Can a landlord deduct sums from my deposit for damage caused by previous tenants?
I’ve recently wound up a flat of which I was one of the final tenants after 14 years of rolling tenancies. By rolling, I mean that individual tenants have changed on the lease with the landlord and agents’ consent and the lease has been renewed each year with whoever was still living in the house. The landlord and agent never prompted or required the itinerary to be updated or any sort of inspection over these years. The lease documentation I signed 1.5 years ago never had an itinerary attached.
Upon giving notice that we would not be continuing the tenancy from 1 March 2016, the landlord finally provided us with an itinerary which was 14 years old. When we provided him with detailed information showing that the itinerary did not accurately reflect what was left in the property, he acknowledged that it was not ideal and would only charge us for ‘fair wear and tear’.
During the inspection today (carried out by the landlord himself), the landlord is now seeking to charge us for all “damage” to the property that has occured over the past 14 years, e.g. a burn hole in a kitchen counter, a small hole in a cupboard door, possibly repairs to light fittings caused by the house’s (in our opinion) dodgy wiring. This could be quite costly and chew up our deposit. All of the current tenants confirm that this damage was caused by previous tenants – i.e. it was how we inherited the flat. While we cannot prove the damage was there when we moved in as we never took pictures or reported it to the landlord (as we thought the landlord would have been notified over the years), the landlord similarly cannot prove it was us – just that a tenant over the past 14 years did it.
Can the landlord hold us, as the final tenants in the flat, liable for all damage to it over the past 14 years?
In the landlord’s view, by taking on the lease as we did, that we took on all liability for the actions and therefore damage of previous tenants. I think that the landlord should bear a lot of this risk of damage as he approved every single person who has lived in that house and he allowed the tenancy to continue in this way.
We’d be grateful for any guidance on whether we can contest the landlord’s claim. In my view, I should only be liable for damage caused by me during my tenancy.