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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tips On Tenancy Deposit Disputes 29: Third Party Evidence

Tip 29: Third Party Evidence 
Landlords often get in touch with me asking me to explain the reasoning behind an adverse decision in more detail. One point that often crops up is the use of third party evidence. A third party is someone not directly involved in the dispute, and their evidence usually takes the form of a statement or letter. Examples include a neighbour with an overlooking window commenting on the condition of the garden, or a contractor giving a statement that the tenant dried their washing on the radiators.
The confusion often centres around why the third party evidence the landlord submitted doesn’t appear to have been considered, or appears to have been discounted by the adjudicator when making the decision. 
In law we talk about evidence win terms of relevance and probative value (or weight). Deposit protection adjudicators tend to consider that direct evidence relating to an item of claim, such as a photo, inventory or receipt, has a greater probative value than the statement of a third party who is unconnected to the dispute. If there is direct evidence relevant to a particular point, it can be expected to outweigh any third party evidence, because it is of greater probative value. To put it another way, an adjudicator will only rely on third party evidence in the absence of evidence that is directly relevant to the point in question.
Don’t interpret this as meaning you shouldn’t send in a letter from the neighbour. You never know what evidence the other side has on a particular point. You should, however, include the letter in the knowledge that it will only support your case if the tenant doesn’t have direct evidence on that point to  outweigh your third party statement.
Tom Derrett is the Principal of Deposit Claim, an experienced deposit protection adjudicator and an expert on the Deposit Protection Schemes. Tom helps landlords to claim money through the deposit protection schemes.

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