If you plan to make any deductions to your tenant’s deposit then sitting down with them, face-to-face and explaining your reasons for the deductions can help to avoid a disagreement and ultimately a dispute. It not only allows you to explain your reasons, but also lets the tenant respond to any issues that you’ve raised. But what makes a good negotiation and how can you ensure that everything goes smoothly?
Essentially it boils down to 3 points: preparation, structure and understanding.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Would you buy a new house without viewing it first? Probably not, and the same principal should be applied when negotiating with your tenant. Don’t go into a negotiation without being prepared. Make sure that you have figured out, ahead of time, exactly what you want to happen. Are you willing to compromise? What’s your bottom line? Do you have clear reasons, with supporting evidence, to make deductions from the deposit? Preparation will make sure that you know exactly what you’re going to say in the negotiation and what you want to get out of it.
Map it out
Once you’ve outlined what points you want to raise, set up an appointment in a neutral place and structure the negotiation as though it is a mutual attempt to solve a problem. Which it is. An element of courtesy will also go a long way towards conducting a civilized conversation and ultimately increase the chance of an agreement.
Be understanding and receptive
Rarely is anything achieved when people talk over each other so make sure that you listen to your tenant and be receptive to the points that they raise (even if you don’t agree with them). The chances are that if you listen to them, they are more likely to listen to you. Allowing your tenant to express their concerns and feelings can be a big step to reaching a mutual understanding.
If you do reach an understanding and an agreement then write it down and make sure that both of you sign it. Volunteer to prepare the first draft of the agreement which explains your position, the discussions that took place, details of the negotiation and the conclusion.
The deposit is the tenant’s money
Don’t forget, the deposit is the tenant’s money. Yes, you may have grounds to withhold some or all of the money, but the default position is for the tenant to receive the deposit back in full unless you can prove why you need to make deductions. A successful deposit dispute is based upon evidence supporting your claim, but having that evidence ready for a negotiation could avoid a dispute ever occurring.
Our guide “Negotiating deposit deductions with your tenants” has more tips on how to successfully negotiate with your tenant and for more information on what to do if, in the unlikely scenario, you do find yourself in a deposit dispute, take a look at our Alternative Dispute Resolution guide.