As tenants and landlords we have all heard horror stories about vacating a tenanted property and the dramas that go with it – entry reports, exit reports, damages, cleaning, insurance claims and QCAT – the list goes on. But honestly, it need not be this complicated, or painful for either party.
What is Clean?
At the start of a tenancy, it is the role of the agent or landlord to ensure the property is clean, safe, in good working order and compliant. One of the biggest issues we see are the different interpretations of ‘clean’. This is often confused with marks from wear and tear, and a lack of descriptive vocabulary to accurate note the property condition. The word ‘dirty’ really needs to be removed from use in Entry and Exit reports. What is dirty? Is it a scuff mark? A indent into the wall? A smudge or hand print? Is it dust or residue? It’s not a case of same, same but different. The definition of clean is that it can’t be removed with cleaning products and if it can, then the property is considered unclean with the exception of wear and tear or damage.
More care and education from both sides of the tenancy needs to be given to ensure an accurate entry report.
What is an ECR?
If you have rented before you will know that an ECR or Entry Condition Report is the comprehensive document including written notes and photos provided to you as a tenant at handover for a property. Along with other important documents including the bond lodgement form, general tenancy agreement (GTA), Form 17A and other procedures, and ECR also needs to be treated carefully and returned to the agency or landlord within 3 days. This isn’t 3 business days, it is 3 business days, and if not adhered to, the agency or landlord can issue the tenant with a form which notes the tenant’s failure to return the completed document within the allocated period. What this also means is that the tenant accepts the condition as per the ECR and any claim otherwise at the end of the tenancy can be dismissed.
Similarly, the agency or landlord needs to provide the tenant with a copy of the fully executed ECR within 14 days of return. It is imperative that the ECR be read in conjunction with photos and that as much detail as possible is noted within the report. The more detail the better and the better the descriptive words, the less risk of a discrepancy at vacate. The report as well as photos and video can be used as evidence by QCAT if there is a dispute about the condition of the property at vacate. Remember to note the condition of the property in its entirety – furniture, fittings, internal and external parts of the building as well as gardens – anything inside the property boundary.
What is an EXIT?
An exit report is completed by an agency or landlord within 3 days of lease termination. If this isn’t completed on time, the agency or landlord also risks waiving their right to claim against a tenant for the condition of the property. Therefore it is also important that this report be completed within the specified time. When completing an exit, it is best practice for the agent to reconcile the entry to the exit with consideration to be given to fair wear and tear and also possible damages to the property from the tenant. In most instances, cleaning is the number one offender. If a tenant has been in a property for 6 months or more, it would be fair to say that the dust on the window sill, fan or other area is not going to be the same as when they moved in.
Just like a pair of shoes, things get dusty, dirty and worn from use. It is best practice to maintain a regular cleaning schedule when renting a property – sparkle cleans for weekly maintenance, and then a deeper clean every 6 months or so. At vacate, the tenant should also provide a carpet cleaning receipt, flea treatment receipt and furniture sanitisation receipt (if applicable) as per the ECR and in accordance with the terms of the General Tenancy Agreement (GTA).
A Smooth Transition
Believe it or not, property managers and real people too and they dislike confrontation and awkward situations just as much as the general public. As a property manager there is nothing more beautiful than walking into a lovely, clean property with all the receipts provided and a sense of pride taken by the tenant to handover a property in great condition. As a property manager there is also nothing worse than walking into an abomination and then have to report this to the owner. Make no mistake, we want to make the vacate process as easy and simple for tenants and landlords as possible. We will meet with tenants onsite to go through cleaning or report issues so that queries are clarified and everything is well documented. The key here is communication and without it, this is where issues arise and we revert to due process to rectify a situation.
If a tenant has engaged a professional cleaner, they should guarantee their work and return to a property to remedy any issues. Similarly if a tenant has caused damages to a property, this is their responsibility to have this resolved prior to vacate. Water, gas and electricity charges may also be applicable so it is important to check your lease for any extras. Failure to pay and remedy issues can result in a claim on your bond and a poor rental reference for the future.
For a smooth transition at entry and at exit, here are our top tips for tenants:
- Keep the communication lines open. If you are unsure about a process or the condition of your property, arrange a meeting with the property manager onsite so you can both discuss and reference the items in question directly
- Use accurate, descriptive language other than ‘dirty’ in the ECR and EXIT reports to minimise interpretation risk and anomalies at vacate. Take appropriate photos to be read in conjunction with the report as well as video if required
- Report any maintenance during the tenancy and proactively follow this up with your property manager (we are human too and ofter can become swamped at the desk)
- Read the terms and conditions of your GTA, ECR and EXIT. Also revert to your Form 17a and the Residential Tenancy Authority website for more info www.rta.qld.gov.au
- Ensure you have adequate insurance as a tenant. It isn’t the landlords responsibility to ensure your contents and if your contents damages a property during the tenancy, the landlords insurance can still pursue you as a tenant for the cost of damages irrespective of your level of cover (or lack thereof)
- Complete and return reports on time and keep a copy for your own records
- Work with us not against us, we want the issues resolved as painlessly as you do
At LOCATIONS estate agents, we understand that renting a property should be a memorable experience for all the right reasons. It is important to us that we accommodate client requests and feedback to improve the process for all parties concerned and that we operate with the code of conduct for agents, and also within the legislation. For more helpful tips visit our website or contact a member of our team.
If you have a question about renting in Queensland, we would love to hear from you.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org