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Monday, July 18, 2011

Tips On Tenancy Deposit Disputes 50: The 3rd Tenant Defence

Tip 50: Standard Tenant Defences #3

The third standard tenant defence is: I’m not in rent arrears

This one is a real claim killer because it is only used by completely dishonest tenants and, for that reason, tends to catch honest landlords unawares. Usually, after the tenant puts in their defence, the landlord will only have seven days from the date of the letter to get their side of the story in, which only gives you a window of a couple of days to get your papers together if you are sending your documents back by post, and this also puts people on the back foot.

People who are facing this particular problem are often confused as to how to go about proving that something has not happened, in this case that rent has not been paid. If you collect your rent by standing order or regular bank transfer, it is much easier to prove that it hasn’t been paid, as your bank statements will show that the payments stopped or reduced. If you collect rent by cheque or cash, it can be much more difficult. In that situation I would recommend issuing the tenant with a rent book that you can sign when they give you a payment, otherwise get in the habit of issuing receipts for every payment.

Submit what you can in terms of bank statements, rent demands and print outs from your property management software, and specifically ask that the tenant prove that the correct amount of cash was withdrawn from their bank account, or a cheque for the right amount was drawn on their account. This situation is one of the few instances where I would be willing to turn the burden of proof on the tenant and get them to positively prove their claim. Hopefully your adjudicator will feel the same way.

Tom Derrett is the Principal of Deposit Claim, an ex-adjudicator and an expert on the Deposit Protection Schemes. Tom helps landlords to claim money through the deposit protection schemes.

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