An often neglected part of the letting process by landlords and tenants is the end of tenancy. It can be the source of a huge number of problems with both sides feeling unnecessarily hard done by if process and expectations are not managed properly. The recent introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme in Scotland has gone a long way to ensuring a fair result in dispute situations but there is still a gap in understanding of what is reasonable and expected from both sides.
The best way to ensure a smooth end of tenancy is cooperation between tenant(s) and landlord. This requires good communication along with making good use of supporting documentation and processes available online from bodies such as Scottish Landlords Association or MyDeposits Scotland.
Step 1: Serve the correct notice
When either party is considering bringing the tenancy to an end, the first thing they should do is go back and check the lease for the notice period. In most Scottish short assured tenancies this will be 2 months. In line with this, the tenant will need to serve notice in writing of their intention to end the tenancy and vacate. Some landlords will look to start the notice period from the next rent due date but this is not necessary (unless it states otherwise in the lease). The landlord should officially serve notice on the tenant for the end of the tenancy using a Notice to Quit document. From the landlord’s point of view, I would recommend doing this even if it is the tenant who has initiated the notice by providing it in writing. The serving of the Notice to Quit document from the landlord will help with any potential discrepancies further down the road.
As well as giving tenants a Notice to Quit, landlords must also give tenants two months written notice telling them that they want vacant repossession of the property in the form of a Section 33 notice. This can be served at the same time as the Notice to Quit provided the tenant is receiving at least two months’ notice and supporting information about where the tenant can get advice.
Should the vacating date come and go and the landlord wish to begin legal proceedings to remove the tenant, a formal Notice of Proceedings or AT6 document must also be served stating which of the 17 available grounds the landlord will be using to remove the tenant. This can be served with the Notice to Quit and Section 33 or can be sent later if it looks like the situation could go down the court route.
Step 2: Get your house in order
Once notice has been served, it is a good idea to provide the tenant with description of the end of tenancy process and what is expected of them in the run up to the vacating date. At Umega Lettings, we do this with a checklist on the back of postcard that is posted out to the tenant(s) a few weeks before they move out. This covers things like making sure they have a copy of their original inventory to check against, expected cleaning standards and definitions of what excessive wear and tear is and what the financial consequences to the tenant will be for replacement or repair of missing or damaged items.
Step 3: Make swift and decisive actions relating to the check out
The biggest complaint tenants have with end of tenancy relates to the timescales with which decisions and deductions are made from their deposit. It really helps the end of tenancy resolution to notify tenants as soon as possible of the checkout results along with providing evidence of any deductions that will be made to their deposit (in the form of before and after photos) along with anticipated costs and timescales for work to be completed and invoiced. I would recommend only carrying out the checkout once the tenancy is over and keys returned to avoid having to do a repeat check out inspection or disputes later on about the timing of external work like cleaning.
Depreciation and replacement items
The reason I’ve given this it’s own section is that it frequently catches landlords out. If an item is damaged or missing and needs replaced then the landlord can only charge the tenant for the remaining “lifetime” of that item. To illustrate this, let’s take a replacement carpet as an example. If a carpet is damaged and has to be replaced for the next tenancy then the landlord cannot charge the outgoing tenant for the full cost of the replacement. The landlord must take a reasonable period of time that the carpet was expected to last, I would recommend 7 years. If the carpet was three and half years old when it was replaced then the tenant is only responsible for 50% of the cost of the carpet since the carpet only had 50% of its “lifetime” left to run.
Step 4: Learn and improve for the next tenancy
Like with everything a landlord or letting agency does relating to the letting and management of residential property, the landlord should reflect on the completed tenancy, what went well, what would they do differently next time around and then put this learning in to practise. Future tenants will appreciated it!