One student told Cherwell how Premier had tried to charge them £400 for cleaning after they left their property. The tenants successfully reduced the bill to £35 after disputing the charge.
As their lease was coming to an end, a Premier employee visited to check the house and confirmed that they were “looking after the property well”, mentioning that they should clean the property thoroughly in order to avoid paying any cleaning fees. The students subsequently spent an afternoon cleaning it, but a few weeks later their checkout report had charged them £396.40 for cleaning fees.
As the tenants investigated the charge, they realised that on the closing report for the inventory, it was stated that the property should be cleaned to “a fair standard” – yet on the checkout report, the students had been charged for cleaning “to a professional stan- dard”. Guidelines on mydeposits.co.uk also supported the contention that the letting agent shouldn’t try to better the property, but should charge the tenant only what they are responsible for.
Furthermore, Premier was also the letting agent for the tenants’ neighbours, who received an almost identical checkout report, highlighting similar issues such as limescale and minor stains. However, the neighbours were charged £35 – Premier themselves were not responsible for the checkout form because the letting was carried out on a dif- ferent legal basis. Premier had tried to make the tenants pay over ten times the amount the landlord had charged their neighbours for exactly the same cleaning work.
A ‘fair wear and tear’ clause was also contained within the tenancy agreement, which, according to an interpretation by the House of Lords, allows “reasonable use of the premises by the Tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces”. The tenants felt that the few remaining problems with the property, according to the checkout report, all “fell under wear and tear”.
Recalling how they were made to wait weeks for replies, the student commented, “perhaps they were just hoping that we would give up. It seemed that because we were an easy target, they’d deliberately tried to throw the book at us without actually reading the book first”. It took several months, but the £400 was eventually reduced to £35.
Premier responded to these claims, explaining that the person responsible for the £400 charge had been fired, and admitting that it had been “excessive” to charge the house’s residents that amount for cleaning.
The student’s advice:
- Make sure you take many pictures at the start of your tenancy.
- Consult the documents on mydeposits.co.uk and the tenancy agreement –make sure you know what you’re responsible for.
- Make sure fair wear and tear appropriate for a student tenancy has been considered in any charges
- Remember that the deposit is not the property of the landlord but remains the property of the tenant. Until a settlement has been agreed, any charges that are levied are only proposed charges.
- Most importantly, be prepared to argue. Very often, students are in the right, but don’t bother to stand their ground. Estate agents count on this, so don’t give them that advantage. Fight your corner.