Insight – how should the check-out process be carried out?

The check-out process involves much more than just collecting the keys from tenants and arranging the return of the deposit.

In fact, it is one of the most crucial steps at the end of a tenancy, with a successful check-out able to reduce the chances of any deposit disputes occurring between you and your tenants.

For landlords, the check-out provides a concise record of the state of the property and its contents, while for tenants it offers the opportunity to state a case for any damage caused during the tenancy that might affect how much deposit is returned.

Below, we provide thorough insight into the check-out process and what steps are needed to avoid disputes and give you the best chance of getting your full deposit back.

Before check-out

Assuming the correct notice has been given and an end date has been established, the first step is to confirm, in writing, that any notice has been received and is being processed.

While the tenancy agreement will contain everything the tenants need to know, it’s important to familiarise them with key information of the tenancy agreement, as it may have been several years since they last saw it.

Leading up to check-out, your tenant will need to thoroughly clean the property (including flooring, upholstery, furniture, and all appliances), defrost the freezer, remove all waste, and clear the garden.

Arrangements will need to be made with the tenants to collect the keys, which is often best carried out at the property. This will allow you to walk through any issues found with the tenant in person.

Prevention is better than cure, so it’s worth explaining to tenants while they are still in the property what the consequences may be if items are found to be damaged in the property.

It’s also good idea to include ‘a guide to deposits disputes and damages’ from the chosen deposit protection scheme. Although lengthy, it could help answer any questions the tenants may have about the process.

During check-out

The process itself should go fairly smoothly, provided your tenant has carried out any necessary repair works and left the property in the same condition as when they first moved in.

However, if anything is missing or has been damaged, the only way you are able to make a claim against the tenant’s deposit, would be by providing evidence – and this is done via an inventory.

The most useful evidence that a tenancy deposit scheme would consider is a fully conditioned check-out inventory combined with a fully conditioned check-in inventory taken at the start of the tenancy.

An inventory should be professional and detailed enough to show clear photos of every item, the date and time stamp, and the document signed by the tenants to show they accept it as being fair and accurate.

If an inventory isn’t taken at the end of the tenancy, and the tenant disagrees with any deductions you’d like to make, you would find it extremely difficult to make a successful claim against them.

Appointing an independent inventory clerk could help to abate any uncertainty, as they will mark on the check-out report whether they consider any damage or deterioration to be the landlord’s or the tenant’s responsibility.

After check-out

If an agreement can’t be reached between both parties, or if there are issues that need rectifying, you’ll want to carry them out right away. If using contractors, for instance, you’ll need to keep copies of all the invoices as this would be evidence you’ll need in the event of any dispute.

Once all the work has been completed, you’ll need to formally explain your findings to the tenants, and have them sign their approval to deduct any funds from their deposit.

When compiling this document, it’s best to show the condition of the item in question at the start of the tenancy and at the end of the tenancy, which clauses in the tenancy agreement they have allegedly breached, explain what actions have been taken and detail the costs and any adjustments

At this point, the evidence will be self-explanatory, and tenants should agree to any deductions. If not, however, a third party may need to be brought in to mediate, such as a tenancy deposit dispute service. This should always be a last resort, and all other avenues should be exhausted before taking this route.

If the case goes to adjudication, you will be required to provide evidence to the tenancy deposit scheme that you use. Once you have agreed on how much of the deposit should be returned to the tenant, you then have 10 days to send the money back.

Here at AIIC, our independent inventory clerks can help to streamline the check-out process, providing detailed reports, photographic evidence, suggestions for compensation costs, and more.

We are dedicated to promoting the highest possible standards of accuracy and reliability in the inventory process and have been endorsing high levels of professionalism in the inventory business since 1996.

It is our mission to ensure proper information and training is provided and our bank of highly skilled members will provide the best possible service. For more information, please contact us or search for your local AIIC member clerk now.

You can also download a copy of our Code of Practice and Guidelines for Professional Practice guide here.

Published on 10/02/2022