Focus on Deposits – Betterment and what does it mean?

30 Jul 2019

This week we are focusing on deposits – how we, as agents work out why and who should be held responsible for any remedies required at the end of a tenancy.

Deposit returns are 100% the most difficult part of an agents job – we are always playing the middle man and trying to keep landlords and tenants happy while trying to be fair ( believe it or not!) A tenant should return a property in the same condition it was given to them – less wear and tear which is proportionate to the tenancy. It’s important to point out here that landlords should not end up in a better position than they were in at the start of the tenancy. That would be betterment and that is against the thrust of what’s deemed fair.

Betterment definition – “an improvement that adds to the value of a property or facility”

So let’s look at an example of betterment and how we apply it in practice.

Burn Mark on a Worktop: A tenant returns the property (after a 3-year tenancy) with a large ring burn on the worktop next to the hob – they accept responsibility however advise that the worktop is still perfectly usable. The landlords want the whole worktop replaced, at a cost of £900, and the tenant to be held fully responsible. It cannot be repaired. The landlord advises the worktop was new when they moved in however crucially the landlord has no proof of this. The check-in report and inventory show the worktop to be in good condition however the photographs are not dated. In this case, despite our best efforts, an agreement could not be reached, and an adjudicator was appointed through the deposit scheme.

The adjudicator looked at all evidence supplied and as there was no evidence supplied to prove age or quality of the worktop, they chose to award a split as the tenant had admitted responsibility and the landlord had suffered a loss. The adjudicator felt to award the full £900 would have constituted betterment as the worktop had been used and fair wear and tear should be allowed. To award the landlord a full newly installed worktop after a 3-year tenancy would have put him in a better position. The landlord was awarded £120.

Stain on a Carpet: A tenant returns the property (after a 6-month tenancy) with multiple stained areas on a bedroom carpet. The carpet was not new but was in good condition as specified on the move-in report, with date-stamped photos and inventory report. The landlord requested we claim for a full carpet replacement (£250) We explained that to attempt to charge a replacement carpet to the tenant would be unfair, as it was not new when the tenant moved in, that would be betterment. We estimated it to be 2 years old. The lifespan of a reasonable carpet would be around 5 years in a rented property so the carpet would have another 3-year life span. A fair amount to charge a tenant would be around £150.

This is a frustrating subject for everyone – landlords, tenants and agents – and everyone has their own opinion on what is fair. The most important thing to remember is that you have to be able to prove your case – whether you are a landlord or a tenant- so make sure your paper trail is good.

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