In this case, the landlords claimed £75 to sweep the chimney at the end of the tenancy.
The tenants accepted that they had not swept the chimney before they moved out but argued that they had used the chimney only a handful of times during the tenancy which lasted for just over three years.
They also did not believe the chimney had been swept by the landlord for the start of their tenancy.
The tenancy agreement in this case imposed an obligation on the tenants ‘to sweep the chimney at the end of the tenancy and at least once in each year’.
No evidence was provided by the landlord to suggest that the chimney was swept for the start of the tenancy.
The tenants’ obligation in the tenancy agreement was clear.
The tenancy lasted over three years and the tenant had also acknowledged using the open fireplace during their time at the property.
The adjudicator found that even though there was no evidence of the condition or cleanliness of the chimney noted in the check-in report, it was reasonable for the tenants to pay for the chimney to be swept, given the wording in the tenancy agreement (once in each year) and particularly due to the chimney having been used.
The amount claimed was fair and reasonable.
It is always important to check a tenancy agreement at the beginning of a tenancy for any information relating to the maintenance of fixtures and fittings in the rental property.
The tenancy agreement should state whose responsibility it is to look after areas such as these.
For landlords, a fireplace and chimney should be handed over in a safe condition. If the tenant is responsible for cleaning the chimney, then its condition or cleanliness should be noted in the inventory/check-in report. It is also important to keep receipts and/or certificates as evidence for any work completed.
For tenants, understand the extent of your obligations and take appropriate steps to ensure the chimney is swept and left in the same condition and cleanliness at the end of the tenancy as it was at the start, whether it has been used or not.
It is also important to keep receipts and/or certificates as evidence for any work completed. Ensure that an appropriate fireguard is used to avoid any damage that may flow from the lack of use or care, for example, burn marks to carpets.
As with any tenant obligation, landlords and agents should ensure that the deposit use clause in the tenancy agreement allows deductions to be made, from the deposit, if the tenant fails to clean the chimney as required.
If the tenant is not responsible for the cleaning of the chimney, as per the tenancy agreement, they may be required to give access to the landlord/agent, or their contractor, if cleaning is required during the term of their tenancy.
What about items that aren’t noted as the tenant’s responsibility?
We often see cases where problems have arisen that are not the responsibility of the tenant to repair; however, they are still obliged to notify the landlord/agent so that repairs can be completed and avoid further damage occurring.
Therefore, if the tenant has not reported the issues to the landlord/agent and further damage has been caused as a result, the landlord may be able to claim from the deposit for the cost of making good that increased damage.
Finally, don’t forget to make sure your chimney is clean in time for Christmas Eve in case Father Christmas wants to drop in!
* Sandy Bastin is assistant director of dispute resolution at TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme)