Partners and Suppliers Sandy Bastin 16/10/2023

Demystifying dispute resolution: A Tenancy Deposit Scheme case study and your exclusive dispute resolution guide

Disputes between landlords and tenants can be a challenging aspect of property management, and although they’re in the minority at the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (1% of the total number of deposits protected) we’re committed to helping those living and working in the private rented sector to avoid disputes arising in the first place. 

To shed light on the complexities of dispute resolution, we'll explore a real-life case study with a deposit protected by TDS.

And, in addition to understanding how disputes are resolved through this case study, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme has produced a comprehensive guide to dispute resolution in the private rented sector in partnership with the NRLA.  

This free resource is designed to empower agents, landlords, and tenants with a clear understanding of the dispute resolution process, enabling them to navigate potential disputes effectively.

Case Study: Unpaid Charges for Heating and Hot Water in Communal Area 

In this dispute, the landlord claimed £499.44 in unpaid heating and hot water charges accumulated during the tenancy of an apartment.  

The property was an apartment, and the communal managing agent was responsible for billing each apartment for their heating and hot water individually. The tenant accepted these charges had not been paid, despite requests from the managing agent, arguing that the utility charges included management fees and communal energy charges for which he was not liable.

The Evidence Provided to the TDS Adjudicator 

The adjudicator considered various aspects of the case, given the evidence provided: 

1. Utility Billing Process: The communal managing agent confirmed that meter readings could not be taken, and usage was estimated quarterly, adding complexity to the billing process. 

2. Tenancy Agreement: The tenancy agreement clearly stated that the tenant was responsible for "all costs allocated by the building managers to the Landlord relating to the provision, usage and consumption of services to the apartment." This included heating, hot water, sewage and other utilities. 

3. Electricity Supply: The tenancy agreement also required the tenant to arrange their electricity supply directly with a provider, for the remaining electrical outlets within the property. 

Notably, there was no evidence suggesting that landlord fees were included within the heating and hot water charges, and the agent had provided a separate invoice for service charges, further supporting the landlord's claim.

The Result 

The adjudicator concluded that the tenant was indeed obligated to pay for communal utilities throughout the tenancy and compensate the landlord for any losses incurred. However, a small reduction was made to the award given a period of the invoiced sum was prior to the commencement of the tenancy.  

Key Lessons  

  1. Substantive Evidence To make a successful claim against a deposit, landlords must demonstrate a financial loss and provide compelling documentary evidence. Without such evidence, their claim may be compromised. 
  2. Clear Tenancy Agreements Ensure that your tenancy agreements clearly outline the tenant's obligations regarding any potential claims and deposit protection. 
  3. Tenant Responsibilities Tenants should be prepared to submit evidence demonstrating why an award, such as utility charges, is not applicable. Proof of payment to the landlord or the service provider can be crucial.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme’s Guide to Dispute Resolution 

Our newly released guide serves as an educational tool for agents, tenants and landlords, providing practical advice on preparing for disputes, gathering evidence, and understanding the factors that adjudicators consider when making decisions. 

The guide covers a range of topics, including: 

  • What end of tenancy dispute resolution entails, and how it works 
  • What dispute resolution you can freely access through your deposit protection provider 
  • The role of adjudicators in making fair and reasoned decisions 
  • The importance of evidence in supporting claims and responses 
  • Common types of claims made by landlords and tenants
  • How adjudicators calculate awards
  • An overview of TDS Resolution, a mediation and conciliation service for mid-tenancy disputes.

Download Your Free Guide to Dispute Resolution 

“By understanding the principles of dispute resolution and having insight into what our adjudicators are looking for, we believe that disputes can be further minimised, and tenancy relationships can end on a positive note." CEO of TDS Group, Steve Harriott. 

Landlords can effectively navigate and avoid disputes by using our comprehensive guide and case study lessons to secure fair outcomes for all parties involved. 

To access the guide please click here. 

Sandy Bastin

Sandy Bastin Head of TDS Adjudication Services

Sandy Bastin is a qualified solicitor with many years’ experience practising and specialising in real estate, Sandy joined Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) in 2008 and is now Head of TDS Adjudication Services. Sandy is responsible for recruiting and training TDS adjudicators, providing continued support and mentoring to include quality assurance activity to ensure the high standards expected from TDS adjudication decisions are met.

See all articles by Sandy Bastin