Covid -19 causing delay to inspection and repair of damage

My previous tenants moved out earlier this month and, upon inspection of the property, found many areas of poor state of maintenance e.g condensation damage.
More serious was an area of damage to the Victorian parquet floor which had an area missing and felt damp to touch. I got a quote for the repair and it was for substantially more than the tenants’ deposit so informed them I would have to withhold it.
They are disputing this, claiming it is damage by woodworm and my argument has been that there were no signs of damage when they moved in (July 2019) and that it was their responsibility to notify me of any damage, which they didn’t. If they had and if it was some form of woodworm, I could have treated it before it became so serious.
The problem is that I cannot get anyone in to assess the cause of the. damage and make any repairs due to Covid-19 as my new tenants are scared of being exposed to the virus.
I am worried that if the damage is caused by a pest, it may continue to deteriorate in the next few months before the crisis ends and it may become an even more substantial cost.
Am I right to believe that the tenants should have flagged up the damage and do they forfeit their deposit as a result ?

If, as it should, your contract has a clause regarding your ability to enter the property (for maintenance or inspections etc.), then your new tenants cannot refuse (providing you give them the required notice).
Regarding the deposit, how is it held: custodial or insurance scheme?


I currently hold the deposit in my name.

The tenants would let a workman in although they’re worried about exposure to the virus but I assume no workmen would be able to go in anyway as this probably doesn’t count as “essential work” as far as the Government is concerned?

When I saw the damage, I assumed it was due to their dog having wet the area (they’d told me he kept going to the toilet in the house) then dug a section out. The ex tenants claim it’s historic woodworm but there was no sign of this in July and I lived in the house for 15 years before that with no change to the flooring in all that time.

Regardless of the cause, damage exists that you want fixed. Unfortunately, it is not classed as an essential repair so you cannot legally enter the property to fix it without the current tenant(s) agreement. I am in the same position!

As for the cause, if it is woodworm, that is easy to identify: many small holes as if jabbed by a thick sewing needle. If still active, and likely to be, you will find some powder surrounding those holes where the bugs have eaten there way out, like digging a hole in the garden and having a mound of earth around the hole.

However, as it felt damp, it is more likely to be wood rot, a fungus, that needs specialist identification, although if you can easily push your finger nail into it, it is damp induced fungal damage, as I once had with me external window cills from rain damage.

If it is damp from dog urine, or spilt water, it should have dried up by now, so check to see if you have a water leak causing the damp.

If it is wood infestation (critter or fungal) damage then it is your responsibility as it develops over a long period, probably over years, that no-body would have noticed until something went seriously wrong.

However, I agree that the tenant should have notified you and therefore in principle breached the terms of the tenancy. As for compensation, highly unlikely - talk to a solicitor! On the other hand, they should pay for the area of missing parquet floor as they clearly removed it, so perhaps you can get a price for its replacement and deduct that from the deposit, but you cannot deduct the cost of infestation damage.

Thanks so much, that is very clear and helpful.
I was only going to deduct the cost of the repair to the missing section anyway, I wouldn’t expect the tenants to pay for any treatments needed.
They didn’t ventilate the house as requested so other areas were damaged by condensation which I hadn’t asked them to pay for out of their deposit.
I will ask the current tenants to monitor for the next few weeks until the end of the lockdown then see what it looks like then.
Many thanks for your help