report (including fabricated original condition description).

Almost a month after the tenancy ended the agent proposed quite large deductions via the Depositary platform. These were for redecorating, replacing sealant, and cleaning as I remember - they have shut down my access to The Depositary.

What would be the best way to handle this? It will take a long time to respond to each of the ~50 findings. Many of the things are minor and were left in similar condition, but were covered in more detail in the check to report. Others seem like fair wear and tear or natural degradation, such as the bathroom sealant. The repainting of the wall is something which I wonder about - we lived there for over 5 years, and it wasn't newly painted when we moved in, so I would think that it's fully depreciated, although perhaps I shouldn't have tried cleaning it.

Many thanks for any guidance.


MARS

Quote from: David on March 10, 2024, 06:12:30 PMI have come across at least a dozen of those very long and tedious inspection reports.  One took an inventory of chairs that were in the living room when let but in the dining room when surrendered, they listed them as missing.

My inspection report is certainly long and tedious. I've only rented once before and the property was well looked after the end-of-tenancy process went very smoothly without any surprises.
I wrongly assumed that the process would also go smoothly for this one. The start of tenancy inventory was not very detailed and missed some pretty big issues which, of course, I commented on. For example, the bathroom floor had serious water damage and was swollen to the extent that quite a few of the tiles had come loose. I'll handle this as per the advice in this thread and take it to mediation if needed.

Quote from: David on March 10, 2024, 06:12:30 PMFalse deductions are one of the biggest causes on Deposit Protection sanction claims, a Landlord may fail to serve the Prescribed Information on a number of tenancies and never rectify that defect for later tenancies, the sums payable can be huge and bring huge legal fees too.

Interesting you should say that because the Prescribed Information was not served correctly either. It was initially with one scheme and then moved to another. In both cases the PI was not served correctly, so it seems to be a bit of a procedural issue for the agent. Should I start a separate thread about this issue?

HandyMan

Quote from: MARS on March 11, 2024, 08:10:20 PMInteresting you should say that because the Prescribed Information was not served correctly either. It was initially with one scheme and then moved to another. In both cases the PI was not served correctly, so it seems to be a bit of a procedural issue for the agent. Should I start a separate thread about this issue?

Depending on exactly what is meant by "the Prescribed Information  was not served correctly", you may be able to make a claim against your landlord. As this is independent of the 'wear & tear' deposit issue, please do start a separate thread to discuss.

David

There is no hurry on the Deposit Protection, I always think it is better to settle issues on their individual merits or deficits, so dealing with their allegations on deductions, not giving you an opportunity to be fully present and disputes that were raised at the outset of the Tenancy.

Landlords are generally more reasonable than Agents in my experience, the latter live on a percentage so are always looking to get fees, many of which were deemed prohibitive under the Tenant Fees Act (2019) so they are even more desperate.  They also suffer from the OPM disease of spending other people's money, many of them add 20% on any repairs and quote that to the Landlord.

What you don't want to do is give them a reason to create fake damages because they think you will bring a DP claim.  Let them make their allegations then prove them wrong, they also have to give you an opportunity to mitigate your loss.  So if they say a carpet needs to be repaired they have to first get your agreement that you caused the damage, then give you a chance to repair it to the state it was at when you took possession of the property.




Quote from: MARS on March 11, 2024, 08:10:20 PM
Quote from: David on March 10, 2024, 06:12:30 PMI have come across at least a dozen of those very long and tedious inspection reports.  One took an inventory of chairs that were in the living room when let but in the dining room when surrendered, they listed them as missing.

My inspection report is certainly long and tedious. I've only rented once before and the property was well looked after the end-of-tenancy process went very smoothly without any surprises.
I wrongly assumed that the process would also go smoothly for this one. The start of tenancy inventory was not very detailed and missed some pretty big issues which, of course, I commented on. For example, the bathroom floor had serious water damage and was swollen to the extent that quite a few of the tiles had come loose. I'll handle this as per the advice in this thread and take it to mediation if needed.

Quote from: David on March 10, 2024, 06:12:30 PMFalse deductions are one of the biggest causes on Deposit Protection sanction claims, a Landlord may fail to serve the Prescribed Information on a number of tenancies and never rectify that defect for later tenancies, the sums payable can be huge and bring huge legal fees too.

Interesting you should say that because the Prescribed Information was not served correctly either. It was initially with one scheme and then moved to another. In both cases the PI was not served correctly, so it seems to be a bit of a procedural issue for the agent. Should I start a separate thread about this issue?

MARS

Quote from: HandyMan on March 11, 2024, 09:59:06 PMDepending on exactly what is meant by "the Prescribed Information  was not served correctly", you may be able to make a claim against your landlord. As this is independent of the 'wear & tear' deposit issue, please do start a separate thread to discuss.
Thank you - I'll start a separate thread about this.

MARS

Quote from: David on March 11, 2024, 10:28:39 PMThere is no hurry on the Deposit Protection, I always think it is better to settle issues on their individual merits or deficits, so dealing with their allegations on deductions, not giving you an opportunity to be fully present and disputes that were raised at the outset of the Tenancy.

Thank you - I already raised the prescribed information issue with the agent, but perhaps I should have waited. I would value advice on the PI, so I'll start a separate thread about that.

MARS

Thanks for all of the advice given here - The agent has said that the landlord is insisting on the deductions, so this is going to arbitration. I'll just present the case clearly as recommended, so I'm happy to have arbitration handle this. I'll give an update on the outcome once it's concluded.


jpkeates

You'll have one opportunity to make your case. Don't assume there'll be a back and forth.