In this case, a landlord claimed £160 for the cost of replacing a utility cupboard door under the stairs in the property.
The landlord claimed that the tenants admitted causing the damage and must therefore pay the full replacement cost.
The landlord produced an invoice from a contractor confirming the cost and advising that the original door could not be repaired.
The tenants acknowledged that they damaged the door, but argued that it was a poor quality door and of cheap construction. They argued that it had never closed properly, and it was when trying to close it that a tenant’s hand went through the door.
They also stated that they had reported the damage in writing to the letting agent, who had agreed that the damage was not their fault.
Here, the adjudicator looked at the evidence presented and could see a letter from the tenants reporting the damage to the door “which we caused when trying to force it closed”.
The written evidence did not include any written statement from the agent or landlord confirming that the tenants were not being held responsible.
On this basis, the adjudicator was satisfied that a deduction from the tenancy deposit was justified for the damage caused.
The adjudicator will normally consider first whether the cost of repair/making good is appropriate – an important issue as this will often be less expensive than replacement.
In this case, the adjudicator was helped by the contractor’s invoice, which gave the opinion that a repair was not possible.
However, the check-in report showed that the door was in a used condition at the start of the tenancy and failed to close, so the adjudicator had to make an allowance against the total cost of replacement to reflect this.
It was unreasonable for the landlord to expect the tenant to pay the full cost of a newer door in better condition than it had been in at the start of the tenancy.
Having got to this point, the adjudicator had very little evidence to be able to make an informed calculation of a contribution from the tenancy deposit towards the cost of replacement.
No evidence had been presented to show the age, cost or quality of the door when new.
In the absence of this the adjudicator considered a contribution of £80 towards the cost of replacing the door to be a reasonable compromise between the parties.
This case highlights the importance of recording carefully in writing any agreements or discussions taking place during the tenancy which may affect a tenancy deposit.
A letter from the agent or landlord explaining why the tenant was being held responsible for the damaged door may have prevented the dispute.
When claiming replacement costs, remember that the adjudicator will not automatically award these. If a repair is likely to be more economic, and there is no evidence to show why a repair is not feasible, this is likely to be the most an adjudicator can award.
In this case, the landlord’s invoice was useful to both exclude repair as an option, and to demonstrate the costs incurred.
As can be seen above, it’s often useful to think back in time too – do you have an invoice or other evidence to show the age, cost or quality when new of an item that you want to replace?
* The Tenancy Deposit Scheme offers both insured and custodial protection