How good are the Dispute Resolution services of the Deposit Protection Service?

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    How good are the Dispute Resolution services of the Deposit Protection Service?

    Hello,

    I have tenants in a flat and they are moving out. The tenancy has gone well, but the tenants are looking like they may become difficult about the check-out process and damages to the flat, as well as cleaning.

    The issues are that the flat was clean when given to them, but is currently quite dirty. ('Quite dirty' means a kitchen with a layer of grease on everything, a dirty bathroom, cobwebs in the corners of the ceilings, marks on the carpet in one room, an oven that has been only superficially cleaned, mildew and mould marks on windowframes where condensation hasn't been wiped up, etc etc etc.) There are also nails and screws in the walls which have been used for picturehooks, which I suspect will be removed and given a cursory bit of polyfiller and paint, leaving a very obvious mark on the wall where the damage was done. There is also damage to a wooden floor, in a rather obvious spot, as well as a scorch mark on the top of a fridge/freezer which wasn't there when the tenants moved in.

    I have a full and detailed independent inspection and inventory report, which was approved by the tenants when they moved in. This details the fact that the flat was clean when they moved in (although not professionally cleaned), and also lists the walls as 'white, clean', makes no mention of the scratch on the floor nor the mark on top of the fridge/freezer. Putting screws or nails into the walls was expressly forbidden in the tenancy agreement (which I have a signed and counter-signed copy of, as do the tenants.) The deposit is with the Deposit Protection Scheme, with all paperwork served within 30 days.

    I therefore think (please correct me if I am wrong) that I am on firm ground when it comes to proving that the problems were not there when the tenants moved in (with one caveat - please see below).

    My question is what to do if the tenants get difficult about withholding some of the deposit? Is the Dispute Resolution offered by the Deposit Protection Scheme any good? I have been told they always find in favour of the tenant. I have heard that a better method is to refund all of the deposit and take the tenants to the Small Claims Court to recover the money owed, plus the court costs - is this sound advice?

    Also, what is reasonable to withhold from the deposit? I have a quote for £350 to professionally clean the flat, but is it reasonable to dock all of this off the deposit if the place wasn't professionally cleaned before the tenants moved in? If not, how much should I withhold? Also, with regard to the nails and screws in the walls, is it unreasonable to expect the hole to be filled and then painted to be such that it is not possible to see that there was ever a screw/nail there - which would probably involve painting the whole wall? In other words, is it OK for the tenant to botch it with a bit of filler and a couple of square inches of paint? The same question applies to the damage to the wooden floor; the floor is solid beech (not laminate) and there is a long and deep scratch in the middle of it. To properly repair the floor would involve sanding the whole thing down and re-varnishing it, which would be very expensive. Can I reasonably expect them to pay the full cost of this? (For reference, I expect the floor is around 10 years old but is otherwise in very good condition, and I would expect a lifetime of at least 25 years out of it.)

    As I said, the tenancy isn't over for another three days yet and they may yet clean things and repair things brilliantly. However it would be useful to know what my best advice is if things don't go as planned.

    Thanks, in advance, for any advice.


    Oli.

    #2
    Originally posted by zcacogp View Post
    ...is it OK for the tenant to botch it with a bit of filler and a couple of square inches of paint?
    I hope others will give you sound advice from experience, but I would take issue with your comment above. This is what everyone would to to fill in a nail hole or such. It's only a botch if a different paint is used and, surely, you have the exact same paint on-hand, as a good, prepared, Landlord? You can either provide that same paint to the Tenants, tell them what it is so they can get it themselves or do it yourself... filling in a hole with Polyfilla and then (after sanding a bit, probably) painting over just that bit is exactly how it's done... it's not a botch. Only a mad-man (or an ill-prepared Landlord who hasn't got a clue what paint is on his walls) would decide it's necessary to paint the whole wall.

    Comment


      #3
      The deposit is money that belongs the the tenant.
      At the end of their tenancy the tenant is meant to return the property in the condition it was in at the start less fair wear and tear (the tenancy agreement may be more specific in its requirements).
      You are entitled to compensation for any worsening of the condition of the property beyond wear and tear.
      This is the amount normally recovered from the tenant's deposit.

      You don't have to take it from the deposit, it's simply a convention, you can invoice the client and/or use the small claims route
      (although a court might legitimately ask why you didn't use the deposit, and - in addition - why you elected not to use the dispute resolution process available to you both via the DPS, a process you consented to when you protected the deposit).

      As you don't have to actually do the work, how you handle the floor is up to you.
      The DPS will have a notional lifetime for a wooden floor (lets say its 20 years to make it simple) and would therefore asses that half its value had already gone over time, and therefore the damage would be assessed starting from that point.
      Their valuations tend to feel on the low side as a consequence (because it costs a lot to replace or repair a wooden floor and the compensation will be nowhere near that),
      but they are pretty fair and don't (particularly) favour the tenant - it just feels like it if you're a landlord.
      Lots of tenants feel they favour the landlord (sucks to be an adjudicator).

      What they will do is come up with a value it's hard to get elsewhere and that it is difficult for anyone to argue with.

      Your cleaning question would similarly be answered, but does the tenancy agreement say anything about cleaning?
      Often agreements will stipulate a level of cleaning when the tenant leaves.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

      Comment


        #4
        I went through a dispute with my previous landlord via the DPS. Im a tenant.

        Laminate flooring that the landlord had only just installed before us moving in, not expensive but Ikea standard, was damaged slightly (see, I'm already being defensive) early on in the tenancy. A chair I stood on to change a bulb tilted, causing a slight depression in the floor where one of the legs pushed into it. We lived with it for 12 months, didn't mention it to landlord as it was only slightly noticeable, and wasn't causing any problems. We had a baby who crawled everywhere, and there was no damage or roughness/splinters etc. Wood wasn't cracked, just depressed.

        Also worth noting that I had wall mounted a TV, hung pictures, also those metal shelves and hooks that you hang pans from etc. Pretty heavy duty screws and drill holes. Again, without asking permission - as a tenant I know I will put things back to how they were, and I did fill and paint whole walls, at my cost and time. I see it as part of the gig - I don't want to live with no pictures up, no shelves up etc, so I factor in the time and effort I need to put in at the end of a tenancy if I want my money back.

        Anyway. I completely forgot about the depression in the floor. I spent 3 days making the house as it was, got my mother in law (clean freak) to come round and do a dummy inspection to make sure I hadn't missed anything, and due to one reason or another, couldn't be around for a proper check out so dropped keys off to letting agency. More fool me.

        Got some arsey text messages about the floor. I told landlord if he would give me the keys back I would take a look and fix it. Googling told me how to 'fill' it so it was flush, at a cost of < £10 and an hours work max. Landlord took 2 days to respond, telling me that the entire floor would need lifting for the board to be replaced. I told him I didn't agree with this and wanted to check. He told me that the work had already been done at a cost of £200 including labour, and I never got to see evidence of this - to view the work, receipts etc.

        We went through the DPS. He would request a £200 deduction. I would decline. I would request full refund. He would decline. This went on for a week. Ultimately I put it to their adjudicator - I wanted my money back. I provided photos I had taken of the excellent condition I left the property in, explained that I had repainted most of the house, filled holes, cleaned oven myself to a very high standard. Why would I go to all that effort just to leave a "hole" in the floor (as the landlord described it). I never got to see what evidence the landlord provided. Im guessing an unflattering photo of the damage (take it in the right light, and it would stand out) and a receipt for repair.

        Upshot - I was made to pay £70 towards the damage, which was 10% of my deposit. Better than £200, worse than a tenner.

        Not sure if this helps you in anyway. In hindsight, I can understand why the landlord - we were his first tenants in his brand new buy-to-let that he had completely done up - was aggrieved at the damage. We were model tenants, but moved out due to the next door property being under renovation by the neighbour from hell. He was clearly concerned about problems re-letting it so wanted to squeak as much cash out of us as he could. (We kept an eye on it, it didn't re-let for another 7 months, well after next door's building work had finished). As a tenant, I was p*ssed off that what I could have spent a tenner on ended up costing me £70, but I have learned a lesson.

        I dont think the DPS is biased towards either, in my personal opinion and based on one experience.
        Last edited by vandamme; 27-11-2014, 09:24 AM. Reason: typo

        Comment


          #5
          I agree with jpkeates when he says Landlords often think the dispute resolution service is unfair because Landlords have unrealistic expectations. The DPS have a very good booklet which you should have a look at. Click on this link http://www.depositprotection.com/doc...mages-2013.pdf

          I have been a landlord for 16 years now and my expectations of what is allowed and not allowed have changed substantially over the years. This is from speaking to the inventory company I use and from reading things like the booklet I've referred you to from the DPS as well as other articles. I've also used the DPS custodial service since it opened. I've never had to go to dispute resolution so I can't actually comment on that service. I've also recently been a tenant for 7 months as we moved out of our house while we had building works done and it was interesting seeing it from a tenant's point of view.

          Here's my opinion of what you want to deduct - I'm not saying I'm correct!

          Picture hooks. It is unreasonable to expect tenants to live in a property without being allowed to put up anything on the walls. I do ban bluetack, but I now allow tenants to put up decent picture hooks. These days I just let them leave the picture hooks as it is likely the next tenants will want to hang up some pictures. If they do remove them, I would expect them to fill the hole with filler and touch up with the same colour paint. I keep a record of all the colours as otherwise it is unreasonable to expect the tenant to know what colour it is. You should expect to have to redecorate at your cost every few years anyway - I usually seem to be able to get away with every 5 to 7 years but I think that is good going. A few touch ups on the walls is not a big deal and I would consider that to be reasonable wear and tear.

          Scratch on a wooden floor. Wooden floors get scratched in normal use - it is the nature of wooden floors and should be considered normal wear and tear. It does however depend on the type of scratch. If it was out of the normal then a deduction should possibly be made. It would depend on the condition of the floor. If the floor already had lots of scratches then it would be unreasonable to make a deduction as it wouldn't have made the floor any worse. If the floor was in good condition and the scratch was from negligence (i.e. putting a heavy sofa on the floor without protective caps over the feet) then a deduction should probably be made. If it is a deep scratch I would probably use a coloured wood filler of a match to the existing colour. That you could charge the full cost of. To have the floor sanded down will not be practical if it is a deep scratch as you would need to take off too much of the top layer to make the floor level. If you do do this, my comment would be that the scratch can't be that deep and you probably shouldn't then charge for it.

          Scorch mark on top of fridge/freezer. This hasn't reduced the effectiveness of the fridge/freezer or shortened it's life span, it is cosmetic. You could maybe make a nominal deduction of say £20 but if you go to dispute resolution you probably won't be awarded anything. I have just had a check out and there is a cut in the freezer compartment, probably where the tenants were trying to remove ice with a sharp knife while defrosting it. I spoke to the inventory company and they said as long as the freezer is working, I shouldn't make a deduction. The freezer is working perfectly so I have made no deduction.

          Cleaning. I am very strict on cleaning but my flats are always professionally cleaned including the carpets at the start of a tenancy. It is perfectly reasonable to expect the flats to be handed back in the same state. The tenants do not have to get it professionally cleaned but, if they clean it themselves, they need to clean it to the same standard. Your flat wasn't professionally cleaned before they moved in. To have it professionally cleaned would be betterment. Your quote for £350 seems extremely high to me. We moved out of a 4 bedroom house in London. I used the professional cleaners I use on my rented flats and it cost £120 + VAT. We were only there for 7 months and we kept it pretty clean anyway but that is a lot less than £350. The tenants who have just moved out of a 2 bedroom flat in London provided me a copy of the receipt for their professional cleaning, again using the same company on my recomendation. It cost them £188 + VAT but that included the carpets being fully professionally cleaned, which bumps up the cost a lot. The flat was pretty dirty before they had it cleaned. Unless yours is a huge flat, I would expect the professional cleaning of the full flat to be around £100 + VAT, as you can't expect the carpets to be professionally cleaned. You should also then contribute part of the cost, at a guess maybe 20% but that depends how clean it was when the tenants moved in.

          Hope that helps.

          Comment


            #6
            Good honest reply from jdmf, however, i have laid laminate flooring several times and to repair a dimple with what would be in effect "filler" and then stained to try to match the colour would probably stand out like a saw thumb if the flooring is immaculate.

            I have always bought second hand flooring when renting property as you can pick up laminate very cheap these days and in excellent condition, and often includes the underlay. If, as will most likely happen, slight damage occurs, i am not too worried about it. The flooring will still look good enough to relet and i am not having sleepless nights worrying about my brand new floor!

            Comment


              #7
              Guys,

              Lots of good and clear answers on here - thanks.

              I'm glad to hear that I was wrong about the DPS being biased. In the light of the replies I'll be a bit less sceptical about it.

              The idea of using filler on the floor is a good one, thanks jdmf. The floor itself is a decent one but certainly not new; the inventory mentions "several small marks and scratches" on it. If it was another small mark or scratch it'd leave it be, but it's a long and deep scratch (probably 16-18 inches long) pretty near the middle of it. I don't know how it happened but would guess that it was the foot of a sofa, or similar. It's interesting to hear about the process for attributing value to items, thanks for the explanation.

              Cleaning is the biggie, I think. The tenants have moved out already, having bought a place of their own, and I think their attentions are entirely focussed on the new place rather than on the old place. They weren't the cleanest people but my concern is that they think that a quick whip-round with a hoover and duster will suffice for the cleaning, and it won't. I guess that's where the check-out inspection and inventory comes into play. The carpets are marked, and the tenancy agreement stipulates that they should be cleaned "if they have, in the opinion of the landlord (which will be final and binding on the tenant) been soiled in the course of the tenancy". However I agree that £350 does sound expensive for cleaning the flat; I need to find other quotes (and a less expensive cleaner!)

              Holes in the walls; if they have the same outlook as Vandamme then I'll be very happy. (An aside, but I don't agree with you Hippogriff; if a wall has been painted with a roller and emulsion paint, filling a hole in it and touching it up with a paintbrush will stand out like a sore thumb - and unfortunately the holes are drilled in prominent areas, just where you'd want to hang a picture! The paint colour is plain white, but there is a lot more to making a good repair than matching colour, even if the filler has been sanded down properly and the area is flush.)

              Thanks again for your input everyone. I appreciate it.


              Oli.

              Comment


                #8
                Quick aside: I have found lighter fluid to be excellent at removing blu-tak marks jdmf. It's nigh-on magical as a quick rub with the stuff on a clean cloth and the mark disappears without trace. It's well worth trying if you have problems with blu-tak marks.


                Oli.

                Comment


                  #9
                  zcacogp,

                  I shall add that to my own checking out repertoire.

                  In my first rental post university (friends Dad was LL) I feel now able to confess that I used toothpaste to fill drill holes in a white wall, smoothed down with a credit card. Deposit was cash in hand back then, he took a look at my room, looked good, money back.

                  I'm now wondering if Karma is responsible for current day landlord issues...

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Interesting tip about the lighter fluid. Also sugar soap is very good at getting marks off walls. I think it's one of the reasons I get away with having to re-decorate less often.

                    Oli, I know what you are saying about touching up paintwork, but you will inevitably get scuffs on walls, particularly when tenants move in and out. I don't think a few touch ups are any worse than this and I do think this is just normal wear and tear.

                    With the wood filler, you can get different colours. You won't get an exact match, but you will get one that won't look too much out of place. We have just had engineered wood flooring put down in our house and this came with coloured wood filler in parts, presumably where there were knots in the wood. Again it doesn't exactly match but the wood is generally slightly different colours, so the wood filler doesn't really look out of place.
                    It sounds like you should make a deduction for the floor and Vandamme's experience of £70 sounds about right. I had some damage to a floor from the tenant's sofa legs a couple of years ago and charged them £80, which they agreed to. I then filled the holes with coloured wood filler.

                    I think you need to be a bit careful with the cleaning. I think the clause in the contract would probably be considered unfair and unenforceable. It would probably have been ok if you had put in the reasonable opinion of the Landlord and even better if you had put in the reasonable opinion of the independant inventory company. If the carpets weren't professionally cleaned at the beginning, I don't think you would be awarded the full cost of having them professionally cleaned at the end even if there are some marks. In similar situations before, I have usually split the cost. But it depends on how many marks there are, whether there were any marks when the moved in and so on.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Another painfully amusing* anecdote.

                      One property, we had a sofa with wooden feet. Upon starting to plan the move out, we noticed by one of the wooden feet, on the cream carpet a red ring appeared where we assumed one of the kids had spilled juice and it had soaked around the circular foot of the sofa.

                      We hired a carpet cleaner - one of the soap ones that takes a while to dry, and did the whole house, especially this cream carpet. Looked to have done the job. As we did this before moving all our stuff out, we managed to put all other furniture on laminate flooring elsewhere, but couldn't remove the sofa so we just moved it around as we cleaned this floor. We then left it all to dry, with the sofa back in place.

                      Turned out it wasn't red juice the kids had spilled. It was any old juice, it was only that the water had meant the reddish varnish on the wooden sofa feet had bled into the carpet. On move out day, when the removal guys removed the sofa, we found that thanks to the recently soaked and soaped carpet with all 4 sofa feet on it, we had 4 identical rust-red rings on the carpet instead of just the one.

                      I firmly anticipated losing most of my bond. Landlord checked the place, was happy with it (again, put a lot of effort into making it as good as it was, if not better), and we got the full bond returned. I put that down to amateur/kind hearted landlord. He was a good guy in general.

                      *probably not that amusing

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by zcacogp View Post
                        (An aside, but I don't agree with you Hippogriff; if a wall has been painted with a roller and emulsion paint, filling a hole in it and touching it up with a paintbrush will stand out like a sore thumb - and unfortunately the holes are drilled in prominent areas, just where you'd want to hang a picture! The paint colour is plain white, but there is a lot more to making a good repair than matching colour, even if the filler has been sanded down properly and the area is flush.)
                        You will, of course, note that I did not say or claim that it would look the same... I said that it is the way everyone would do it. It is easy to blend in the paint by very deliberately spreading it out over a larger area with a brush going in different directions. What I was trying to convey was the fact that you describing a Tenant doing a "botch job" by filling in with Polyfilla and then painting over (one assumes in the same colour) is unreasonable and if you went to any objective person saying you required the whole wall repainting, when this had been attempted, I reckon you would be laughed at. When a Landlord says they expect to receive the property back in the same condition as it was when it was let, there has to be a level of reasonableness attached to that. You don't get the roller out, intending to repaint the whole wall, to fill in some holes, you just don't... prominent or not. You shouldn't describe someone using the right tools for the job as a botch. Please don't try to educate me on whether there is more to making a good repair than matching colour, I've filled-in more holes than you can imagine! I can assure you that the next Tenants do not notice filled-in and repainted holes at their viewing(s) and, even if they did, who cares?

                        Of course, from the programmes on TV that we watch, we know that there are portions of the population out there with undiagnosed OCD... maybe it's time for a check-up? Or at least try to ease-up. Will you be attending the check-out inspection with a magnifying glass? Your starting position is that the Tenants may become difficult but my - objective - reading of your post is that you are the one that is going to prove impossible to please.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Hippogriff. I understand where you are coming from but that is a bit harsh. It took me a while to understand that you can't expect your property to be handed back in exactly the same state as it was rented in (cleaning excepted). It is not always easy to wrap your head around the concept of allowing reasonable wear and tear. Also, Landlords can sometimes forget that it is the tenants home and while they are living there they should be allowed to do such things as hang up pictures, accidentally scrape a wall and so on.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by jdmf View Post
                            Also, Landlords can sometimes forget that it is the tenants home and while they are living there they should be allowed to do such things as hang up pictures, accidentally scrape a wall and so on.
                            Then these people are not really Landlords (yet)... they are playing at being Landlords 'cos they thought it'd be cool and "isn't it amazing that you can tell people how to live their lives and take money from them when they don't do it as you want?". At best they need educating, at worst they need to get out and go back to living their own lives in their own way rather than describing a perfectly acceptable repair job as a botch. I was noted that the Landlord has tried to expressly forbid putting screws or nails into the wall... that's not going to happen... these people are adults living their lives and if they want to hang some pictures, they can... the best repair (described as Polyfilla and matching paint) would be acceptable to any normal person. The mere intimation that the wall should be repainted to get it back to its former glory is, frankly, outlandish. You would not do that if it was your own home. Sometimes people do need to be told they're being unreasonable, not be given approval for unreasonable ideas. If the wall needs to be redone every couple of short-term tenancies, then I could definitely understand that - but you can't lay all the cost of that at the feet on a single Tenant either. It's just learning, though, everyone can get there... it's mainly a people business and you have to learn how to deal with people reasonably... expressly forbidding Tenants to put nails or screws (and maybe even adhesives) on the wall is not a good start... allowing them to do this as long as reasonable, good quality, repairs of the damaged parts (not the whole wall, or room, or house) are conducted at the end of the tenancy is much better. BTW... my harshness was really intended to be jocularity. I hope that explains my input a bit better?

                            I did not realise whether it was made clear if this was the OP's former home, or not... people are often too attached to properties they let out when they're their former home, that often creates bad Landlord behaviour.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              I don't tend to allow fixings in walls. I always recommend 3M Command Strips instead which are what I use in my own home for all but the heaviest paintings (adhesive hooks, removable without a trace). If someone needs a heavier duty fixing I tend to allow it on the condition that it is not obvious at the end of the tenancy. The flats I let are close to immaculate though. Back in the day I let shabbier house shares and i was consequently less particular.

                              I used to take the view that small things like filling holes and replacing lightbulbs were easy to deal with and therefore not to be charged on. However, I now take the view that these are easy things for the householder to deal with and there is no real excuse for them not doing it. I don't take offence at them not doing it but I charge them for leaving it to me. A month before the end of the tenancy I send a check list of commonly missed items (cleaning under furniture, lightbulbs, descaling taps and shower screens, properly cleaning the oven, etc..) and provide an estimate of what might typically be charged if these items are not completed.

                              Things like wooden floors I find very hard to calculate. For the sake of an easy life, unless it has been particularly abused or needs immediate repair, I just ignore it.
                              Assume I know nothing.

                              Comment

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