#ExpertView: Leaf it out - Autumn adjudication case study

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In this week’s #ExpertView, Michael Hill, an Adjudicator at Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) outlines a dispute around the outdoor areas of a property being affected by autumnal weather.

Whether it’s frozen pipes in winter or tenant change-overs in summer, each new season brings its own unique challenges for landlords and letting agents when it comes to tenancy deposit protection.

In this case study, Autumn conditions led to a tenancy deposit dispute  over repairs to guttering and drains blocked by the falling leaves.

The tenant moved into the property in the hot summer months and the check-in report didn’t report any issues with the exterior of the property or the garden. In addition, there was also no specific mention of the drains or gutters. 

When the tenant moved out of the property in the  Autumn, the weather was distinctly different and in the preceding weeks it had been particularly blustery, causing the trees in the garden and surrounding areas to shed their leaves around the property.

When the last inspection of the property was carried out, the landlord identified issues with blocked gutters and drains which these were recorded in the check-out report. In addition, the landlord supplied evidence to support the claims laid out in the report with photographs ofthe affected areas. The landlord submitted a claim for a deduction from the tenancy deposit in a sum of  £100 to clean and clear the gutters and drains; stating that these were the tenant’s responsibility.

The tenant responded that they had upheld their end of the tenancy agreement – which confirmed that the garden should be maintained to a ‘good standard’ – by clearing leaves which had fallen to the ground. They argued that there were no stipulations in the tenancy agreement for them to maintain gutters and drains, pointing out that these were the responsibility of the landlord..

Once all the evidence and statements had been reviewed, the TDS’ adjudication team agreed with the tenant that it was the landlord’s responsibility to look after these areas, and did not make any  award to the landlord. The tenancy deposit was therefore returned to the tenant. 

There were a number of reasons behind the adjudicator’s decision in this case. Firstly, the tenancy agreement did not clearly state that the tenant is responsible for the clearing of gutters.  Whilst the tenant may be responsible for reporting problems identified within the fabric of the building like heating, the structure or drainage in this case, it remains the landlord’s responsibility to fix the problems unless the tenant had caused damage through negligence.

As the landlord is responsible for the drains and guttering, it would be sensible to check the condition of them regularly, especially before the autumn or winter seasons where the weather can cause problems with the exterior of the property.

Further case studies from the adjudication team are available in the Case Studies section of the TDS website.

We also publish a regular Deposit Diaries which feature in Property Industry Eye. 

About the author

After studying law at university, Michael Hill joined TDS in early 2015. Having started as a caseworker, Michael began working as a full-time adjudicator in September 2015. He currently works part-time as an adjudicator and part-time as executive assistant to the CEO, Steve Harriott. Michael has been responsible for adjudicating in over 2,000 disputes.

 

About TDS

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.

TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.

TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.

TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.

TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland's leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

ARLA Propertymark: For agents who would like to stay up to date, you can contact Propertymark | ARLA at: join@propertymark.com. By being a member of Propertymark | ARLA you will be eligible for TDS Insured best headline rates.

RLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can contact the RLA at: info@rla.org.uk and quote reference: dg715 to receive 25% off your first year's membership.


Posted by Michael Hill on 3 October 2018

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