The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS) keeps deposit money safe for letting agents, landlords and renters during the course a tenancy. Its free, government-accredited custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme has protected over five million deposits over the last decade.
Its Dispute Resolution Service allows landlords, letting agents and tenants to resolve disputes without resorting to lengthy or expensive court procedures, and over the last decade has adjudicated over 60,000 disputes.
In our adjudication case study series, The DPS’ head of adjudication, Alexandra Coghlan-Forbes, is going to share examples of recent, real-life case studies with us.
She talks us through the guidelines that affect the way her team reaches decisions to help agents and landlords understand the process.
Our latest case study looks at what happens when landlords and tenants provide conflicting documentation and evidence, as well as the factors that influence adjudicators’ final decisions…
A landlord claimed £250 for the cleaning of a property and damage to a table. The tenant said that they had found the house to be dirty when they moved in and had spent their first morning at the property cleaning the oven and shampooing the carpets.
They also said that there was already a scratch on the table, and that the check-in inventory noted both the lack of cleanliness and damage.
The landlord argued that the property was ‘pristine’ when the tenant moved in, with no damage to the table. They also said that the check-in inventory, which the tenant had signed, confirmed all this.
Both parties submitted printed check-in inventories with final pages counter-signed and dated. The tenant’s copy included page numbers; the landlord’s did not.
The tenant’s copy highlighted cleaning defects such as minor décor damage, a bedroom carpet burn and a large scratch on the dining table.
The landlord’s document recorded the property’s excellent condition, with professionally clean carpets and new décor. It noted a burn in the bedroom carpet and described the ‘good, undamaged condition’ of the dining table.
The landlord’s check-out photographs showed dust on woodwork, carpet debris and cobwebs. The images also showed an unclean oven and a deep scratch on the dining table.
Neither party provided check-in photographs.
The adjudicators found in favour of the tenant. They could not establish that the landlord and tenant created their check-in reports at the same time. Both were unreliable, they said.
The adjudicators could not assess the property’s condition at the start of the tenancy and so could not compare it with the landlord’s check-out report.
The adjudicators applied the principle of the landlord’s burden of proof. They needed the landlord to provide enough evidence to establish the tenant’s liability.
Evidence could have included dated photographs, a report from an independent, third-party inventory provider or a report that had the tenant’s signature and the date on every page.
Conflicting check-in reports and a lack of additional supporting evidence from the landlord meant the adjudicator had no option but to award in the tenant’s favour.
*Alexandra Coghlan-Forbes is head of adjudication at The DPS