When it comes to gathering evidence for deposit disputes, the need for thoroughness is understandable. However, on occasion some landlords take their dedication to preparation beyond what’s necessary.
Items received by The DPS Dispute Resolution team include a section of carpet from one landlord wanting to show us the iron burn left by a tenant. In this case a photo of the damage in situ would have had the same evidential value, in fact possibly more. Having been removed from its context, it could be questioned whether it came from the tenancy property.
Several bathroom items have also been sent in by landlords. One submission we received was a limescale covered tap to demonstrate the tenant’s lack of care of their bathroom. Another time a tenant sent in a new shower mixer tap to support their view that the landlord was charging too much to install a replacement. Clear date stamped photographs, and receipts or invoices are much more helpful for adjudicators.
Save on postage and email your evidence
One landlord sent a mobile phone complete with charger containing photos they’d taken of the property. Email is much simpler for us and much cheaper for you!
We do encourage the use of video evidence to help resolve disputes, but landlords should note it can be used against them. One tenant sent in a video of a landlord climbing over a garden wall and entering a house without the tenant’s consent. Following your obligations as a landlord is as important as your tenants following theirs.
How to get your evidence right
1. Put everything in writing from the start
The check-in report is one of the most important pieces of evidence as it shows the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy. Not only does this document contain vital information in the event of a dispute, but having a clear and defined starting point as to the condition of the property can help avoid disputes entirely It should be completed at the very start of a tenancy and list everything that’s already in the property, including the condition of the carpet, walls, furniture and garden. Adjudicators will use this to judge the original property condition in a dispute.
2. Stick to the facts
Be detailed and thorough but most of all be factual and honest. The report should include facts, including information about the age and condition of items. Adjudicators make their decisions based on evidence - so it’s important that the report is objective. Using a third-party inventory service is an easy way to create strong, impartial check-in and check-out reports.
3. Take Photos
Good quality photos help adjudicators get an accurate view of the condition of the property at check-in and check-out. Pictures should be clear and in colour. Make sure they’re date-stamped to prove they were taken on the check-in and check-out dates.
4. Invite your tenants to the check-out
If you and your tenants review the condition of the property together, you can compare it with the check-in report, and agree any deposit deductions there and then. Avoiding a dispute is the best outcome for everyone and the check-out is the perfect opportunity. An open and honest discussion about the deposit at this point will most likely lead to everyone feeling they've had a fair outcome, and make the need for dispute resolution far less likely.
5. Get signatures
Check-in and check-out reports that are signed by all parties carry more weight as evidence. It shows that everyone agrees with the description of the property and that it’s not just one person’s opinion. Unsigned reports create doubt for the adjudicator about their accuracy. Make sure you give your tenants the opportunity to read and consider the report before signing it, and give them a copy for themselves.
“The provision of evidence is a fundamentally important aspect of the resolution of any dispute, and good evidence can help adjudicators come to fair conclusions around the return of deposit money.
Good evidence can include records of email correspondence or mobile phone messages, date-stamped photographs or video that helps demonstrate the condition of the property at both the start and end of a tenancy.
Over the 14 years that we’ve been protecting deposits, landlords and tenants have posted us some very inventive and unusual items to back up their points, but we’d nevertheless encourage both parties to stick to paperwork, images and video in order to make the process as quick and efficient as possible.”
Matt Trevett, Managing Director at The DPS
About The DPS
At The DPS, we don't play around when it comes to deposit protection. For over 13 years, we've driven ourselves to provide the best service to letting agents and landlords. We’re rated excellent by our customers on Trustpilot and protect more tenancy deposits than anyone else in the UK. Find out more about how we can help you at www.depositprotection.com/join