Student Lettings ~ Infrequent Claims?

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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. The names of the landlords and tenants involved have been removed and this is only a brief summary of the dispute.

 

Amount of deposit in dispute:

£624.00 & £717.00

Dispute initiated by:

Landlord

Award made:

 

Tenant

£501.00 & £717.00

Landlord

£103.00 & £0.00

Agent

£20.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This month’s digest looks at two recent cases involving student lettings where claims made by the agents were largely unsuccessful due to a lack of understanding of the adjudication process and the type of evidence necessary.  The adjudicator commented that:

 

It seems to me that, as the agents who solely deal with student lets seem to have disputes only once a year, they do not present their cases very well and also do not provide very good evidence.” 

 

In the first case the agents submitted a check out report that was dated some three weeks after the tenancy ended.  In deciding any claim, the adjudicator looks to rely upon ‘contemporaneous’ check-in and check-out reports as primary evidence.  Whilst it is understood that it may not always be possible to prepare these reports at the exact start and end date of the tenancy, to be considered useful as evidence the reports should otherwise be dated within a day or so before the start and after the end of the tenancy.  The outcome of this case was that the adjudicator did not consider the check-out report to be reliable as evidence to show the condition of the property on the day the tenancy ended and the adjudicator was only able to make reduced awards based on admissions made by the tenants.

 

In the second case the tenants disputed all aspects of the landlord’s claim for cleaning, damage and redecoration. Although the check-out report supported by a number of close-up photographs identified issues at the end of the tenancy, no written check-in report was presented. The landlord looked to rely instead on two photographs taken of the kitchen at the start of the tenancy but only giving a general impression of condition.  TDS consider a well written check-in and check-out report provides a level of detail and understanding that is hard to match by reliance on photographs.  However photographs can be useful as supplementary evidence when dated, clearly referenced and able to be used to provide a ‘before and after’ comparison.  In this case the adjudicator was unable to make a ‘before and after’

comparison and the evidence failed to demonstrate the tenants’ liability for the issues claimed.

So what are the key points here?

Both of these cases turned on a fundamental failure to present sufficient ‘good’ evidence to support the claims made.  The agents specialised in student lettings. Such tenancies tend to follow the cycle of the academic year. As a consequence the agents only dealt with TDS on an infrequent basis. Although TDS recognises that many agents specialising in this sector of the market are well versed in dispute resolution, adjudicators still see a number of cases that suggest the agents have only a limited experience and understanding of the adjudication process and the steps they should be taking to ensure all of the evidence necessary is made available to the adjudicator. 

To assist agents, landlords and tenants when facing a dispute TDS do have an outreach team which is dedicated to helping the parties better understand the adjudication process. If you would like to know more about this or meet a member of our team, please let us know.


Posted by on 3 November 2015

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