Archive for November, 2013

Vacant possession claims are at highest level since 2009


The number of landlords and agents seeking vacant possession through the courts is at its highest level since 2009 and up 12.7% from last year. This emphasises the need for strong tenant selection processes and reminds Landlords to consider rent and legal protection insurance.

The Government’s latest Court statistics published on 14 November show that there has been almost a 25% rise in Landlord claims since 2010.  126,351 possession claims have been made in the first three quarters of this year, compared with 101,415 in the first three quarters of 2010.

In a recent survey for BBC Panorama, 31% of people paying a mortgage or rent spend more than a third of their disposable income each month doing so. The rent that tenants pay should be no more than 40% of gross earnings under the recognised thresholds that tenant referencing companies use, including LetRisks.  Landlords and letting agents should be aware of these limits when screening potential tenants, since it is easier to avoid arrears, than it is to recover them.

Non-payment, late or partial payment of rent remains the biggest worry for Landlords. There has been a sharp rise in demand for rent guarantee insurance as Landlords and agents look to find ways to protect their rental income. It is clear that this problem is not going to go away soon.  Across Britain, rents have typically increased by 1.2% over the last year and look like they will continue to rise in 2014. Some tenants will continue to find it hard to pay their rent each month, with the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that a third of working men are in part-time employment, because they cannot find a full-time job, compared to 13% of women.

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Deposit disputes and the death of a goldfish


The annual review by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) for 2012-13 highlights the types of disputes it deals with and how these have changed over time.  The most common cause of complaint brought by tenants is about cleaning, increasing from 49% in 2009 to 56% in 2013, although one case involved the death of a goldfish!

Amongst the facts and figures in the annual report 55% of disputes came from Tenants, yet only 21% of tenants received 100% of the amount in dispute. 45% of disputes came from Landlords and Agents, yet only 19% received 100% of the amount in dispute.

Some of the costs arising in disputes can be insured, notably damage by tenants (43% of disputes related to damage) and rent arrears (17% of disputes). When arranging insurance, make sure that the buildings and contents policy covers malicious and accidental damage by tenants under a specialist buildings policy typically available from LetRisks.


Cleaning disputes featured in 56% of the disputes (and most disputes involve more than one category of claim) and are now at their highest level since 2007.

Most letting agents will check that the property is clean prior to the tenancy and the inventory clerk will include detailed descriptions about the level of cleanliness on a room by room basis, with photographs to support any areas of concern.  A clause will be included to ensure that the property is returned to the same high standard of cleanliness when the tenancy ends. Tenants need to have all carpets and curtains professionally cleaned and to have windows cleaned inside and out … but this is often where the contention starts.

It becomes very personal when the tenant believes that they have done a good job but the landlord/agent disagrees and demands additional professional cleaning be carried out. The typical cost of a cleaner can be anywhere between £10 and £20 per hour…  To help understand the nature of disputes and how to avoid them we bring you comments from The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks  (AIIC) and Deposit Protection Service (DPS):

Deposit Protection Service (DPS) – cleaning

“DPS accepts that some agents provide ‘in-house’ services to overcome the potential breach, for example cleaning or repairs. They emphasise that “care needs to be taken to show that this process is open and transparent and that the costs incurred are justified. Deductions made by landlords in relation to cleaning charges are regularly disputed by tenants. Many claim that the cleanliness of the property at the start of the tenancy was not clear, or that the tenancy agreement did not make clear what was expected of them.”

“Where landlords wish to make deductions for cleaning costs, they will need to ensure any charges they claim are a fair reflection of the property’s condition at the start of the tenancy. The type and size of the property is an important factor when deciding whether cleaning costs are reasonable. For example, a five bedroom house would take longer to clean than a one bedroom flat. Similarly, the cleaning of a bathroom mirror would not require an equal amount of cleaning as a bath or shower. For this reason ‘Standard Charges’ are often considered unreasonable by an adjudicator, unless these are specifically explained to the tenant in writing at the start of the tenancy and agreed to by the tenant in writing.”

“A landlord can also support their claim by producing invoices or receipts for work carried out by a professional cleaning contractor, as costs are usually balanced against market rates and geographical location. Where landlords charge an hourly rate to clean the property themselves, this can be more problematic for adjudicators because it is harder to justify the rate against the time spent cleaning.”

“Tenants also complain that regardless of their efforts to clean the property themselves deductions are made no matter what the state of the property at the end of the tenancy. It is important to remember that the tenant is only obliged to return the property in the same state of cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy, after allowing for fair wear and tear.”

The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC)

AIIC has put together a list of the most common cleaning problems for agents to be aware of at check-out:

  • Stained and marked carpets – this is a very common problem with some tenants trying to hide stains with rugs and furniture. Tenants have also been known to cut out the stain and fill the hole with carpet they have cut from a hidden part of the property eg under the bed or in the wardrobe.
  • Ovens – cause the most problems. If listed as completely clean at check in, they must be left in the same condition. Burn marks on any part of the appliance means it is not clean. Tenants are amazed that professional oven cleaning costs between £50 – £80.
  • Heavy lime scale to kitchen and bathroom fittings – the response of tenants is often ‘it’s not my fault, this is a hard water area’.
  • Grease deposits throughout the kitchen (particularly on cooker hoods and the cooker hood filter(s), surfaces and cupboards that may look clean but will feel sticky to touch.
  • Thick dust & cobwebs, particularly around furniture and on the ceilings and light fittings.
  • Dirty windows that have obviously not been cleaned during the whole tenancy.


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