My tenants have moved out early and left the place in a state

Property Clinic: They said they posted the key and that that I can keep their deposit as the last month’s rent.

Your tenants are seriously in breach of the 2004 Tenancies Act. Photograph: Getty Images

Your tenants are seriously in breach of the 2004 Tenancies Act. Photograph: Getty Images

 

I rented my apartment to a couple and the lease is up at the end of the month. However, when I contacted them they told me that they had already moved out and had put the key in the post and that I can keep their deposit as the last month’s rent.

I have since been to the property and it’s filthy, with some damage to the furniture and some items missing. I have the tenancy registered with the RTB (Residential Tenancies Board) but am not sure what to do. I tried to contact the utility companies to see if the bills are paid but they won’t talk to me due to “data protection”. What should I do?

Your tenants are seriously in breach of the 2004 Tenancies Act on a number of points. It is no coincidence that the tenants did not pay their last month’s rent. They have no right to withhold this rent and set it against the deposit. Perhaps they did so because of the state they left the property in – the filth, damage to furniture and missing items that you outlined in your letter. I manage circa 960 properties and what you have encountered would occur in maybe 2-3 per cent of the lettings that become vacant on my watch every year.

I trust you have photographs of the apartment before they entered it, and an agreed schedule of furniture and effects with these tenants. If that is the case, I would email the tenants informing them that they are withholding rent in breach of their agreement, and therefore they are in rent arrears. Ask them to discharge the rent, inform them that there will be a bill for cleaning, damage repair etc. I anticipate they will not respond.

Adjudication

Next step, go to the RTB website and download an adjudication application form. Set out the rent arrears, cost of cleaning, damages to furniture etc. The RTB is very prescriptive so you would need to demonstrate with receipts what monies were expended on repairs etc. At an adjudication you will need to provide a rent ledger clearly showing what rent was paid and in this case by extension not paid. Separate the rent from the deposit as they are two separate matters.

I have been involved in more than 65 adjudication and tribunal hearings with the RTB and I have found the process to be very fair. Finally, if the utility bills are in the tenant’s name they are not your responsibility; you cannot be held responsible for their bills. Please just arrange to transfer into your own name with the current readings.

What you have encountered represents the actions of a very small portion of tenants. You have just been unfortunate, so try to overcome any reluctance you may have to take this case. If you succeed, the case will appear on the RTB website and thus enable other prospective landlords to identify these rogue tenants.

Kersten Mehl is a chartered residential agency surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland scsi.ie

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