This week on #ExpertView, our Director of Dispute Resolution, Michael Morgan, discusses a recent case involving pine needles left over from a tenant’s Christmas tree and how a decision was reached by the adjudicator.
In this case a landlord took possession of a property shortly after the Christmas break. All was well – or so it seemed – until the landlord walked across the lounge carpet in socks and felt pine needles stuck in the carpet’s pile. Closer examination also showed some marks to the carpet in the area where the base of the tree had stood.
The landlord claimed the cost of cleaning the carpet – normally £35.00 and an additional £35.00 for the cleaner to remove the remaining pine needles by hand. The tenant argued that they had been given permission to put up a real Christmas tree by the landlord and they had themselves paid for a carpet cleaner before they left. They argued that any remaining problems were ‘wear and tear’ that was to be expected from a real, rather than artificial, tree.
The adjudicator worked from the starting point that the carpet needed to returned in the same condition and cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy, allowing for ordinary wear and tear. The adjudicator did not consider that the issues identified were wear and tear. Marks on the carpet were not an inevitable consequence of having a real Christmas tree and pine needles should be removed – fiddly as this might be!
The adjudicator did not consider it was unreasonable for the landlord to claim the cost of cleaning the carpet again, because it was not clear what cleaning had been done by the tenant and at what cost. The landlord needed to be certain whether marks could be removed, as this would determine whether their claim was for cleaning only, or possibly a contribution to replacing the carpet if it was damaged beyond repair. Fortunately the cleaner was able to remove the marks, although the carpet cleaning did not remove all pine needles from the carpet’s pile. The adjudicator felt that a further deduction was reasonable as an additional cost was incurred by the landlord for the extra time the contractor needed at the property for manually removing the pine needles stuck in the carpet.
Wear and tear is of course relevant to damage, but not to cleaning. Wear and tear means those things that are bound to happen in normal day to day use. Pine needles will drop, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be cleaned away properly!
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