Adjudication Digest: "I'm sure it will be fine....."

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The Adjudication Digest takes a recent decision by a TDS Adjudicator and sets out the reasoning behind the decision.  The aim of these Digest reports is to help tenants, landlords and agents better understand how we make our adjudication decisions.

In this month’s case the landlord claimed £250.00 towards the cost of damage and redecoration following a flood in the premises.  

Amount of deposit in dispute: £250

Award made:

Tenant: £0.00

Landlord: £250.00

Agent: £0.00

An invoice showed the total cost of redecoration and replacement flooring to be over £700, but the landlord conceded that the decoration and flooring at the property was not new.The tenants stated that they did not dispute the amount claimed, but did dispute that they were liable. The tenants stated that when they removed their washing machine there was no switch to “shut the water from the washing machine connector”, therefore they turned off the water supply from outside.  They claimed to have told the agent about this, and the agent had assured them “I’m sure it will be fine”.

Unfortunately the tenants were not aware that they were also turning off the supply to two neighbouring properties who subsequently complained to the water provider.  The provider turned on the supply again - not knowing that the washing machine valve was open.  

This was a highly contentious case with strongly felt arguments on both sides. There was no check in or check out reports to show the property’s condition. However the agent did produce an invoice for the remedial work and photographs taken by the contractor on the day the flood was discovered (the day after the tenants left). The contractor’s report also showed that the washing machine supply included a standard isolation valve that could be turned off with a screwdriver. As has been seen, the tenants did not dispute the flood, the resulting damage, or the amount claimed by the landlord.

The adjudicator took the view that there was no written evidence from either party to confirm the discussions between the tenant and agent, and no other evidence to show what was said. On the evidence that was available, the adjudicator concluded that the tenants were aware that the washing machine valve was not turned off when they left the property, and that it was reasonable to hold them responsible for the damage that then ensued.

So what are the key points here?

1. Agents/landlords should ensure that tenants are given clear instructions about how the utility supplies at properties are to be left at the end of the tenancy.

2. Tenants should ensure that discussions like those in this case are documented. In a similar case dealt with by TDS, a tenant returned the keys to their letting agent with a letter stating that they had advised the agent of a problem they had encountered when leaving the property, and been assured by the agent that there was nothing further they could do. The letter was signed for by the agent, and its contents not challenged. In that case, the adjudicator accepted the tenant’s argument that they should not be held responsible.

Posted by Michael Morgan, Director of Dispute Resolution on 30 January 2015

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