Landlord News

Tenants Win Deposit Disputes Against Landlords and Agents

Em Morley - July 23, 2015

A tenant has won a case relating to utility charges for the use of a shared heating and air conditioning system within their rental apartment.

The amount of deposit in dispute was £900.

A specially negotiated clause in the tenancy agreement stated that the tenant was responsible for the payment of heating and cooling charges for the apartment.

The clause said that the landlord was entitled to “retain a portion of the deposit towards pro-rata charges incurred for the usage of heating and cooling.” 

The agent said that the apartment block’s managing agents had not yet provided the bill, due to “installation, metering and commissioning issues.” Without a bill, the agents suggested an estimated cost of £900.

Tenants Win Deposit Disputes Against Landlords and Agents

Tenants Win Deposit Disputes Against Landlords and Agents

The tenant disputed this amount, claiming to have not used the heating and cooling system throughout the whole tenancy and proposed a £200 charge, which they deemed a fair “portion” of the deposit to be held.

The adjudicator, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), believed that, as the agent could not provide billing information or other evidence to justify its £900 charge, the sum was unfair, given the tenant’s likely usage of the heating and cooling system.

The TDS said that a portion of the deposit should be awarded to the landlord, due to the terms in the tenancy agreement. The adjudicator considered the tenant’s suggestion a suitable amount.

The TDS regards a specially negotiated clause in a tenancy agreement to be an absolute obligation of the tenant.

However, the precise wording of the clause should be carefully evaluated, meaning that the adjudicator can sometimes disagree with the amount in dispute.

This case emphasises the importance of providing justification for an amount to be deducted from a deposit, even if the tenant’s obligation is considered absolute.

Another recent case relates to a claim by a landlord against the deposit when looking to re-turf the lawn after damage caused by a leatherjacket infestation.

The amount of deposit in dispute was £500.

During the tenancy, the tenant reported to their agent that there was an ongoing problem with the rear law. The tenant arranged for the leatherjacket larvae infestation to be treated and the lawn reseeded.

However, the seed did not germinate and at the end of the tenancy, the landlord said the lawn must be re-turfed.

The landlord stated that within the tenancy agreement, the tenant was obliged to keep the garden in a good condition, with a responsibility to take all reasonable precautions to prevent infestations and to pay for any treatment of infestation caused by “negligence.”

A lawn expert’s report said that the seed was failing to germinate because of a lack of sunlight and also found that no larvae were present.

The property check-out report did not state any problems with the lawn, detailing that it had been seeded.

The adjudicator believed that the tenant’s actions did eradicate the larvae, but that the lawn was left bare because the seed did not germinate due to a lack of light.

The adjudicator said this was not within the tenant’s control and there was no evidence to prove that the infestation had been caused by the tenant’s negligence.

As the deposit is used to compensate the landlord when a tenant breaches the tenancy agreement, the adjudicator made no award to the landlord for re-turfing the lawn.

The evidence indicated that the lawn deteriorated during the tenancy and the landlord sought to reclaim their financial loss by relying on the responsibilities detailed in the tenancy agreement.

However, the tenant had tried to treat the problems with the lawn. The fact that the seed did not grow could not be blamed on the tenant.

The adjudicator concluded that the tenant’s actions were reasonable and tenant-like, with no evidence of negligence or clear breach of the tenancy agreement.