An Adjudicator’s Perspective: discussions arising from recent claims

Our adjudicators deal with thousands of disputes a year – they’ve settled over 9,000 since we launched 4 years ago – so they’ve heard everything, from the reasonable to the ridiculous. There are some particular cases that have sparked interesting discussions recently which I wanted to share with you:

1.    How many pounds does it take to change a light bulb?

Light bulbs; not something you’d think could cause much trouble but we’ve had several cases lately where instead of simply claiming the cost to supply a bulb, our adjudicators have seen some rather expensive claims including:

- £40 for a contractor to fit 3 spotlight bulbs

- £30 for a contractor to fit 2 ceiling bulbs

- £28 for a contractor to replace 1 bulb in a cooker hood

Did these jobs really require a contractor, or could the landlord simply have claimed for the cost to supply replacements?

2.    How clean is your house?

Is there a difference between a property that is ‘domestically clean’ and ‘professionally clean’?

We’ve had cases in which independent inventory clerks have recorded a property as ‘domestically clean’ but the landlord has made a claim for a ‘professional clean’ even though there is no record in the inventory to suggest that the property needed further or deeper cleaning.

It would seem that if a tenant cleans their rental property on vacating it is recorded by inventory clerks as ‘domestically clean’. However, if the landlord pays a cleaner to clean the property to exactly the same standards – and that cleaner can provide a formal invoice – the inventory clerk will record the property as ‘professionally clean’.

However, the level of cleaning is no different and the inventory clerk is happy with the state of the property so what level of cleanliness must you go to in order to achieve a ‘professional clean’?

Ask yourself – is this reasonable?

The tenancy agreement is likely to place responsibility for replacing light bulbs with the tenant but if they don’t, is a contractor really required to complete the work?

It may be necessary in certain properties – those with high ceilings for example - but often it’s more appropriate for landlords to simply claim the cost of the replacement bulbs. If a landlord sends in a claim for a high contractor fee, it’s likely that they will need to provide evidence or explanation as to why the contractor was needed.

In the case of the level of cleaning required, the tenant can only be expected to return the property to the same level of cleanliness as when they moved in. Therefore, if the cost of professional cleaning is claimed, it’s likely that you’ll need to provide evidence of a similar professional clean being carried out before the tenant moved in.

There’s a specific section in the recently published Guide to Tenancy Deposits, Disputes and Damages that looks at cleaning charges - you’ll find it on page 9.

Tenants should make sure they understand and are happy with each clause in the tenancy agreement before signing it and landlords should ensure they’re not making unreasonable claims or risk disappointment when they are rejected.

For more advice on tenancy deposits, disputes and damages, download our recently published guide.