Deposit dispute
Tenancy Deposits

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62 Posts
2 months ago

One of my tenancies ended a couple of weeks before Christmas last year. The tenancy had become difficult for various reasons but mainly because when I visited the property for maintenance purposes within the first year, I discovered that the tenants had done significant damage throughout the property.

To mitigate against the cost of the damage I put the rent up and the tenants served notice to vacate. However, they had difficulty finding somewhere that would accept them and when their charity-assisted housing fell through, they asked if they could stay. This was after they had been rude and difficult about viewings and other shenanigans that I won’t bore you with. They are not very pleasant people and became aggressive very quickly when I pointed out that the condition of the property had deteriorated considerably in the 10 months that they had been at the property. We smoothed over the cracks in our landlord-tenant relationship when they decided to stay in a bid to keep things amicable as they had agreed to stay at the property for another 12 months. However, at the beginning of October, they informed me they had been allocated a social housing property and that they were leaving after all.

Fortunately, the tenants left during the first week of December and I was lucky enough to relet the property the next day. The new tenants were happy to take the property on the understanding that the tenants weren’t leaving the property in a very clean or decoratively good condition. The ex-tenants asked when they would be getting their deposit back when they served notice, saying that they needed the money to put carpets in their new home.

Following a series of abusive and threatening emails demanding their deposit back immediately and threatening to take me to court because I had broken the law by not protecting the deposit correctly (it was protected with the TDS and has now been through adjudication, to cut a very long story short). Also, they raised the dispute in the TDS on 2 certificates and then still threatened me with court action if I didn’t return the deposit within 28 days. I managed to get legal advice which gave me enough confidence to ignore their emails and to leave the TDS to process the dispute. However, the process and the service from the TDS were very unsatisfactory and caused a lot of unnecessary stress.

The results of the adjudication came out on Friday and the deposit was awarded at just under 50% to the landlords.The ex-tenants wrote all sorts of rubbish in their statement to the TDS, they said that the property was damp and riddled with mould when they moved in and that is why they had to replace the carpets. They said that was why the laminate in the kitchen was damaged because the house was constantly damp in the morning. This is completely untrue and made up. I purchased the property in July 2022 and let it in August 2022, there wasn’t any mould or damp problems when they moved in. For the TDS statement, they downloaded pictures from Zoopla to ‘prove’ that the carpets were black with mould when the property was marketed. The tenants also accused my husband and I of doing additional damage to the property once they had left the property to make the condition of the property look worse than how they had left it.

The adjudicator concluded that the condition of the property was not clear from the original photos provided, but that there was evidence of mould on the windows in the photos that the tenants had provided – these were photos that we had provided and the tenants had downloaded them and reuploaded them with their own annotations, so photos that the adjudicator discounted as evidence for the landlords was taken into account on the tenant’s side. The adjudicator concluded that the tenants had provided photos of an outbreak of mould during the tenancy and that they had also found mould in the loft, and they concluded that this had been mostly likely due to a leak in the loft at the time. This is completely untrue, there wasn’t a leak in the loft. The tenants reported the mould in March 2023, I believe they had delayed reporting it because they had bought a second large dog before Christmas, and they didn’t want the landlords to know about it. As soon as the mould was reported I sent a builder around who recommended fitting vents in the roof which he did and he told the tenants that they needed to open their windows move often to let the air circulate around the house, I also recommended the use of a dehumidifier (actually it is written into the Tenancy Agreement that a dehumidifier should be used if drying closed indoors).

I believe that the adjudicator has made a mistake in making an assumption that the property had a mould problem based on a few specks of black on a uPVC window frame. There wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that the property had a mould problem at the start of the tenancy and also there was no evidence that the mould had been caused by a leak at the property. Regardless of how the mould occurred, I read that it was the measures that the landlord took upon receiving the report of the issue that was important. The tenant reported the issue at 8.40pm on a Thursday evening and a builder had carried out the work on the following Monday.

Has anyone got any experience with the law and challenging TDS adjudication based on law and fact?

The whole system of submitting evidence to the TDS and attempting to get up to speed with what is required for the process within the initial 10-day period and then the weeks that follow, whilst being threatened with legal action is just ridiculous. Additionally, as the adjudicator’s decision is legally binding, there is no right to appeal. However, the TDS system is woefully inadequate and every time you email them, they refer you to the support available on their website, some of which is out of date and most of it takes a considerable amount of time to wade through. Since the TDS staff don’t know their own scheme rules and where to find them, it is ridiculous that a landlord who is undertaking this process for the first time is expected to become an expert in preparing a case in readiness for the adjudicator.


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