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pablopatito

Advice On Deposit Deductions Please

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We've just vacated a property we've rented for the last five years. The letting agent is claiming over £400 of deductions. I'm not sure if this is reasonable:

Garden (£75 + VAT and admin fees on top)

Mowing the lawn. They say the lawn is too long, even though I cut it ten days before the end of the tenancy. What's a reasonable length for grass?

Hedges overgrown and need to be cut back. I've trimmed the hedges. Again, what consitutes overgrown?

Weeding. The original inventory report when we moved in said the garden was "mostly weed free". How do you define mostly? I've tried to keep on top of the dandelions, but I don't know of anyone who has a completely weed free garden.

When we moved in we were told (only verbally, sadly) that the house came with a gardener, and for the first couple of years he would turn up every six month and weed and trim the hedges. He hasn't turned up for the last three years. Because this was only a verbal agreement I guess it's not relevant?

House cleaning (£150 + fees)

We spent around ten hours cleaning the house before we left, including scrubbing down the walls and skirting boards with sugar soap etc etc. I wish we hadn't bothered now! Do agents always charge a cleaning fee? They are claimimng the house is "grubby", "soiled" and "dusty". What's reasonable? I'd say the house is about as clean as when we moved in, but I can't prove this. I'd say the house is grubby in as much as it hasn't been painted for at least five years (and I suspect since the house was built ten years), so is in need of a good paint job. But that's about it.

Lightbulbs (£50 + fees)

£5 per lightbulb. This is mainly to install lightbulbs that weren't in the house when we moved in (such as the cupboard under the stairs and an external light at the front of the house that we didn't even know existed). Lightbulbs weren't mentioned in the original inventory report when we moved in, so we didn't bother to install lightbulbs where they weren't installed originally. Are we snookered because we didn't mention it at the time?

Removing rubbish (£25 + fees)

This is for a tennis racket that I left in a cupbaord by mistake (and hope to get back!) and hangers in the wardrobe. The hangers were there when we moved in, so that's why we left them. They weren't on the original inventory report though.

I'm mainly angry at my naivety. The original inspection report when we moved in was very general and woolly, whereas there final inspection report is incredibly detailed and pedantic. Had I known, I would have photographed ever single weed, coat hanger and cobweb when I moved in! I wasn't present during the final inspection report because I was on a pre-booked holiday, and they wouldn't change the date.

Should I just put the £400 down to experience, or do you think I can argue for a reduced fee? Is it worth going to a TDS tribunal, or are my objections too trivial? What's a tribunal like, is it stressful? Would I have to pay costs if I lost or is it risk free?

Many thanks for your help, as always.

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Nothing much to do, standard practice from what I have seen, and you don't seem to have been hit too hard. Tds is a waste of time and will find in landlords favour (who pays for them?). Could try small claims court i guess.

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I think the "removing rubbish" charge is a good example of them taking the piss. A tennis racket will fit in a normal bin and it's quite reasonable to leave coat hangers (in my opinion). The other items are also taking the piss of course, and if you have the original inventory you have a leg to stand on. I've never done a tribunal though so wait for some more comments!

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Go through TDS, that's what it's there for. These are almost certainly the letting agent's standard moving out charges that they apply to everybody no matter what. You will probably get all of your money back just for filling in a form, plus the satisfaction of sticking up for yourself.

The burden of proof is on the landlord/agent, not you. They need to prove that there are more weeds in the garden now than there were when you moved in, that the grass is longer, that there were no hangers in the cupboard etc. If the check-in inventory is woolly and there are no photographs then this actually helps your case as it becomes very difficult for them to prove these things.

Generally the deposit schemes find in favour of the tenants. The deposit is there to cover extraordinary damage to the property beyond what would be expected from reasonably responsible day-to-day living, not a few dandelions in May and several hangers in a cupboard. The whole point of the TDS is to prevent landlords and their agents from playing these games, but it relies on tenants sticking up for themselves a little.

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We had something similar a few years ago.

My advice is to refuse to agree the deductions and to ask the questions in writing:

- Please would you supply the proof or evidence that cleaning was carried out at your expense before we moved in.

- Please supply evidence that any deterioration is more than reasonable wear and tear for a five year tenancy - note that any deductions cannot be for the betterment of the property.

- Ask for the evidence that the grass was too long of significantly longer than when you moved in.

- Ask for a breakdown and receipts for all work that they say has been undertaken. For instance £75 for 10 minutes to cut grass could not be justified. This will enable you to create a picture of the LL being dishonest and greedy which is useful evidence if you go to small claims or the TDS.

Also, did you have a checkout visit by the LL or agent? - if they did not inform you (in writing) after that, of what needed to be done, then that also helps paint a picture of a retrospective dishonest attempt to get money.

While you're at it, it might be worth checking if there are any other skeletons in the closet of the LL - does he have CCJs or failed businesses, does he have the correct mortgage - has he been meticulous in servicing gas and electric stuff - all things he wouldn't want bringing out.

Overall - it is evidence that is important - does he have evidence to support his charges.

Hope this helps and good luck - and don't let this person turn you from a nice person into a person who never ever trusts anyone.

Y

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We had something similar a few years ago.

My advice is to refuse to agree the deductions and to ask the questions in writing:

- Please would you supply the proof or evidence that cleaning was carried out at your expense before we moved in.

- Please supply evidence that any deterioration is more than reasonable wear and tear for a five year tenancy - note that any deductions cannot be for the betterment of the property.

- Ask for the evidence that the grass was too long of significantly longer than when you moved in.

- Ask for a breakdown and receipts for all work that they say has been undertaken. For instance £75 for 10 minutes to cut grass could not be justified. This will enable you to create a picture of the LL being dishonest and greedy which is useful evidence if you go to small claims or the TDS.

Also, did you have a checkout visit by the LL or agent? - if they did not inform you (in writing) after that, of what needed to be done, then that also helps paint a picture of a retrospective dishonest attempt to get money.

While you're at it, it might be worth checking if there are any other skeletons in the closet of the LL - does he have CCJs or failed businesses, does he have the correct mortgage - has he been meticulous in servicing gas and electric stuff - all things he wouldn't want bringing out.

Overall - it is evidence that is important - does he have evidence to support his charges.

Hope this helps and good luck - and don't let this person turn you from a nice person into a person who never ever trusts anyone.

Y

I agree, they appear to be having a laugh. The TDS is there to mediate on such things as this, though you'll need to put forward your issues to the agents first to see if it can be resolved without their assistance.

I recently moved out of a house we'd been renting for over 5 years; the agents were extremely slippery. They wanted £162.50 towards the cost of decorating the house, the total cost for which was £500. The agents logic was that the decor had a life of 5 years, so was to be depreciated at 20% per year for fair wear and tear. The agent compounded that 20%, to give 500 x 0.8x0.8x0.8x0.8x0.8 = £162.50 residual cost. The agent said that this was the TDS way of calculating the cost of repairs so there's no point in questioning it; when I pointed out his error in calculation (it should be £500 - 5x0.2x500 = £0) he suddenly retracted his earlier statements and agreed the decoration was not our cost. He was the senior checkout inspector so clearly knew what he was doing, and was just trying to con us out of money by baffling us with maths.

We also got stung with the cleaning costs; I spent many hours cleaning the carpets to a standard that I thought was better than when we moved in. However the photos taken on check-in were very general overviews of the carpets which, in the photos, looked ok. On checkout they took very detailed close-up photos of any stain to prove it was still dirty. In hindsight I should either have taken hundreds of photos when we checked in, or just not bothered cleaning it at all when we left and saved myself 10 hours of back breaking cleaning! In the end we paid it and just moved on with our lives, and didnt raise it with the TDS. However, in your case it sounds like there are fair grounds for doing this.

The one positive you can take away from it, which is what we did, is that the deductions only work out at a little over £6 a month while you were there. Makes it a little easier to swallow!

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We had something similar a few years ago.

My advice is to refuse to agree the deductions and to ask the questions in writing:

I should have said more specifically:

Write a letter to the LL or Letting Agent formally stating that you dispute the deductions and why. Always write `Without prejudice' on the top of any letter you send. That way any offer of compromise you make does not bind you in the future.

At the very least it will start to look like you are well informed on the procedures. Your letter could also ask the other detailed questions.

If the LL/LA is a real business they will start to calculate the time involved in going through the dispute, providing evidence etc will cost them more than just returning your deposit.

Y

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MIrrors my experience almost exactly with - thankfully - our last landlord ever hopefully. We were charged for:

Cleaning. The place was in an utter state when we rented it eg cat hair everywhere, broken glass, takeaway dinners thrown in the corner of a room. We left it in a not perfect state but certainly better than that. But we took no pictures of the place before.

Removing picture hooks - and making good on repairing the wall.

Flytipping. We put the rubbish bagged and in the normal communal area.

Plus the sod hadn't protected our deposit either. This was after nearly five years of renting the place trouble free.

It was a useful lesson to learn.

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Thanks all. I'll try and negotiate with the agent. I'm certainly not happy about paying to have the grass cut when I cut it a few days before the end of the tenancy.

One minor point, we are being charged to empty the black council bin, is this normal? I don't mind particularly, I just figured that as the bin belonged to the council, and is collected every 14 days, I wasn't responsible for emptying it.

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Thanks all. I'll try and negotiate with the agent. I'm certainly not happy about paying to have the grass cut when I cut it a few days before the end of the tenancy.

One minor point, we are being charged to empty the black council bin, is this normal? I don't mind particularly, I just figured that as the bin belonged to the council, and is collected every 14 days, I wasn't responsible for emptying it.

You are entitled to the bin and it's associated collections through your council tax. When did you stop paying it as technically the council could stop collecting if no tax is being paid on the property? I would be amazed if that information filtered down to the bin men on collection day though.

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400 quid is taking the piss, you should follow the tds procedure, they are stealing from you. I never pay to have any place I rent cleaned any more, I did when I started renting and got charged for a clean when I left anyway. That was before tds. Now we have tds you should use it in cases like this.

All I do these days is give the place a quick once over, I have found that the state you leave the place in, within reason, plays NO part at all in whether or not the agent is going to try and steal from you. They have decided to do that or not as part of their standard procedures before they have attended any 'check out'. Don't make it easy for them by leaving it in a mess but also don't go to any trouble either, and certainly don't spend any money.

For amounts in the sub 100 quid or so range I tend to just let it slide, as another poster says you can consider the total cost of renting as the rent you've paid plus the amount they steal divided by the number of months. If thats an acceptable figure, so what... Sometimes life is too short and at least you're not an estate agent so you win in the end :D But for 400 quid, stick the knife well in. Scum.

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400 quid is taking the piss, you should follow the tds procedure, they are stealing from you. I never pay to have any place I rent cleaned any more, I did when I started renting and got charged for a clean when I left anyway. That was before tds. Now we have tds you should use it in cases like this.

Interesting. So have you successfully used TDS to dispute a cleaning charge? And if so, how did it go?

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You are entitled to the bin and it's associated collections through your council tax. When did you stop paying it as technically the council could stop collecting if no tax is being paid on the property? I would be amazed if that information filtered down to the bin men on collection day though.

Basically, let's say the bin is collected on a Friday and the tenancy ends on a Monday. So at the end of the tenancy, the bin will contain rubbish from Saturday and Sunday. The bin is kept on the property, so the council can only collect it if someone puts it out on the street.

There wasn't much left in it, as I haven't been living at the property for a while. All I put it in was the results of the cleaning I did the day before the tenancy ended - so mostly the contents of the hoover, some dusting cloths and a roll of kitchen towel.

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Interesting. So have you successfully used TDS to dispute a cleaning charge? And if so, how did it go?

Not directly. Since tds came in I've had a mixture of the deposit being returned in full no questions asked, a reduction sub 100 quid which I felt not worth the bother of disputing and a vague claim of 300 odd.

The vague claim was over the phone after a 'check out' at which I was not present, the place wasn't left spotless which was intentional on my part as when I moved in it wasn't spotless either. They (letting agent) suggested a sum of 300 odd to get it back into a 'rentable condition', I said my only obligation was to leave it in as good a condition as I found it and I had no intention of paying anything and if necessary would dispute their claim via the tds procedure. That was followed by a 'we'll call you back', and when they did, they completely caved and I had the deposit returned in full.

Prior to tds I doubt that would have happened. I've not yet gone through the procedure but certainly would if I felt they were being unfair. The threat might be enough.

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There is currently a discussion on Landlordzone about how much it is reasonable to charge for changing a light bulb and which addresses some basic principles. See here: http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?55572-LL-lightbulb-replacement-charge

I've changed lightbulbs and indeed fuses in rented accommodation, I may total it all up and send some invoices out.

Honestly, what a pathetic bunch landlords are. There is a cost to being in business, tiny insignificant tasks of that sort in the preparation of your product before it is used by the customer is something for them to absorb themselves, what utter tits.

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I've changed lightbulbs and indeed fuses in rented accommodation, I may total it all up and send some invoices out.

Honestly, what a pathetic bunch landlords are. There is a cost to being in business, tiny insignificant tasks of that sort in the preparation of your product before it is used by the customer is something for them to absorb themselves, what utter tits.

I recall this thread where the resident landlord said we (tenants) should be changing tap washers...

http://www.housepricecrash.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=185244&pid=909202490&st=0entry909202490

not intending to derail this thread, good luck pablo.

I'm in the unfortunate position of having had the carpets replaced during my tenancy so I can hardly avoid having to clean them upon vacating :D

And the boiler fixed... twice... and the shower replaced...

Edited by SeeYouNextTuesday

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Thanks all. I'll try and negotiate with the agent. I'm certainly not happy about paying to have the grass cut when I cut it a few days before the end of the tenancy.

One minor point, we are being charged to empty the black council bin, is this normal? I don't mind particularly, I just figured that as the bin belonged to the council, and is collected every 14 days, I wasn't responsible for emptying it.

It sounds to me as though they are just trying it on, using any excuse to drum up some charges. The more ridiculous it is (and that in particular is very ridiculous) the better chance you have with the tds procedure, any sane 3rd party looking at these charges should give the agent a punch in the face. And that leads me to believe that if you show youve some fight in you they may well just drop it.

We all know they NEVER get any of these jobs done that they charge for, can you seriously imagine them turning up with a container to empty the bin into before taking it to the dump? They'll just leave it all there in its current state for the next tenant to sort out. I've never started a rental in a professionally cleaned property, they just don't do it.

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I recall this thread where the resident landlord said we (tenants) should be changing tap washers...

http://www.housepricecrash.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=185244&pid=909202490&st=0entry909202490

It is pathetic, it's like going to a restaurant for dinner and being told you have to do the washing up so the next customer can use the plates after you. Most landlords are just not cut out for running a business, they just sit there with their hands out screaming 'give me money! I'm shrewd! I signed a mortgage application so deserve infinite money forever without providing any service to my customers!'. They've no business sense at all, a few just lucked in on a bubble and the rest don't even know they're losing money. Tits.

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Just to update this thread: I told the letting agency I was only prepared to accept around half of their deductions and they accepted. So a happy outcome. It took a while though, and we were lucky we weren't in a rush to get the deposit back - I guess that most renters aren't in that position.

Thanks for your advice and support as always.

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  • 243 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

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