When a lick of paint leads to a deposit dispute

Landlords are failing to protect themselves from redecoration disputes because they are not accurately recording the condition of the décor at the start of a new tenancy and not being clear with tenants on what constitutes a ‘neutral’ colour.

The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks says it has been involved in ‘numerous’ disputes over decor.

Industry guidance indicates landlords should expect to decorate every three to five years.

Pat Barber, chair of the AIIC, said: “As a general rule, responsibility for redecorating lies with the landlord.

“However, lots of disputes are presented where parties agreed to the tenant redecorating, but the precise details were not clearly defined.

“Landlords can be shocked to find the walls have been painted jet black or bright red, rather than the desired ‘neutral’ magnolia or white.

“We have been involved with numerous disputes over décor. Recent cases feature a bedroom which the tenant had been given permission to redecorate. However, he created beautiful ‘Lion King’ murals on all walls. At the end of the 12-month tenancy, the landlord needed to re-let the property, but this room was now firmly designated as a small child’s room due to the décor.

“As a result, although the walls were in a really good condition, the tenant had to pay for complete redecoration.

“Another case involved four mature and professional sharers. One of them decided to repaint the lounge – with the landlord’s permission and a stipulation that it had to be in a neutral colour.

“At the end of the tenancy, the lounge had been repainted in a dark purple. Fortunately the inventory clearly stated the original colour and condition, and even though the original décor had been fairly marked, the tenants were made to pay for complete redecoration to return the room to the original neutral colour. The adjudicators agreed with the landlord that purple walls would impair the search for new tenants.

“Even when a tenant repaints in the correct or authorised colour scheme, there are still problems. We see instances of bad paint application, very patchy walls, and paint spills on fixtures and fittings, carpets and curtains, all of which the tenants will be responsible for at the end of the tenancy.”

Below are some guidelines that AIIC has put together to help agents and landlords prevent a dispute over décor:

• Ensure there is a detailed account of the décor with description and photographs at check-in.

• Make sure the tenancy agreement stipulates clearly that any changes to the property must only be made with the landlord’s permission.

• If tenants request to redecorate any areas it should be made clear, in writing, with any authorised colour schemes.

• Any permission given to tenants to redecorate should also include a clause stating the landlord’s right to return the room to its original colour if unauthorised paint colours are used by the tenants.

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