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Deposit diaries: Dispute after tenants chopped branch off tree without owner’s permission

Land Insight to 17 April NS

Welcome to this month’s edition of The Deposit Diaries where the assistant director of dispute resolution at TDS, Sandy Bastin, discusses a recent decision by an adjudicator and sets out the reasoning behind it

In this case, the landlord claimed £225 for a missing tree branch. This was based on the estimated value the tree branch would have fetched as firewood.

The landlord said the tenants reported an issue with the tree branch when living at the property and were advised that the matter would be dealt with when the tenancy ended.

The tenants removed the branch during the tenancy and argued that it was done with the agreement of the agent, who had stated that the tree branch was dangerous and should be removed. The tenants also made the case that they offered to return the tree branch to the landlord.

The adjudicator noted the agents’ comment that ‘the tree was dangerous and should be removed’. This was relayed by the tenants to the landlord via email but the adjudicator concluded that this did not amount to permission from the landlord to remove the tree branch.

No evidence was provided to show that the tree branch was indeed dangerous. The adjudicator did accept, however, that a large tree branch was removed without permission during the tenancy. While an award was due, the adjudicator considered that only £50 was justified.

Awarding the full £225 claimed was deemed unreasonable. There was no evidence, such as a report from a contractor, to support the value of the wood claimed by the landlords. The tenants also did not appear to have been told that the landlord intended to use the branch as firewood.

Conclusion

This case highlights the importance of ensuring that unequivocal agreement in writing is obtained before any item(s) are removed from the property, including the garden. If there are any conditions attached to permission to remove items, make sure that these are documented clearly. Submit evidence, such as a contractor’s report, in support of amounts claimed, and where possible keep any losses claimed to a fair and reasonable amount, particularly where an item is removed.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme offers both insured and custodial protection

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Source:: Deposit diaries: Dispute after tenants chopped branch off tree without owner’s permission