#ExpertView: Gathering Winter Fuel
The festive period is now behind us with the remains of the tinsel and the less than bright lights have been confined to a storeroom or garage. Now we have the dark days of the rest of winter ahead, so this week we are looking at a heating system that operates with oil stored in tanks and how TDS approach a case where a party is making a claim against the tenancy deposit for refilling them at tenancy end.
- Ensure the level is agreed and recorded at both the beginning and end of the tenancy
- Check and test oil gauges regularly
- Resolve a disagreement quickly at the point of identification to avoid further issues
TDS were asked to consider a case for a tenancy deposit deduction; in the dispute a check in inventory stated that the oil tank was full when the tenancy commenced. The tenants amended the report to indicate that the tank was only half full and this discrepancy was due the indicator gauge not working. No evidence was produced to counter this claim; the checkout report indicated that the tank was one third full at the end of the tenancy.
The agents claimed the difference in cost between one half and one third of the tank (a little over £100.00). The tenants agreed that the tank was not full to the correct level when they left the property, but disputed the claim on the basis that there was no means of correctly determining the amount of oil in the tank; the figures used for the oil levels unreliable and the estimates for cost therefore unusable.
The adjudicator decided that whilst the estimates may not be completely accurate; there was enough evidence that the oil level at the end of the tenancy was lower than at the start. As it was not possible to take definitive readings the adjudicator was unable to award the landlord the full amount claimed but accepted that the landlord was entitled to some award. In the absence of further evidence and in order to reach a reasonable compromise, the adjudicator awarded £50.00 towards the cost of the full used.
So, what are the options?
Some landlords work on the basis that the oil tank is (near) empty at the start of the tenancy and the tenant leaves it (near) empty at the end. This saves the landlord from funding the cost of filling the tank and encountering re-filling issues at the end of the tenancy. Judging when and by how much to fill the tank in order to have it empty at the end of the tenancy, can be difficult, especially if the tenant unexpectedly gives notice to leave. Running an oil-fuelled heating system dry can cause airlocks in the system and drags contaminates from the tank into the system, leading to further problems. Landlords find that an empty fuel tank can put tenants off renting the property. An alternative approach might therefore be to include terms in the contract that the landlord will provide a full tank and expect it to be full when the tenancy ends (or there will be deductions from the tenancy deposit). A full tank is not necessary, but the level must be agreed and recorded to obtain a like-for-like result at the end, like taking meter readings.
Whichever approach you adopt, make sure that oil gauges are checked and tested regularly. Check in and check out reports need to identify oil levels using a measure that can be compared for start and end of the tenancy.
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Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.
TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.
TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.
TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.
TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland's leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.
TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.