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How to manage tenancy deposit returns after check-out delays during COVID-19

Friday 17 July 2020

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), discuss the best ways to manage tenancy deposit returns which have been delayed due to late check-outs on rental properties.

End of tenancy has caused a great deal of confusion and frustration amongst agents, in particular how to handle tenancy deposit returns when check-outs haven’t happened in the normal way. In the situation where a remote or virtual check-out hasn’t sufficed, the government-approved tenancy deposit protection (TDP) organisation, TDS offers the following advice:

Check-out delays and the importance of communication trails

In ‘normal’ times, a check-out report should be contemporaneous in order to show the condition of the property as close to the tenancy end date as possible and to avoid any doubt about cleaning or damage being caused by anyone other than the tenant (for example, contractors or prospective tenants). 

During the pandemic, TDS has temporarily relaxed this to suggest that the check-out should be completed within a maximum of 4 weeks from the tenancy end date. Whilst there is now some permitted movement in the housing sector, delays are still occurring due to difficulties related to self-isolation, COVID-19 symptoms, or staffing issues at the agency.

If a check-out can’t be carried out due to the coronavirus, it is important that you keep an email trail advising the tenant that you will be unable to conduct the check-out inspection immediately so there will be a delay with the return of their deposit. That would give time for any potential trace of the virus to die off in the property before you access it. 

It is important to note that these are arrangements will help the adjudicator understand why the timescales are well outside norms. It is not a guarantee that the outcome will be exactly the same as it would have been if the reports had been done in normal circumstances. 

If you are still unable to conduct a check-out within that timescale, unfortunately, you would have no basis on which to make a claim so should release the deposit back to the tenant (other than rent arrears or other issues that may have arisen during the tenancy for which you do have evidence). 

#AskTDS

In response to the challenges experienced in the private rental sector (PRS) during COVID-19, TDS has created a COVID-19 FAQ webpage and a series of interactive webinars that cover each stage of tenancy.

Find out more about TDS webinars 

TDS are keen to stress that advice may well change as new government guidance is issued on a day to day basis. As an impartial organisation, TDS can’t give any advice beyond which is clearly stated by the government or law. It is ultimately up to the parties in the tenancy agreement as to how they wish to proceed in any given situation. We advise all parties to visit the TDS COVID-19 FAQs web page regularly for updates.

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