A dispute arose between the landlord and tenants due to the cleanliness of the property at the end of the tenancy, deterioration to the décor, damage caused to various items and tenant belongings left behind at the end of the tenancy.
The landlord claimed £505, supported with an invoice for cleaning, the removal of items, damage to the décor, defrosting the freezer, the repair of furniture and to remove stickers from the fridge. The tenants disputed the landlord’s claim.
The check-in report that was submitted as evidence of the record of condition of the property at the start of the tenancy was dated September 1, 2017.
It was clear from the evidence, and accepted by the parties, that there had been various student tenant swaps since the 2017 check-in report was produced and the tenancy in dispute actually started in 2018.
No detailed written check-out report was provided for the end of the tenancy; instead there were a few photographs of some of the issues found at the end of the tenancy, but no comparable photographs or other evidence to show the condition and cleanliness of the property at the start of the 2018 term.
Without evidence of the condition of the property at the start of the 2018 tenancy or any evidence that linked the 2017 check-in report to the disputed 2018 tenancy, the adjudicator considered the 2017 check-in report to be of little or no evidential value as to the record of the standard of cleanliness and condition of the property for the start of the 2018 tenancy.
However, the TDS adjudicator was able to consider some award.
It was limited to those claims where the tenants had either acknowledged or admitted damage and deterioration during the tenancy.
In the tenants’ submission they acknowledged that further cleaning was required and that the flooring had not been vacuumed, blu-tac and hooks had been added to the walls and doors in two of the bedrooms, a chair had been damaged and additional items and personal belongings had been left at the property.
Without any evidence that showed the tenants were given permission to add hooks and blu-tac, and leave items at the property, these claims were justified to some extent.
Taking into account fair wear and tear, an award of £125 was considered appropriate. The amount awarded reflected the fact that the pre-tenancy condition or age, original cost and quality of the damaged items claimed, the décor and standard of cleanliness was not known at the start of the tenancy.
So, what are the key points here?
Tenancy swaps are commonplace, particularly in student accommodation. TDS advises that the best approach is to bring the existing tenancy to an end, check-out the named tenants, distribute the deposit, and then issue a new tenancy agreement, complete with a check-in report reflecting the condition of the property at the start of the new tenancy.
We accept, though, that the best approach is not always achievable or practical.
• Sandy Bastin is head of TDS adjudication services