This question appeared in today’s Irish Times and raises the age old problem of how to handle a situation where tenants leave without notice and leave your property in bad condition.  At SCK Group we have helped landlords with similar problems and have made representations on their behalf to the PRTB.

I rented my apartment to a couple and the lease is up at the end of the month. However, when I contacted them they told me that they had already moved out and had put the key in the post and that I can keep their deposit as the last month’s rent. I have since been to the property and it’s filthy with some damage to the furniture and some items missing. I have the tenancy registered with the PRTB but am not sure what to do. I tried to contact the utility companies to see if the bills are paid but they won’t talk to me due to “data protection”. What should I do?

A This is a most unfortunate position to find yourself in but one that does happen from time to time. It is good that you have registered the tenancy with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) and the benefit of that will now be apparent.

Photograph the property with a date camera before you start the clean up. List all items that are missing. Obtain a quote for the repairs and replacement of the missing items. It can often take a few days to really check the property so make sure that you pick up on all damage. You can download a claim form from the PRTB website, prtb.ie, and I would recommend making a claim against the tenant for the damage. Provide their PPS numbers to the PRTB in the first instance.

If you are still in contact with the tenants, ask them to provide you with a forwarding address which will allow you to transfer the utilities back into your name and the utility company will send any outstanding bills to them at their new address. Take the meter readings and make the transfer by email keeping a record of each transfer.

You should seek compensation from the tenant in the first instance for the damage and missing items at the cost to you to make good and replace. If they refuse this request, you should then proceed with the claim to the PRTB.

The PRTB process will require you to provide clear evidence of the damage and you will be asked to provide receipts for any expenditure. Be careful only to seek compensation for issues that would be beyond normal wear and tear as this is allowed under the Residential Tenancies Act and can be hard to quantify.

Try to have all communication with the tenant recorded either by email or text. The tenants appear to have been unreasonable in their behaviour and so you must demonstrate that you are reasonable in your management of the issue. If you can’t resolve it amicably, the only route for you is to go through the PRTB.

Fergal Hopkins is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI)