In this month’s issue of the Adjudication Digest, we look at a claim for a replacement bath. This dispute was initiated by the landlord.
Amount of deposit in dispute £650
To tenant £510
To landlord £140
To agent £0
At the end of the tenancy, the landlord claimed that damage to a cast iron bath had been caused by the tenants damaging the shower screen which fell into the bath. The agent stated that two chips to the bath were noted after rubber stars, placed in the bath by the tenants during the tenancy, were removed. The agent commented that although the seven-year-old bath could still be used, it was not in the condition it should be.
The tenants stated that the bath was five years old at the start of the tenancy with minor stress marks and chips that could be attributed to normal wear and tear; the rubber stars were placed in the bath for the purposes of safety; and they acknowledged carrying out a patch repair as a gesture of goodwill using an enamel repair kit. The tenants further stated that the claim for a new bath was excessive.
The check-in report detailed the bath as in good condition with no defects. The check-out report did not record the condition of the bath, although a photograph provided appeared to show the two stars referred to by the agents. The landlord claims that the damage was not found until after check-out when the stars were removed – one of which was covering the chips.
So what are the key points here?
Although the damage was not found until after the check-out inspection, the two chips were not noted at check-in and the tenants appeared to acknowledge the chips by confirming they were repaired by them as a gesture of goodwill, therefore the adjudicator accepted that they occurred during the tenancy.
The adjudicator concluded that given the statement that the bath could still be used and that no evidence was provided to show that the chips could not be repaired more effectively, the claim for a replacement bath was excessive.
However, the adjudicator was satisfied that the landlord was entitled to some compensation for the loss in the pleasing appearance of the bath and the cost of a more effective repair. The compensatory award took into account the approximate stated age of the bath at between five to seven years and was considered to be fair, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
This case highlights the importance of providing evidence to justify replacement which shows that an item was damaged so severely and extensively that its condition made it unusable or uneconomic to repair.
It is important to note that even where replacement is required, a landlord is not entitled to (i) charge the tenants the full cost of returning items to the condition they were in at the start of the tenancy as fair wear and tear will be considered, or (ii) to replace items on a “new for old” basis, as this would constitute betterment.