#AskTDS: “What should I do if there is a dispute with my tenant?"
In this week’s #AskTDS, we answer a question asked regularly by landlords – “What should I do if there is a dispute with my tenant?”
The majority of tenancies end amicably and without incident, but disputes can and do occur. Whether it’s over the cleanliness of the property, damages, or even the responsibilities held by each party towards the upkeep of garden areas, it’s inevitable that landlords and tenants will not always entirely agree at the end of a tenancy.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
The first point of reference in any dispute will always be the tenancy agreement. A well prepared, thorough tenancy agreement signed before a tenant moves in can make any dispute at the end of a tenancy much easier to deal with. Put simply, if it has been clearly set out in the tenancy agreement, then a dispute can be sorted out with relative ease.
Similarly, an inventory report is an important tool in dealing with disagreements quickly and transparently. A good inventory report, complete with clear pictures, should act as evidence as to what is in the property when a tenant moves in and the condition and cleanliness of it too. This can be crucial in deciding any disagreements at the end of a tenancy and avoid the need to use the TDS NI dispute resolution mechanism. TDSNI has recently published inventory guidance which gives landlords and letting agents advice on how to carry out the kind of inventory report adjudicators need to be able to assess the claim properly.
The TDSNI Adjudication Process
Of course, not all tenancies will end smoothly. Where disagreements over who receives what portion of the deposit can’t be sorted out between the parties, TDS offers a free dispute resolution service. TDS will initially try to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement. If this is not successful, an independent adjudicator will look at all the evidence – tenancy agreement, inventory report, other relevant documentation about the property including receipts for any cleaning or damage repairs – and make a decision based on that.
A decision will usually be made within 20 working days after the evidence has been submitted as to how the deposit should be divided (or if 100% should go to one party).
TDSNI provides a deductions template that has been prepared to set out clearly the deductions that a landlord proposes to make from the tenancy deposit. The document itself is an approved template issued by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme which requires landlords to be explicit about the deductions that they propose to make from the deposit and to provide the tenant with the evidence that supports the deduction. If the tenant does not agree with the proposed deductions, then this template may be submitted to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme as evidence of the proposed deductions.
It can be stressful being involved in a disagreement of any kind, including one about the deposit. But, as with most things, preparation and a detailed demonstration of evidence will make your life much easier.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and free Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.
TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.
TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.
TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.
TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland's leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.
TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.
These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.
ARLA|Propertymark: For agents who would like to stay up to date, you can contact Propertymark | ARLA at: firstname.lastname@example.org. By being a member of Propertymark | ARLA you will be eligible for TDS Insured best headline rates.
RLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can contact the RLA at: email@example.com and quote reference: dg715 to receive 25% off your first year's membership.