• The adjudication digest takes a recent decision by a SafeDeposits adjudicator and sets out the reasons behind it. We hope that you will find these digests informative in understanding how we reach our adjudication decisions.

  • This blog post is for guidance only – it is not intended to guarantee when an award will be made.

  • Each dispute is different and the actual award made will be based on our interpretation of the specific evidence presented to us.

Dealing with a tenant's notice

In this month's issue of the digest, we look at an adjudicator's approach to claims for rent based on insufficient notice having been given by the tenant.

Amount of deposit in dispute: £650.00
Award to tenant: £0.00
Award to landlord: £650.00

The tenancy agreement stated that either party was required to give two months' notice to end the tenancy. The tenants wrote to the agent on 1 December 2015 giving notice to end the tenancy on 31 December, explaining that they intended to vacate on 10 December.

The agent replied to point out that two months' notice was required. They offered to carry out the check-out on 10 December, the date the tenants intended to move out. The check-out was conducted and a copy of the report was emailed to the tenants.

The tenants applied for repayment of the deposit on 12 December. SafeDeposits notified the agent, who responded to the repayment request and entered a tenancy end date of 31 January 2016 in the system. This resulted in the tenant being notified that the tenancy had not come to an end.

The agent subsequently applied for repayment of the deposit on 2 February 2016, claiming the full amount of the deposit for rent outstanding for January 2016. The tenants disagreed with the request on the basis that the tenancy had ended when they handed in the keys on 10 December. They said that they understood that new tenants had moved into the property in January.

The adjudicator took the view that the agent had made it clear to the tenants that their notice period of one month was insufficient. Although the keys were returned on 10 December, this did not absolve the tenants from the responsibility of paying rent during January 2016. The check out had been arranged to coincide with the tenants' departure as a convenience to both parties. No evidence had been presented by the tenants to show that they were entitled to regard the tenancy as being at an end in December, or that new tenants moved in before the end of January 2016.

So what are the key points here?

Where a tenant attempts to serve notice, the agent or landlord should respond promptly, and in writing. A failure to respond may raise a question as to whether the tenant is entitled to rely on silence as an acceptance of their notice.

If notice is less than required by the tenancy agreement, the landlord still has the option to accept it, subject to any conditions they may wish to add.

If the agent or landlord decides to conduct the check-out before the end of the tenancy, it should be made clear to the tenant that this action does not signify acceptance of an earlier tenancy end date.

Where a tenant applies for the return of the deposit before the tenancy end date, it is important for the agent or landlord to remember to respond to the request showing the correct end date. This will result in the tenant's repayment request being cancelled and the parties informed that the tenancy is still on going.

If the agent or landlord does not follow this procedure, it is likely to result in the tenancy being regarded at an end from the point indicated by the tenant in their repayment request.

The tenancy will be brought to an end if a new tenancy is entered into before the end of notice period. The landlord is not entitled to claim rent from the deposit where rent is already being paid by a new tenant.

For further guidance on disputes, including previous adjudication digests, please see our guidance documents page.