With over 60,000 disputes adjudicated on by the Dispute Resolution Service they know a thing or two about evidence and the need to provide detailed information during a dispute.
This case study; originally highlighted in Estate Agent Today showcases how conflicting evidence from the landlord and tenant can hinder the dispute process.
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.
So it’s clear here that an impartial report would have established the facts at the beginning of the tenancy and probably avoided the need for dispute resolution.
It is also clear that any report no matter who has conducted it has to follow the following principles:
- that reports are clear and detailed
- they include pictures / video to evidence any issues (enable the date and time function in app for all pictures or video)
- reports are shared, signed and dated by the tenant (per page if the option is enabled)
- third party inventory providers are used to compile reports to ensure impartial and professional reporting
The lettings industry is in a rapid state of change and with deposits being replaced with insurance backed policies it is becoming more and more likely that at some point inventory providers will end up in a court of law justifying the evidence in their reports
It is therefore crucial that all providers up their game and ensure that the level of detail and evidence in each and every report is of the highest standard to both protect the landlord and tenant but also you as the provider.