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Landlords: always right - Tenants: never wrong

publication date: Nov 20, 2009
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PROPERTYdrum met Helen McCarthy, who should know, as Outreach Manager for The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) she visits members across the UK to see how it’s going.

Helen and her SatNav now understand each other; but more importantly she reports a growing understanding of TDS. Helen says, “While most are positive about TDS, there are misconceptions of its function. Visiting members has been immensely helpful in developing the information flow, so that everyone gets the best from the scheme.”

Helen is well aware of the issues that face agents in the ‘Damages and Deposits’ field. After six years as a lettings branch manager, two as a Rent Officer and two as a partner in a lettings agency, a short stint in retail underlined everything she knew about customer service. Returning to property she presented NFOPP training courses on Damages and Deposits and was an Independent Adjudicator for the TDS.

“The landlord is always right and the tenant is never wrong,” she says. “I sympathise with both – and the agent – homes and money are emotive issues, it gets personal, but the best way to resolve disputes is to address them immediately.”

Some agents saw TDS as the answer to their prayers – an end to resolving disputes, just pass them to TDS, but TDS is a ‘last resort’, when no amount of negotiation leads to an agreement. Some cases sent to TDS involve minor problems, tiny sums of money (seriously tiny – £6.50 in one case).

“Most disputes are about cleaning. The landlord doesn’t return the deposit because the place doesn’t look as it did three years earlier”, says Helen. “This may be true, but it may just be wear and tear. The agent needs to have managed the landlord’s expectations, explaining the necessity of a really good inventory before the tenancy starts and at the end. The landlord needs to understand that the property will have been lived in, some decoration will be required, it should be in his budget.”

In a dispute, the agent – even in a ‘Let Only’ deal – should be pro-active. Training gives staff confidence and if clients are given advice in a professional manner it is usually accepted. No dramas.

“Bringing disputes to the TDS without first making every effort to resolve them is, actually, the worst route. It seems like a good idea; less time-consuming than court, cheaper too, but the problem grows. Landlords and tenants inevitably blame the agent and he ends up losing both as clients.”

TDS resolves serious disputes; however, the best way to maintain good relationships is to make sure you effectively manage tenancies, and resolve problems as they arise. TDS is the last resort.