The deposit diaries: The importance of covering your tracks

In this case, the landlord claimed £300 for various items of damage, specifically £50 to replace a toilet seat, £100 to repair a split bedroom doorframe, £100 to replace two missing fire extinguishers, £30 to replace a smoke detector and £20 to replace two damaged occasional tables.

The landlord produced an invoice which covered the cost of some of these items. The landlord also produced both an inventory and check-out report as well as photographs of the damaged areas.

The landlord explained that a copy of the inventory was given to the tenants by hand, and they were told to raise any discrepancies within the next seven days.

The tenants denied ever seeing the inventory or check-out report, neither of which were signed by them.

They produced copies of correspondence confirming that they had agreed to pay the landlord £150 towards the damage. It was not clear which items this payment related to. The landlord argued that the tenants had admitted they were responsible and owed the balance too.

The adjudicator was unable to conclude that the landlord had provided the inventory report to the tenants at the start of the tenancy.

There was no evidence to confirm that the tenants had received it or been asked to verify it. Without further evidence of the condition of the property and its contents from the start of the tenancy, the adjudicator was unable to establish that the tenants could be held responsible for any of the damages identified by the check-out report.

The tenants had agreed to a deduction of £150 from their deposit, and their correspondence made it very clear that “We are only paying £150.00 as that is all we think we are responsible for”.

Faced with this evidence, the adjudicator could make no further award to the landlord.

Conclusion

This was an unfortunate case, with the landlord having sought to do all the right things – agree the condition of the property and its contents at the start of the tenancy and negotiate deposit deductions at its end.

Although the landlord was clear in their own mind as to what had been said and discussed, the written evidence did not reflect this. The adjudicator does not have the benefit of being involved in the dispute previously and can’t ask for further evidence.

It is important, therefore, to document matters carefully in writing, even if it feels like you are telling somebody something they already know.

* The Tenancy Deposit Scheme offers both insured and custodial protection. Michael Morgan is its director of dispute resolution

x

Email the story to a friend

7 Comments

  1. JamesB

    A story of tenant favoured deposit schemes

    Report
  2. Woodentop

    Where do they get these adjudicators from? The argument is over did they get an inventory or not. What the hell has that got to do with it? Evidence of condition was provided before and after, there is no legal requirement for the tenant to sign any documentation other than the tenancy agreement. Farcical as the tenant couldn’t prove the before and after inventory was fake … that is what the adjudicator is concluding!

    Report
    1. Peter

      The evidence is in the inventory and schedule of condition report, which the landlord cannot prove it was given to the tenants at commencement. The adjudicator might well be thinking the landlord could simply have produced the initial inventory well after commencement of the tenancy.

      Report
  3. Gloslet

    If the landlord had gone to court instead of the TDS and presented the ingoing inventory/record of condition as evidence I suspect that the judge would have accepted it, regardless of whether the tenant had seen it or not, as it is a statement of fact recorded at the time of the tenancy commencement. The tenants would ultimately be under oath to say why the believe the evidence recorded in the inventory was false.

    The TDS process were meant to provide an alternative route to avoid clogging up the courts but they don’t appear to apply the same basis of evidence.

    Report
    1. DG

      It doesn’t say who produced the inventory and check-in report; if it was the landlord, it can hardly be classed as an independent fact based document.

      Report
  4. RentBoy

    Don’t forget, its the tenants money and the onus of proof is on the landlord.

    Report
  5. DASH94

    I wouldn’t even open a dispute without a signed check in inventory (DPS).  The checkout one is not always possible to get signed, but without a check in one – you’ve no chance.

     

     

    Report
X

You must be logged in to report this comment!

Leave a reply

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.