In this week’s #ExpertView, the TDS customer service team offers advice on handing over keys early during lockdown.
During the restrictions put in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19, many landlords, letting agents and tenants have found it difficult to carry out normal processes at the start and end of tenancy. Understandably, this is causing some confusion as to how lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing could impact on tenancy deposit disputes further down the line.
Here, we offer advice on a pre-tenancy question received by a concerned landlord:
“I am a landlord and have decided to hand over the keys to the property early, before the tenancy start date, in case of further lockdown.”
It is important at all times to retain a comprehensive record of communications and paperwork between landlord and tenant. This applies both to a period of lockdown, like we are experiencing currently during the coronavirus pandemic, but also in normal times.
In this particular instance, we would advise that you keep a clear and
detailed audit trail of the actions you have taken along with dates, times and
reasons for returning the keys earlier than normal. This should be accompanied by a thorough and
accurately-dated inventory of the property, its condition and contents.
The more information you capture, the better. If a dispute claim is made in the future, the adjudicator will want to see detailed evidence and background on the tenancy.
As a note, in normal circumstances, an adjudicator could query an early inventory if it is significantly earlier than the start of tenancy. This is because the condition of the property could be changed by tradespeople or cleaners before the tenant moves in, which would change the check-in and inventory. Whilst this is unlikely during a lockdown, it is important that you include any details of works or maintenance carried out at this time.
Issuing an inventory or keys a few days in advance rarely causes a problem normally, but these are unprecedented times, and it is therefore plausible that handover could be even earlier – possibly even weeks – so keeping records is key.
Takeaway: Record and date every detail and communication during the tenancy process so you can present a comprehensive audit trail if a deposit dispute arises later in tenancy.
Please visit the TDS Covid-19 FAQs guide to read more about tenancy deposit protection during this time.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.
TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.
These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.