Head of Dispute Resolution, Suzy Hershman, has been busy this year across the country helping to educate landlords, agents, and tenants on the importance of tenancy deposit protection and effective dispute resolution. Last month, Suzy visited Edinburgh to give her evidence, negotiation and adjudication workshop, find out more about how she got on in her blog below.
Have you heard the one about the Tenant, the Guest and the Wardrobe? No, not a forgotten time from the Chronicles of Narnia but one of the anecdotes that cropped up in my evidence, negotiation and adjudication workshop in Edinburgh. Intrigued? Then read on.
Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities in the world is always a pleasure to visit and my journey started off smoothly enough, with the flight taking off and landing on time. The tram ride from the airport is, as always the best way of seeing the city centre slowly appearing in all its glory. Happy days!
However, arriving in Princes Street I realised, with random clarity, that I’d left my phone charger plugged in at home and frustratingly thought how many chargers do I now have sitting in the drawer? I wonder how many people reading this will have shared the dawning realisation that your battery is plummeting rapidly, as you try and find your way to the hotel using Google Maps. Quick - search mobile phone accessory outlet before the screen fades to isolating black!
Preparing for the evidence, negotiation and adjudication workshop
On arriving in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, having equipped myself with a new USB charger I checked into the hotel and connected with my two colleagues to plan dinner and a spot of World Cup football. Good food and a good footie result saw us reach the end of the day well motivated and prepared for the training workshop the following morning.
A score of Property Managers from both small and large agents came from near and far to what was a really positive interactive training session. Agents are not always very engaging, but the Scots are a talkative lot with a fantastic sense of humour. The interaction between agents willing to share their experiences and practices around the room is usually particularly enlightening.
Evidence and decision making: the case study – negotiation about inventories and cleaning
The adjudication case study always provokes questions and discussion, in particular when it comes to negotiation about inventories and cleaning. The quality and detail required in a good inventory is often underestimated and I am amazed by how often I see the generic ‘good’/‘average’ condition comment or a tick box, ‘all good’. This type of basic inventory often makes negotiation at the end of the tenancy harder than if there were some descriptive wording included. All but one agent in the room was carrying out their own inventories and the various ways that these are passed to the tenant was the focus of the first in-depth discussion.
Evidence that the tenant has seen the inventory is crucial to negotiation and the adjudication process
From an adjudication perspective, the crucial thing is to have evidence that inventories compiled by an agent or landlord have been received by the tenant. So long as this evidence is there, such inventories can be as good as a third party inventory, depending of course on the level of detail and description they contain. The tenant’s signature is best practice in every case; however an email with the inventory attached is also good evidence that the tenant was sent the inventory and had the opportunity to comment or amend it. Ensuring a fair result will then be down to the level of detail and embedded photographs. A picture can tell a thousand words, but always remember the words!
The most interesting discussion of the evidence, negotiation and adjudication session was one I had never had before …
A hand went up. “What If a tenant sets fire to the property and refuses to pay for anything - what can the landlord claim?”
It seemed a straightforward question and I responded, “The landlord can claim on his buildings insurance and the excess can be deducted from the tenant’s deposit.” Dealt with that one, I thought but the questioner continued, “In this case the landlord was not insured; he forgot to pay at the renewal date.” Added to this frustration for the agent was a tenant who thought he was not responsible for any of it as it was his guest that set fire to his wardrobe, with lighter fluid. I decided to throw it to the floor, but suggestions were limited to taking the tenant to court.
To top the story off, the agent carried out a final check and found, in the allotted car parking space, a bright blue speed boat! The room erupted in laughter, with a few offers to take the client off the agent’s hands. I had images of the tenant whizzing off up the Waters of Leith and escaping justice away down the Firth of Forth.
OK, while it may not be quite up to the quality of comedy performances this great city will enjoy in a few weeks’ time, we do have some fun!
Would you like me to come and run an evidence, negotiation and adjudication workshop in your area?
It is not just the agents who take away knowledge and practice ideas from the workshops; I learn something from each of them too. The feedback is generally that the session was ‘good’/’excellent’ with take away comments usually around doing things differently in future in relation to negotiation tips, inventory practice tweaks and simply having greater confidence talking to landlords, tenants and calculating deductions.
What’s not to like? If you would like me to come to your neck of the woods and do a workshop let me know; as you can see they are well worth the time, however, I only play to full houses and welcome the heckling!