The landlord’s claim, in this case, was for specialist treatment to deal with a moth infestation (£180), damage to carpets caused by the moths (£250) and for compensation to the new tenants (£80).
The new tenants reported damage to the landlord’s carpet and to their clothes two weeks after they moved in.
The previous outgoing tenants denied any knowledge of a problem with moths when they were in the property. The tenancy agreement contained a general obligation for the tenants to report any problems to the landlord or agent during the tenancy.
Nothing had been reported by the tenants or noted by the agent during periodic inspections. Although the check-out report noted a number of items for deduction for which the tenants were responsible, there was no reference to any damage which might have been attributable to an infestation.
The landlord commissioned a report from a specialist treatment company. According to the contractor’s report, the extent of the damage suggested that the moths were well established and that this must have been a long-term problem.
Based on the evidence, the adjudicator was unable to conclude that the tenants had breached the terms of their tenancy. There was no evidence to suggest that they had failed to report a problem during the tenancy and there was no indication from the check-out that there was an issue at the end of the tenancy.
Although the contractor’s report indicated a relatively long-term problem, there were a number of possible scenarios.
It was possible, for example, that larvae in the property had predated the tenancy in dispute but had been dormant until disturbed by the tenants moving out. It was equally possible that the new tenants had brought the problem with them from their previous property.
So what are the key points here?
Moth damage is particularly difficult to deal with in a dispute unless the problem is evident either during or at the end of the tenancy.
It can often be difficult to establish that a tenant was responsible for the presence of the moths, but if the damage was noticeable, the tenant generally has a duty to report it and allow the landlord to address the problem to mitigate their loss.
If the tenant has not reported damage, which was obvious both during and at the end of the tenancy, it is likely that the adjudicator will conclude that they were responsible at least for allowing the problem to worsen and the loss to the landlord to increase.
The person conducting a periodic or check-out inspection should be aware of the possibility of damages caused during the tenants’ stay.
We recommend reading our recent #AskTDS article “How do I protect against damage/negligence from a tenant?” for further information and proactive solutions to prevent a similar situation arising.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved tenancy deposit protection service and offers both an insured scheme and a custodial option. It also provides adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that it protects. Michael Morgan is director of dispute resolution