The Adjudicator takes a recent decision by a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) Adjudicator and sets out the reasoning behind the decision. The aim of these case studies 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.

The Landlord’s Claim/Tenant’s Response

The landlord claimed £450 for the cost of a replacement sofa as a stain was apparent at the end of the tenancy, which the landlord said could not be removed by cleaning. An invoice for a replacement sofa was included in the evidence. The tenant admitted causing the stain during the tenancy but suggested that he was not responsible, as the sofa was new at the start of the six-month tenancy, and it should have been treated with a stain repellent.

The Adjudication Process

The adjudicator had a choice of one of three remedies; making good ( for example cleaning or repair), a contribution towards replacement costs (making an allowance for fair wear and tear), or lastly, making a compensatory award to reflect the damage.

The tenant’s argument about the lack of stain repellent to the sofa when new was not a defence to the obligation to return the property and its contents in the same pre-tenancy condition (allowing for fair wear and tear). The check-in report recorded that the sofa was new. The check-out report recorded that the sofa was stained at the end of the tenancy. To support the claim, the landlord provided in addition to the written condition reports, a dated photograph taken at check-out showing the extent of the staining to the sofa.

The Adjudicator’s Decision

The adjudicator was not persuaded that a claim for replacement of the sofa was appropriate, given the lack of severity and the relatively small size and location of the stain.  As there was no evidence to show that an attempt had already been made to remove the stain by cleaning, but was unsuccessful, the adjudicator considered that the most appropriate remedy was to make an award for cleaning.

The landlord was awarded £85 of the initial £450 claim and the tenant was returned the remaining balance as this was felt to be fair and reasonable by the adjudicator when taking into account the size of the stain. 

Key Pointers to Take Away

  • Landlords need to show that cleaning (usually the less costly remedy) has been attempted and was unsuccessful before an adjudicator can consider an award for either replacement or a compensatory award for loss of value either aesthetically, or a shortened lifespan.
  • A third-party professional cleaning contractors report confirming that in their professional opinion, they do not consider cleaning would remove any stain, resulting in a permanent stain would be required in support of any landlord’s statement. Both show that the landlord has considered the most economical solution – as they are duty bound to do so – before claiming more; an adjudicator can consider a claim for a failed attempt at cleaning supported by an invoice, as well as either a contribution towards the cost of replacing the damaged item, if justified, or a compensatory award.
  • Tenants should make an amendment to a check-in/inventory report to record any discrepancies, such as stains to furnishings or any other damage that is present at the start of the tenancy, and ensure that you have a record of returning any amendments to the agent/landlord.  Be careful to avoid spillages during the tenancy; however if an accident does occur, ensure that you report the damage to the agent/landlord – as you are duty bound to do so – and do not leave the stain to become permanently ingrained – act quickly to remove and treat the stain, taking professional advice where appropriate.

To access more case studies please visit the TDS Lounge, where you can also find helpful guides, blogs and publications. For more information please click here.

About TDS

TDS Custodial: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy. Landlords, you can protect your deposits for FREE today.

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

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.

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