ADR Insight: Stick to the facts and don’t get personal

They don’t call it dispute resolution for nothing – but there are some cases that take disputes over deposits to a more personal level. Landlords and tenants enter into a contractual relationship and, like any other relationship, this can ‘irretrievably break down’ during the course of the tenancy.

We’ve seen several cases where this has happened. The relationship breaks down to such an extent that tenants withhold rent as they feel the landlord hasn’t maintained the property correctly, or in some cases, the aggrieved tenant has trashed a property as a result of the disagreement.

When it comes to a head like this, adjudicators can be left to deal with the fallout and find themselves wading through lengthy and heated email or text message exchanges between the parties in order to establish the real facts of the case.

A recent case got so personal that it wouldn’t have been out of place on ‘Jeremy Kyle’! The initial evidence involved a 13-page typewritten submission which was largely a tirade of abuse – referring to the other party as, amongst other things, habitual liars, alcoholics, weak, lonely, unhappy, angry, unbalanced and violent. 

Not surprisingly, the other party responded with an 18-page typewritten submission that claimed their opponents were abusive and rude, harassed them, made personal insults, had mental health issues, threatened them and made nuisance calls to them.

With this abundance of excess information, the real facts of the case can get lost and in some cases delay a decision due to the sheer volume of correspondence to trawl through. It can also confuse the outcome and mean that a fair decision cannot be made.

Whilst our adjudicators wouldn’t ever prevent the disputing parties providing anything which they feel is required for the adjudicator to come to their decision, it’s advisable to stick to the facts where possible.

Attempts to assassinate the character of the other party are rarely helpful to the claim and are unlikely to be given much weight by the adjudicator. A clear and factual account of the tenancy, a chronology of events, clear evidence of the condition of the property and invoices/estimates/receipts will always be much more persuasive.

If you need help or guidance on how to tackle a deposit dispute our ‘Guide to Tenancy Deposits, Disputes and Damages’ gives further information on the adjudication process and the way a decision will be reached.